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.


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There are 3 comments, would you like to add yours?

  1. Brian
    October 13th

    Wasn’t aware of the strong correlation between auditory and speech processing. Thanks for the informative breakdown.

  2. Shirley
    June 24th

    We have been told recently that our 16 yo daughter is dyslexic. In third grade, we removed her from public school because she was doing poorly in reading and writing. She was also diagnosed with an auditory processing disorder and attended therapy weekly for about a year and a half until they no longer thought she needed remediation. Since that time, her reading scores on standardized tests blossomed. She was already good with math but that area blossomed as well. On her 8th grade PSSA’s her reading, math and science scores were well into the accelerated range. PSSA’s are writing intensive in all subjects. Since my daughter is a poor writer I am sure her scores would have been higher if on a multiple choice test. She loves to read. Her schoolwork did take way too much time to do but she only really got behind when she developed headaches (food sensitivities we believe) and between all of her issues she wasn’t getting her work done. In our quest for answers she was diagnosed with a severe eye tracking deficit which was improved with therapy. A children’s pediatrician/neurologist argued that she in on the autism spectrum and that alone is the cause of all of her problems. We don’t know if she actually is on the spectrum or not but we had her tested before that and was told that she was no way on the spectrum as well as an educational psychologist deferring to the neurologist but saying that she can’t see it. Anyhow, I share her story to say that many have situations that aren’t really straight forward and hard to sort out. I would never have guessed that my child was dyslexic as she LOVES to read and would read all day if I let her and tests so well in that area also. Three professionals told me in the last year that she has decoding issues despite her awesome reading and vocabulary prowess so I don’t doubt the diagnosis. It would be so helpful to me and others I am sure to understand how a child can be dyslexic and appearing to be doing so well. Many parents of children like my dd, would be served in learning to understand that things are not always as they appear and it is better to evaluate than miss something important.

    • Dr. Vicki Parker
      December 1st

      From Dr. Parker:

      Dyslexia is a general term used to mean difficulty reading. There are many components of reading including; attention, decoding, visual tracking, auditory association, vocabulary comprehension, general passage comprehension, reading rate, retention, and inference – association to other concepts. As you have noted with your own example individuals can demonstrate a few or many problems in their foundation skills that support reading skills. This is why evaluation is necessary to better understand your or your child’s specific pattern of strengths and weaknesses. From this individualized profile comes a more targeted and specific remediation plan. One size does not fit all with reading habilitation and remediation.


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