AUDITORY PROCESSING: The Secret Behind Why Your Child may not Follow Instructions Auditory Processing

Auditory Processing: The Secret Behind Why Your Child may not Follow Instructions

Integrated Learning Strategies (ILS) is a learning and academic center. As a reminder, ILS is not a health care provider and none of our materials or services provide a diagnosis or treatment of a specific condition or learning challenge you may see in your child or student. If you seek a diagnosis or treatment for your child or student, please contact a trained professional who can provide an evaluation of the child.

As a mom, it’s easy to feel ignored. That pair of shoes you asked your child to put away is still in the middle of the living room floor. They ask you where their favorite shirt is when it was on top of the pile of clothes you handed to them and told them to put in their drawers. Or my personal favorite, they pop open that package of candy not even a full minute after you said no.

I was a kid once and I’m woman enough to admit that I did my fair share of pretending not to hear my parents (don’t tell my kids). But that also means I know there were plenty of times I was just so wrapped up in my own thoughts that I wasn’t paying attention. I think for most cases, the latter is probably true and we can even tack on good intentions. They probably meant to follow through with your instructions, but another opportunity arose much more appealing than taking out the garbage and they forgot to come back later. But for some kids the lack of listening or following through on instructions is a little more complicated than that.

Auditory Processing: The Secret Behind Why Your Child may not Follow Instructions | #kidseducation

Kids with Auditory Processing Disorders (ADP) experience a breakdown between what the ear hears and what the brain processes. ADP can result in difficulty understanding spoken language and then later recalling what they heard. Children with this, many sometimes struggle with background noise or loud sounds. And although they ask what and huh all the time, they don’t have a hearing problem.

Auditory Processing: The Secret Behind Why Your Child may not Follow Instructions | #kidseducation

The meaning of sounds just don’t quite compute the way they’re supposed to. You may ask, “Will you please help with the dishes?” But what they heard was “did you see the fishes?” This is frustrating for both parent and child. And honestly, how can you tell if you’re being ignored or if your child has some form of ADP? Well we’re here to help with some signs you can look for.

AUDITORY PROCESSING: Understanding your child’s hearing

Auditory Processing: The Secret Behind Why Your Child may not Follow Instructions | #kidseducation

Signs of ADP

  • Doesn’t like being read to. It’s easy to see how an activity that most children love can be a pain to a child that has difficulty processing spoken words and sounds. The magic of the story is lost in the lack of comprehension.
  • Doesn’t like to read, especially as they get older into Jr. high and high school. A lot of kids can find at least a book or series they enjoy as they get older, but that’s not usually the case with ADP kids.
  • Struggling to process what they hear. Many times you can tell they’re trying to understand, but it’s just not quite sinking in.
  • Understands written language better than spoken language.
  • Can’t sit still while listening to teachers or story time. It’s hard to stay focused when they can’t process what’s going on well enough to hold their attention.
  • Bothered by noises like the vacuum or even small sounds like tapping pencils. This comes from a hypersensitivity to sound and the inability to handle background noises.
  • Hears but doesn’t listen. For example, your child tells you they’re going out to play. You say “no” and they say “ok, I’ll see you later” and walk out the door anyway.
  • Speech delays. When it’s hard to distinguish and make sense of sounds, it’s hard to speak correctly. For example a child might turn “throw” into “frow” and so on.
  • Struggles to have normal conversations with friends and classmates.
  • Trouble recalling sounds in music or learning an instrument. The difficulty with processing extends past the inability to understand words and creates problems with sounds in general.
  • Struggles with letters, spelling and words. Much of learning literacy requires the ability to process sounds. Without the ability to distinguish between “t” and “d” or other similar sounding letters, learning is going to become difficult quickly. This is often confused with dyslexia.
  • Doesn’t understand puns or jokes. These require catching slight differences in words or in emphasis, which is difficult with ADP.

Auditory Processing: The Secret Behind Why Your Child may not Follow Instructions | #kidseducation

Processing sounds is a huge part of life. When this becomes difficult, so do so many other tasks. Luckily, if your child shows any of these signs, there are lots of programs and intervention out there to help.

