Using iPad’s Apps to Build Auditory Processing Skills

Author: Lisa “Luna” DeCurtis, M.A., CCC-SLP

Auditory Processing is a term used to describe what happens when your brain recognizes and interprets the sounds around you. Both Auditory Development, and Auditory Processing are the cornerstone of learning language, and essential to child language development. Some children struggle with auditory processing. The iPad offers tremendous opportunities to build their auditory processing skills. Use an HSA to pay for your child’s iPad, click here for health insurance plans with an HSA.

Auditory development is a key building block of children’s communication skills. Young children develop language by first understanding much more than they can say. This is why children benefit from honing their listening skills early on as it sets the stage for later language learning. In a child’s first year, he or she will understand whole phrases or sentences before she is able to use a word. For example, the child will understand when mommy says, “Daddy’s home” before he can say “daddy” or may understand, “do you want to go outside?” before she can request it using the word, “outside”.

One way of building a child’s auditory processing skills is by tuning the child into the environmental sounds around him. You can bring attention to noises, such as a dog barking or bird singing, and help the child make meaningful associations with the sound. If you stop what you’re doing when you and a child hear a car start or someone’s footsteps or keys jingling, you can then make inferences about what it means (e.g., is a car driving away? Or is someone coming home? Or is someone opening the door?).

Auditory development can also be stimulated using the applications or “apps” on mobile devices, such as Apple’s iPad. Just as a child gets used to hearing a phone ring and knows to answer it, the child can associate the sounds of his favorite apps being turned on or recognize the music associated with it. When introducing an app that has instruments, such as “Melody Touch” by Being True, you can first associate the instruments with the sounds by touching one-by-one and imitating the sounds as well. Using gestures to imitate the functions of the instrument, such as pretending to blow a horn or shake a maraca, helps the child associate the sound with the tool. You and the child can take turn tapping the instruments to hear the sounds and imitate the gestures that go along with them. Speech Therapy may be covered under your health insurance plan, click here for health insurance quotes.

Guessing games are a great way to build listening skills by turning the iPad screen away from the child and then touching the instruments sounds. Generally, the child will attend well to the sound that is missing the visual input and then be able to make guesses about what the sound was. Ask probing questions to encourage the child to guess without any pressure on the child being correct, but more on the child’s ability to infer what it could be. Note that when you don’t have the visual cue, a blender can sound like a lawn mower or a leaf blower. It can be an enjoyable game to take turn and have the adult guess, too. Also it’s fun to compare a guess with the actual item and see how close you came, all the while you are building a child’s auditory processing skills.

Another app I use for this purpose is called “Baby Touch & Hear – Listen sounds of Animals & Tools” by Open Solutions. It’s a Bingo type format and offers a variety of categories and the ability to put just a few pictures on the page at once or up to a grid of 9 pictures. They have many categories, including animals and environmental sounds. After first associating the sounds with their objects, then you can play with the child and take turns guessing without looking. This activity can be extended by tuning into the sounds in your own neighborhood or environment and taking guesses as to what it sounds like. It’s particularly important to point out the meaning of auditory signs of danger, such as a truck’s beeps that signal the truck is backing up so you want to get out of the way.

By tuning into sounds, the child improves his auditory skills which will enhance his ability to tune into language. This practice will help both his receptive skills, which is the ability to understand language, and his expressive skills, which is the ability to use language. Since auditory skills are the building blocks for successful communication, it’s never too early, or too late, to start associating sounds with their meaning, and many apps on the iPad offer a fun and engaging way to do this.

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