Auditory Processing a Root Cause of Dyslexia

October is Dyslexia Awareness month, and as I was listening to a CD on the topic it made me think about how important it is to do things in the right order.

But first I will back up; Dyslexia is primarily a language disorder.  Often when individuals have difficulty learning to read we must look deeper than reading skills and assess their key cognitive foundation skills.  Auditory processing is a key foundation skill for reading.  Audiologist and Speech-Language Pathologist are the professionals that have spent the most time in their studies learning about and understanding auditory processing disorders.   Obtaining specific information about auditory processing skills along with a more global cognitive battery of tests can save time, emotional stress and money when working with someone that has difficulty reading, or Dyslexia.

When someone has difficulty with auditory processing skills they can hear the sounds (hearing acuity) however they have difficulty with perceptually understanding the sound accurately and or with sound manipulation. The individual's central nervous system has trouble using auditory information.  Individuals with auditory processing may have difficulty in one or more areas listed below:

  • Auditory Fatigue and/or Auditory Hypersensitivity
  • Auditory Memory
  • Competing Noise
  • Decoding Difficulties
  • Discrimination of Sounds
  • Distortions of Sounds
  • Localization of Sounds
  • Sequencing Information
  • Timing and Rhythm Issues
  • Understanding Sound Patterns
  • Word Pronunciation

The one thing you should know is that rehabilitation for auditory processing difficulties are extremely successful.  For reading rehabilitation the pairing of auditory training and work with attention and memory is very powerful.  These underlining steps should be done prior to any direct work on reading for the best outcome.  It is only appropriate to use accommodations short term while intensive auditory and cognitive training is occurring or after the training is completed to improve the individual's independence even further.  To accommodate too early will not allow the individual to meet their full potential.

Here are some questions you can ask yourself about your child to know if they may have signs and symptoms related to auditory processing disorders.

  • My child cannot repeat new words well.
  • My child has difficulty understanding people with foreign accents.
  • My child frequently asks "what?", says "huh?" and needs things repeated.
  • My child has difficulty listening in group settings.
  • My child often misunderstands auditory information.
  • My child often puts words in the wrong order when speaking.
  • My child has difficulty reading.
  • My child does not enjoy reading.
  • My child enjoys being read to and likes going to stage plays.
  • My child often has trouble following verbal directions.
  • My child has trouble looking at people when they are talking and or listening.
  • My child's reading is slow.
  • My child often has trouble answering people’s questions.
  • My child often guesses what words are instead of sounding them out.
  • My child has difficulty with spelling.
  • My child can recite stories by memory.

If you think your child may have an auditory processing deficit see an audiologist or speech pathologist that specializes in these problems.  There are strong positive outcomes for individuals with auditory processing disorders and later good accommodation solutions to improve academic achievement even further.

Dr. Parker holds a Ph.D. in Speech Pathology from Michigan State University.  Her daughter, Sally started off in elementary school with significant auditory processing and memory problems. Sally now in the 9th grade is an avid and highly successful reader.  Dr. Parker is the owner of The Brain Trainer, PLLC located in Charlotte, NC.


Sally’s Final Intervention – Interactive Metronome

Sally's Final Intervention - Interactive Metronome™

When we first realized our daughter Sally had a significant dyslexia, we immediately began work to create a realistic, yet ambitious, rehabilitation plan that would be completed before she reached high school.  Our ultimate goal for Sally was that she would be independent and competitive academically with other college-bound students, without the need for accommodations or excessive parental involvement. Well, Sally is in 8th grade now and overall doing well! Since high school is less than a year away, our last intervention is to push processing speed, a key component in auditory processing and other cognitive functions.

Using Rhythm and Timing to Boost Processing Speed

Why is timing so important if there are auditory processing deficits?

Rhythm and timing are core strategies that impact the brain, especially for sequencing, motor planning and processing speed.  Most of us learned very important core information to rhythm. A great example of this is the alphabet; in fact, when saying the alphabet even years later, many of us still use rhythm.  However, if we have slow processing speed, we often miss incoming information because of a delay. For example, if we are still processing information unit A when information unit B is being given there will be an “information traffic jam”.  If processing speed is slow, the individual may be able to solve the problem and obtain the correct answer; it just takes longer to do so when compared others. Slow processing speed can be problematic in a school or work environment, because the individual is not as competitive as his peers.

Part of the distortion of auditory manipulation is related to timing. Many errors are timing errors, the difference between “vase” and “base,” as well as “ant” and “and.” Furthermore, auditory processing is particularly dependent on processing speed because auditory information is temporal and vanishes; there is not a permanent image to hold on to or refer back to as a reference.

Rhythm and timing skills also support other cognitive abilities like organization, logic and reasoning, auditory manipulation, working memory and the ability to follow directions. Applying rhythm to activities and working to increase speed is an effective way to boost auditory processing and processing speed overall. What’s more, targeting and improving these areas can also provide benefits for a number of other cognitive abilities.

Improving Processing Speed

How can you improve processing speed?  

You can use rhythm; as many of you are aware, in speech therapy and in our learning center we use the metronome to drive processing speed.  Continuing to increase the rhythm speed to further push processing speed.

Time tasks and then working to “beat your time” is also an effective way to achieve results.

Sports training or participation in activities such as ping pong, tennis, hip-hop or Celtic dance, agility and speed training is often useful as well.

 Our Plan

With Sally, we have chosen to use Interactive Metronome TM to push her processing speed; we feel this strategy will continue to not only progress her processing speed, but it will also assist with the root cause of her difficulties - auditory timing and processing.

For additional information about Interactive Metronome, visit their website:

Getting Results with Interactive Metronome TM

Besides Sally, here are some of my recent success stories:

  • A 10 year old boy experiencing generalized difficulties below the 25th percentile on most measures of cognitive function, especially memory. He has progressed from facilitated training to more supervised practice.  In classroom activities he is showing better attention.   His vocabulary in science is improving as he can remember the new words he is learning about.
  • Along with other rehabilitation strategies, I have used Interactive Metronome™ to help an adult improve his attention and processing speed with strong and rapid results. The adult is showing more organization in his business and faster responding when engaging in his hobby of comedy.
  • I have also seen success with multiple individuals of all ages with auditory processing deficits.

For additional information about Interactive Metronome™, please contact our office at 704-541-1373 or visit us online at