For some children with Asperger’s Syndrome, sound presents a challenge. Sometimes this is because it’s a sensory issue, and sometimes it’s because the child has not tuned in yet to the world around him or her. It can also be a processing disorder.
Whatever the reason, it can be worrying for parents as a safety concern.
An example: A loud bang! snaps through the air. Everyone turns to look except for one child. Sometimes, the child will say later that he heard the noise, but didn’t think it important, or that it didn’t mean anything. Sometimes the child didn’t notice the noise at all (and yet passes every hearing test).
Playing games like Marco Polo can help. Sometimes, you’ll find what we did; that the ability to recognize where a sound is coming from is low to nonexistent. Lots of practice helps this. Okay, lots and lots of practice… I won’t lie about it. But it’s worth it.
Just having the child shut his eyes and practice listening for sounds can help, as well. Sometimes these very visual children don’t – or can’t – work on developing listening skills, for whatever reason. Sometimes they lack an inner ‘filter’ that tunes out the unimportant, allowing the listener to focus on what is important.
For example, hearing a teacher call your name in a classroom.
My son was one who passed every hearing test, and still couldn’t focus in on important things like teachers (or kids, or friends) calling his name. He was too overwhelmed by the low-level noise in the classroom. And it was making his life difficult, and sometimes dangerous. How can someone let a child like this play anywhere near a road?
But we worked on building up those listening skills; we played I Spy Hearing and Marco Polo. We played games with him where he’d stand still, with his eyes closed, and we’d ask him to stretch out his arm and point (like a compass, only without magnetism) in the direction of the noise.
We also worked with Listening Therapy, which helps develop an inner filter and builds up tolerance to background noise. I can’t swear to how effective this was; it’s hard to tell sometimes what one therapy contributes, when we’re constantly working with several, and see so much growth in so many areas over time.
The single most useful therapy we did to help his ability to process and understand what he was hearing involved occupational therapy. In fact, it’s why we began occupational therapy, upon the recommendation of the doctor who diagnosed him.
There, they had us work on exercises that cross the midline (imagine a line stretched vertically down the middle of your body). We worked on clapping games and complicated hand games (with lots of hand alternation and crossing of midline) while also playing games that needed thought. For example, those clapping games that I remember girls doing way back when that required some mental agility as well as quickly flying hands.
These, in my opinion, are what brought our son’s processing speed from the lowest ten percent to average within just a year or two.
If any of you have experience with auditory processing disorder or possess other valuable gems of information regarding sound, please share with us. It’s a wide world, and each of us can only know our small part of it.
Note: Now, I don’t in any way wish to step on audiologists here. I fully admit to being less than completely informed. However, I do feel this subject should be covered, even if by a layperson like myself. So take what I say with a grain of salt… as always. 🙂