Auditory Processing Disorder & Reading
The importance of phonological awareness in reading
Auditory processing disorder and reading difficulties are inextricably linked. The impact of auditory processing disorder on language skills is well known. What is less understood is that it also undermines phonological awareness, a critical reading fluency and comprehension skill. This is sometimes called phonological processing disorder.
Phonological awareness, the ability to hear the individual sounds (phonemes) in words, is at the heart of reading, for fluency and for decoding efficiency that allows for sound reading comprehension skills.
Deciphering distinct phonemes, particularly blends such as |sp|, requires processing of up to 40 sounds a second. This is more demanding than the processing required for spoken language, where words are heard as whole sounds, and is beyond many children.
Phonological processing for reading requires:
- Auditory discrimination: the ability to recognize differences in phonemes (sounds). This includes identifying words and sounds that are similar and those which are different.
- Auditory memory: the ability to store and recall information which was given verbally.
- Auditory sequencing: the ability to remember or reconstruct the order of items in a list or the order of sounds in a word or syllable.
- Auditory blending: the process of putting together phonemes to form words. For example, the individual phonemes “c”, “a”, and “t” are blended to form the word “cat”.
While reading is a challenge for children with auditory processing disorder symptoms of auditory processing disorder, in reality, auditory processing delays in varying degrees are responsible for most reading difficulties.
These are cognitive delays best treated with brain training exercises, not word lists or extra instruction.
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Many students struggle with reading from the start. Others run into problems only in later grades — they master decoding by 4th or 5th grade, but phonological processing delays necessitate an inefficient reading method that requires too much concentration, undermining reading comprehension.
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