My 5yo Wesley’s Auditory Processing Problems
First, let me say that I’m loathe to discover one more “issue” with any of my kids. However, from seeing the benefit that a knowledgable diagnosis can bring to our family, I don’t shun such things, either. My heart, though, is indescribably sad over the potential of yet one more problem with my dear son. And, frankly, it’s giving pause to the desire that I’ve had to add baby #5 to our family. I haven’t yet spoken with my husband about this, other than to mention it in passing a couple of weeks ago. I think he’d be even more upset about another potential problem. I need to process this… to think about it… to pray more… to research more… to figure out what to do… My hubby reads my blog occasionally, and part of me wants him to see this post before I talk to him IRL about Wes, and part of me doesn’t. Historically, with heavy issues, I often do best in writing. Maybe I’ll e-mail him a link.
Wes has had some difficulties that, honestly, I mostly chalked up to him being the “baby.” It’s dawning on me, now, as we near the closing of his Kindergarten year, that he has not “grown out” of many difficulties that I thought were likely just immaturity. It’s dawning on me that they might not be just simple immaturities, but some definite auditory processing problems.
I’ve talked to two different occupational therapists about this, and both of them thought my concerns raised definite red flags, though both of them said that they don’t do any diagnoses themselves.
- Wes speaks in an oddly indistinct manner. It’s not quite a lisp, not quite a mumble; it’s as if certain words or sounds just come out of being formed by… well, like his tongue is bigger than it should be, so it can’t correctly form the sounds. That’s not truly the case; his tongue is normal size. It’s just that that’s what it sounds like. He watches my mouth closely as I try to get him to speak more distinctly. I’ve seen a bit of improvement there (especially with the soft & hard “th” sounds), but not much.
- Wes has an oddly difficult time differentiating between some short vowel sounds, especially “ih” and “eh” (i/e)… well, and a, ah and uh (a/o/u), too, for that matter.
- He largely reads by sight and memory, having a very difficult time breaking down the words into their individual sounds. He doesn’t “sound out” words.
- He doesn’t “get” the concept of rhyming at all.
- He gets easily overwhelmed in noisy situations, often trying to find a table under which he can crawl, and place his hands over his ears. He prefers quiet play to noisy play. He often prefers to even be out of the room when the TV is on. He often sneaks away to some quiet setting.
- When speaking to him, he often doesn’t respond. This has been particulary difficult to deal with; it’s hard to tell if this is behavioral, or if he’s really having a hard time understanding/hearing what is said to him, and/or what he should say back.
- In noisy situations, instead of speaking more loudly to be heard, he has the tendency to almost whisper… as if he doesn’t really want to contribute to the din.
- When he is really concentrating on listening to me, he puts one hand over one ear, and tilts the other ear up to me… as if to block out all other sounds but my voice.
- He frequently messes with his ears, putting his hands over them.
- Thinking about it, he is drawn to quiet, older boys. Most of the kids his own age are rambunctious, loud, and rowdy. Even the kids his own age whose company he prefers, are very quiet. Yet… he himself… it’s not like he’s sedate; he’s actually very active. But he prefers active, quiet play, which is almost an oxymoron. I’ve thought before — before I even identified any potential auditory problems — that when he’s older, he’d like sports like competitive swimming, or track… Hm…. Quiet, yet active.
- (By the way, he’s not always quiet. When he’s hurt, he actually has an amazingly piercing scream. And, he can be as loud as the next kid. But, more often than not, he prefers quiet play.)
There are probably other things I’m not thinking of right now…
In talking on the phone to an occupational therapist (not “our”/Grant’s OT, but the former therapist of a friend’s daughter) yesterday, she asked me something that I’d considered before: “Was Wesley sick much as a baby?” To which I replied, “Yes! He was an extremely sickly baby, due to an undiagnosed genetic problem. He constantly ran a low-grade temperature, and had frequent ear infections. Five times in his first year, he had ear infections so bad that his eardrum(s) burst.” (After we put him on a gluten-free diet, all of this cleared up, nearly overnight. He has had only one ear infection in the last 4.5 years.) The OT explained to me that in Wesley’s critical first year, his ears were so frequently filled with fluid that sounds, to him, were being filtered…. as if he were hearing under water. This affected how his speech and understanding of speech and sounds developed. Also, there was likely a “wave effect” — where when his ears cleared up, it was like he was innundated with sound… Instead of his hearing/auditory processing progressing down a steady path, it was like he was constantly being tossed back and forth from “underwater” to “giant wall of sound.”
My poor, dear boy.
The therapist recommended a book to me, When the Brain Can’t Hear, which I have placed a hold on, at my library. She also invited me to bring Wesley (and my three other kids! Yay!! I don’t have to find a babysitter!!!) to her after-school phonemic awareness class that she runs, which is currently attended by about 10 kids from K-3rd grade. Looking at the calendar, we won’t be able to go until 05/22. She did tell me (and it made sense to me) that phonemic awareness is often a symptom of auditory processing problems; it’s not usually a problem that’s an island to itself. (Phonemic awareness is understanding that each word is made up of individual sounds, and being able to isolate those sounds.)