Most people think of dyslexia as a visual reading disorder, because letters or words can appear reversed. But that’s only half the story. Many children with dyslexia also have challenges with auditory processing and memory. The child’s ear responds to sound but his or her brain does not process the sound well. Up to 75% of reading disorders are actually based on auditory processing problems – even if the person hears just fine.
Most children with auditory processing difficulties will struggle to learn how to read. They also have difficulty spelling or pronouncing words.
Signs of dyslexia include:
- Difficulty remembering the sound of letters
- Difficulty putting the sounds together (/b/, /u/, /s/ to say the word “bus”)
- Difficulty following directions or remembering what was just said to them
- Challenges focusing on auditory and visual stimuli at the same time
- Vague speech and difficulty finding the right word. A teen might use “thing,” “stuff,” or similar language more often than her peers.
- Generally disorganized
- Difficulty learning a second language in high school
Compensation or retraining?
Many parents encourage children with these challenges to bypass their weak auditory system by using visuals such as flash cards to memorize words. That approach is a mistake. Children and teens with auditory processing difficulties respond extremely well to an intensive cognitive and auditory approach directed at re-wiring their brains.
There is a dyslexia spectrum. Not all reading problems are the same. Auditory processing and memory skills – not visual deficits – are the most frequent cause of reading difficulties. Auditory skills respond well to training to help a child perform better in school or an adult who continues to struggle with reading, especially when paired with the goal of improving other cognitive skills.