Auditory Processing: The Secret Behind Why Your Child may not Follow Instructions | #kidseducation

Integrated Learning Strategies is a Utah-based center dedicated to helping mainstream children and children with learning challenges achieve academic success. Our services provide kids with non-traditional tutoring programs within the Davis County, Kaysville, Layton, Syracuse, Farmington, and Centerville areas. Areas to find Integrated Learning Strategies include: Reading tutors in Kaysville, Math tutors in Kaysville, Common Core Tutors in Kaysville, Tutors in Utah, Utah Tutoring Programs


  1. Now this is an interesting thought. Is there formal testing for this?

    • Hi Cailin! Absolutely! You may want to ask a behavioral therapist or an Occupational Therapist for an evaluation if you know someone who is struggling with these issues. They can help you determine where there is a gap and how to close the gap. For our students, a combination of acoustically-modified music and movement therapy have greatly helped our students. Let me know if you need any more help!

  2. Hm, my boyfriend may have ADP! I’m half joking, he just can be right next to me and totally not hear anything I say until I physically get his attention by touching his shoulder.

  3. Very informative post. If only everyone would read this and realize that no matter why a child isn’t listening patience is the first step.

  4. I sometimes wonder if something is wrong with my son’s hearing. He had many severe ear infections as a baby, and seems to have a hard time hearing me. But after reading this, I don’t think it’s a processing disorder. Perhaps he really does have a hearing problem, or perhaps he’s just really good at selective hearing! lol

    • Great feedback, Jamie! It definitely could be a combination of both. My son had several ear infections as a child, which is what I feel lead to some of his learning challenges later in life. We see this so many times with our students who have ear infections. I’d check to see if it could be ADP in addition to some hearing loss. It could be a combination of both, but hopefully these tips will help so you can recognize signs that may appear (if any) as he gets older. Intervention while they are young is key! Good luck!

  5. I really enjoyed learning about ADP. I had never thought of that and honestly I’m glad I know now. Hopefully it can help me in the future if one of my children has it. 🙂

  6. Many people overlook hearing issues with their kids. This is important!

  7. Thank you for highlighting this as thing we all tend to jump to conclusions quickly! And what he automatically assume based on what you have highlighted is not always the case!

  8. There are many things to think about here. I recall so many of these behaviors demonstrated by my son when he was small.

  9. I ave honestly never thought of it like this! Thank you for a different perspective.

  10. I always have wondered what the signs of auditory processing are!

  11. What an insightful post, it’s definitely going to be helpful for struggling parents.

  12. One of my kids has severe sensitivity to background noises and loud noise. He enjoys music and being read to, but he often doesn’t compute what’s being asked of him. I wonder if some of this might be related to auditory processing.

    • It definitely could be related, especially if he is sensitive to loud noises. Does he ask “huh?” or “what?” a lot when you ask him to complete tasks or directions? Those are definitely signs. He could have some sensory sensitivity as well if he doesn’t like background noise. If you ever need any info or help, just let me know!

  13. Great article! I recently realised that I have APD – I have always experienced many of the things that you mention and myself and others would get extremely frustrated…
    It has changed my life to be able to understand it 🙂

    • I’m so glad this article was helpful! It can be tough to have APD, but I know it’s a relief to understand what you are going through and how to overcome it. I’m sure you have a wonderful support system to help you too!

  14. […] ($5.99): StoryBuilder is geared toward children with Auditory Processing Disorders, which means kids that have a difficult time knowing the difference between sounds in words. This […]

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  17. Britney Says: May 12, 2016 at 10:15 pm

    How do you overcome it? Have struggled tremenously since i was a kid. 34 years old now. And everyone getting frustrated with the huh or whats but I can still answer their question bc I have learned to get the gist of their question by the last few words they say. Help! Always new I had some kind of processing disorder.

    • Hi Britney, I’m so sorry you have struggled with this issue for so long. Typically what we do with our students to help the auditory is music therapy. It has done wonders for our kids and has even helped some of our college students as well. It helps them listen to the teacher and process the information they are hearing. I would see if there is a local provider in your area. If not, let me know and I have some great information on how you can rent the same equipment we use at our center. Thanks!

  18. […] and teachers become concerned if they think their child or student is showing signs of vision and hearing delays. If they lack the development for reading, writing and following instructions, our first thought is […]

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