Teaching Students with Poor Listening Skills

Auditory Processing Delays in the Classroom

Students in classroom
Utilizing specific classroom strategies can help teachers facilitate learning for students with special needs. Getty Images/Stephan Gladieu

There's no more important part of learning than listening. As a culture we prize "good listeners" who can follow instructions but also make those around them feel heard and understood. It's an essential tool in academics and social development. But there are some students who have significant barriers to being a good listener. They may have auditory processing delays or an auditory processing disorder that impacts their ability to listen.

This difficulty in understanding spoken language may be at the root of various physical or behavioral disorders, including ADHD and autism, or it may exist alongside other neurological impairments. It's important that parents and caregivers of a student with any special education needs also rule out auditory impairments.

Students with processing delays often hear normally. But this student will have trouble making sense out of what it is he is hearing. The signal doesn't come through, and for this reason we distinguish between processing delays and disorders and deafness or hearing impairment. 

Teaching Students with Auditory Processing Issues

An exasperated teacher who tells students to "Listen up!" or "pay attention" will not get anywhere with a child possessing auditory processing issues. Students with these delays are not simply ignoring directions or refusing to try harder (although both of these responses may develop in a child whose auditory issues have not been properly diagnosed).

For teachers, it's incumbent to change the way in which information is imparted to students with these kinds of impairments. Teachers can promote good listening skills by varying the ways in which they communicate. They can also make changes in the classroom setting to accommodate children with auditory delays.

Here are some strategies:

  • Provide students with ample opportunity to have misconceptions clarified, let other student clarify and repeat the objectives.

Many of the strategies here are employed by effective teachers on a regular basis. Sometimes it helps just to review the strategies to ensure that you are employing as many as you can. And finally and most importantly, be patient.