The auditory sensory processing system is an essential component of a child’s development in early childhood. It plays a crucial role in the way children perceive, process, and respond to sounds in their environment.
The auditory system is responsible for hearing, understanding, and interpreting speech, music, and other environmental sounds.
Did you know that we have EIGHT sensory systems?! Most people only know the top five. This blog post is part of a series in which we delve into all eight sensory systems.
In addition to the auditory system we have seven other sensory systems. They are:
The Auditory Sensory Processing System
The auditory sensory processing system is a complex network of structures and pathways in the brain responsible for processing auditory information. This system is responsible for hearing and interpreting sounds, including speech and other environmental sounds. The process begins with sound waves that are transmitted through the air and into the ear canal. The sound waves then reach the eardrum, which vibrates in response to the sound. These vibrations are then transmitted through three tiny bones in the middle ear, which amplify and transmit the sound to the inner ear.
The inner ear contains the cochlea, which is a snail-shaped organ filled with fluid and lined with tiny hair cells. These hair cells detect the vibrations and convert them into electrical signals, which are then sent to the brain via the auditory nerve. The brain then interprets these signals and allows us to understand the sounds we hear.
The Impacts of the Auditory Sensory Processing System in Early Childhood
The auditory sensory system is important in preschool for several reasons. Here are a few key reasons why auditory sensory is important in preschool:
Language Development: During the preschool years, children are rapidly developing their language skills. The ability to hear and understand speech is critical for this development. Children with auditory processing difficulties may struggle with language development, which can have long-term impacts on their academic and social success.
Speech Development: In addition to language development, the auditory sensory system is also critical for speech development in preschool-aged children. Children with auditory processing difficulties may struggle to distinguish between different sounds or process auditory information quickly, which can lead to difficulty with speech sound discrimination and phonemic awareness. This can have significant long-term impacts on their ability to read, write, and communicate effectively.
Attention and Focus: The ability to focus and pay attention is critical for success in the classroom. Children with auditory processing difficulties may struggle to filter out background noise and focus on important information. This can lead to difficulty concentrating, following directions, and completing tasks. By improving their auditory sensory processing skills, children are better equipped to learn and participate in classroom activities.
Memory: Auditory information plays a key role in memory formation and retention. Children with auditory processing difficulties may struggle to remember information presented orally. By improving their auditory sensory processing skills, children can better retain information and recall it later.
Cognitive Development: The auditory sensory system plays a critical role in cognitive development, including the development of reasoning, problem-solving, and critical thinking skills. By improving their auditory sensory processing skills, children can better engage in these important cognitive activities.
Socialization: Good communication skills are essential for socialization. Children with auditory processing difficulties may struggle to communicate effectively with their peers, which can lead to social isolation and other negative impacts.
Emotional Regulation: Children with auditory processing difficulties may feel overwhelmed or anxious in noisy or chaotic environments. By improving their auditory sensory processing skills, children can better regulate their emotional responses to noisy or overwhelming environments.
Safety: Children need to be able to hear and respond to warnings or instructions from adults to stay safe. For example, they may need to hear instructions from a teacher to avoid dangerous situations or cross the street safely.
Coordination and Movement: The auditory sensory system is closely linked to other sensory systems, including the vestibular system, which is responsible for balance and coordination. By improving auditory sensory processing skills, children can improve their ability to coordinate movements and balance.
Self-Esteem: Children who struggle with auditory processing difficulties may feel frustrated or embarrassed by their difficulties. By improving their auditory sensory processing skills, they can feel more confident and better able to participate in classroom activities and social situations.
Auditory Processing Skills for Preschoolers
Preschoolers need a variety of auditory processing skills to effectively process and make sense of the sounds around them.
There are many different auditory processing skills that preschoolers need to develop, and this list is not exhaustive. However, the skills I have listed are some of the most important and fundamental skills that preschoolers need to develop to become effective listeners and communicators. It’s important to note that children develop these skills at their own pace, and may need different levels of support and guidance from adults to develop them fully.
Here are some examples:
Auditory Discrimination: This skill involves the ability to distinguish between different sounds. Preschoolers need to be able to differentiate between similar sounds, such as “b” and “d,” or “sh” and “ch,” to develop their language skills.
Auditory Memory: This skill involves the ability to remember sounds and information presented orally. Preschoolers need to be able to remember instructions, songs, and rhymes to build their language skills and improve their working memory.
Auditory Sequencing: This skill involves the ability to recognize and remember the order of sounds. Preschoolers need to be able to recognize and remember the sequence of sounds in words and phrases, such as the sounds in the word “cat” or in the nursery rhyme “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star.”
Auditory Figure-Ground: This skill involves the ability to focus on and distinguish sounds from background noise. Preschoolers need to be able to listen and understand speech in noisy environments, such as in a classroom or at a playground.
Auditory Closure: This skill involves the ability to fill in missing sounds or words in a sentence or phrase. Preschoolers need to be able to use context clues to understand what is being said when they don’t hear every sound or word in a sentence.
Auditory Attention: This skill involves the ability to attend to and concentrate on sounds. Preschoolers need to be able to listen carefully to instructions, stories, and conversations to develop their language and communication skills.
Auditory Comprehension: This skill involves the ability to understand and make meaning from spoken language. Preschoolers need to be able to comprehend and respond appropriately to questions, requests, and instructions.
Auditory Synthesis: This skill involves the ability to blend sounds together to form words and phrases. Preschoolers need to be able to recognize the sounds in words and put them together to form complete words and phrases.
Auditory Localization: This skill involves the ability to identify the direction and location of sounds. Preschoolers need to be able to locate and respond to sounds coming from different directions to develop their spatial awareness and listening skills.
Auditory Imagination: This skill involves the ability to create mental images from sounds. Preschoolers need to be able to use their imagination to visualize the sounds they hear in stories, music, and other auditory experiences.
Auditory Integration: This skill involves the ability to combine and integrate information from both ears to create a complete auditory experience. Preschoolers need to be able to process and integrate sounds from both ears to develop their spatial awareness and listening skills.
Auditory Analysis: This skill involves the ability to break down complex sounds into their individual components. Preschoolers need to be able to recognize and identify the different sounds to eventually apply this skill to the sounds that make up words and phrases to develop their phonemic awareness and language skills.
Auditory Association: This skill involves the ability to associate sounds with their corresponding meanings. Preschoolers need to be able to associate words with their meanings and develop their vocabulary and language comprehension skills.
Auditory Feedback: This skill involves the ability to self-monitor one’s own speech and adjust it accordingly based on auditory feedback. Preschoolers need to be able to listen to their own speech and make adjustments to improve their volume, pronunciation, articulation, and communication skills.
All of these auditory skills can easily be worked on through play.
How Can You Encourage Auditory Sensory Play?
There are many ways that educators and parents can provide auditory sensory activities for children to support their development. Here are some ideas:
Music: Listening to music is a great way to engage the auditory sensory system. Encourage children to sing along, clap, or dance to the music to make it a multi-sensory experience.
Listening Games: Games like “Simon Says” or “Red Light, Green Light” can help children develop auditory processing skills. These games require children to listen and follow directions, which improves their ability to filter out background noise and focus on important information.
Soundscapes: Creating soundscapes is a fun and creative way to engage the auditory sensory system. Give children different materials to explore, such as instruments, shakers, or bells, and encourage them to make different sounds. Then, challenge them to create a “sound story” using the different sounds they have created.
Audiobooks: Listening to audiobooks is a great way to improve listening skills and comprehension. Choose age-appropriate audiobooks and listen to them together as a family or in a classroom setting.
Sound Walks: Take children on a sound walk around the neighborhood or park. Encourage them to listen for different sounds, such as birds, cars, or people talking. Ask them to describe the sounds they hear and how they make them feel.
Yoga: Yoga poses that involve balance, such as tree pose or warrior pose, can help engage the vestibular and auditory sensory systems. Encourage children to focus on their breathing and the sounds around them while they hold the pose.
Sensory Bins: Create sensory bins with different materials, such as rice, sand, or water, and add items that make different sounds, such as bells or marbles. Encourage children to explore the different materials and make different sounds.
Shadowing: Shadowing is a technique where children repeat a speaker’s words or sentences as they hear them. It helps improve listening and pronunciation skills. An educator or parent can read a storybook aloud while the children repeat the words or sentences.
Body Percussion: Clapping, snapping fingers, and stomping feet are examples of body percussion that can help children focus and improve coordination while engaging their auditory senses.
Rhyming Games: Rhyming games can help children develop phonemic awareness and improve their ability to distinguish between different sounds. Examples include “I Spy” and “Rhyme Time.”
DIY Musical Instruments: Create DIY musical instruments with household items, such as plastic bottles or cardboard boxes. Encourage children to explore the different sounds they can make with these instruments.
Mimicking Animal Sounds: Encourage children to mimic animal sounds, such as the roar of a lion, the chirp of a bird, or the howl of a wolf. This activity can improve auditory processing and memory skills while promoting creativity and imagination.
Musical Freeze Dance: Musical freeze dance is a game where children dance to music, and when the music stops, they freeze in place. This activity promotes listening skills, coordination, and body awareness while engaging children’s auditory senses.
Sound Sorting: Sound sorting is an activity where children sort objects based on the sounds they make. For example, educators or parents can gather objects such as bells, shakers, and drums, and ask children to sort them based on the type of sound they make.
Sound Effects Stories: In this activity, children create their own stories, adding in different sound effects to enhance the story. They can use various objects such as a pan to mimic the sound of thunder or a balloon to simulate the sound of a popping bubble. This activity promotes creativity, language development, and auditory processing skills.
The development of auditory processing skills is crucial for preschoolers, as it supports their language, literacy, and communication skills, as well as their social and emotional development.
These activities can be fun, engaging, and easy to incorporate into daily routines, making them a valuable tool for supporting children’s learning and growth. By recognizing the importance of auditory sensory activities and providing opportunities for preschoolers to develop these skills, we can help them succeed academically and socially, and set them on a path to lifelong learning and success.
Please Share this Guide to the Auditory Sensory System for Children
Your shares are how this site grows and I am sincerely grateful. Know a friend who’d like this? Please share it on Facebook or save it to your favorite board on Pinterest.