Sunday, August 14, 2011

I Forgot What I Had to Do - Auditory Processing & Learning by Cate Larke

I often have parents at my centre comment that they are at a loss when it comes to their child's learning problems.

The children may be having problems with reading/comprehension, so they have had their eyes checked. They are not able to follow instructions, so they have had their ears checked.

Usually they are told that everything is OK. But is it?

Even though our ears hear sound, it is the brain which processes the information. Being able to process auditory information efficiently is extremely important for efficient learning, particularly reading and comprehension.

Auditory processing is also important for social development - how can you learn the rules of games if you can't sequence the information fast enough? How can you keep up with conversations and chat at recess? So poor auditory processing can impact children in a number of academic and social areas.

In the classroom, a child needs to hear and process efficiently with both ears - centrally. They need to be able to hear all the sounds around, but they need to be able to filter out unwanted noise and process what is important.

The teacher talking, a story being read or instructions being given, need to be attended to whilst the noise comes through the wall from next door or the child behind them is chatting! If they are unable to do this, all the sounds blend together and they struggle to follow what is going on around them.

They are often very easily distracted by noise around or outside the classroom and have poor concentration in the classroom. These children struggle to maintain attention.

Another type of issue that is often missed is auditory memory. Many of these children slip through the cracks of the education system- they often have age appropriate reading accuracy, but poor comprehension. This means they often don't particularly like reading.

Often children with this area of delay will enjoy non fiction - magazines where they don't have to follow a story line or they may not progress very well in reading once they get to late year 2 and year 3 where there is more print on the page and more complicated story lines to follow.

Many children we see at our centre fall into this group, and parents are distressed when they have been going well and suddenly in year 3 start to struggle. After a short burst of auditory training, they flourish.

Children with Auditory Processing Disorder (APD) often appear to have "short term memory loss". They can't retain the information they have heard, process, then act. This is made worse if there is background noise - such as sporting field or shopping centre.

Many children will show a decline in behaviour in noisy environments as they are overwhelmed and stressed by sensory input. Others will maintain good behaviour, but will be extremely tired at the end of the school day.

A range of very specific testing can check areas of processing including the speed at which the child processes sound. Once it is established that auditory processing is an issue, retraining the ears and brain can commence.

In the meantime, by keeping the classroom listening environment reasonably stable, helps those in the classroom struggling to process sound. For the child with problems, ask that they be seated at the front of the room, face on to the teacher, away from busy work areas and door.

Checklist Auditory Processing Disorder

• Demonstrate problems with expressive language
• If reading, often read with poor comprehension
• Show auditory sensitivity
• Have difficulty following instruction
• Struggle to focus in a noisy classroom
• Have difficulty with phonics
• They often also present with:
• Excessive behavioural problems
• Physical coordination problems

More Information

Cate Larke
Essential Moves Children's Centre
P: 02 4967 1205

Monday, June 6, 2011

How Books Can Help When Your Child Starts School

By Hazel Edwards

Q. My child is starting school soon. How can reading a book help a child prepare for first day at school?

Reading-sharing is a great way to prepare a child for school. First timers are always a bit worried about going to a new place like school or kindergarten. So are parents.

That's why I wrote this when my children were small and 'playground'
was used in the title to cover school and kindergarten.

Not having a friend is the BIG worry. Not knowing what to do is another.

The cake-eating hippo is a big friend who has all the answers.

That's reassuring. Many children have imaginary friends as ways of coping with new situations.

School routines like uniforms, when are the breaks, what do you eat and MAKING FRIENDS are important. It helps to know what might happen.

At a time when parents are worried about their children learning to read and write, children's authors receive wonderful fan letters from very young readers as evidence that specific books have really mattered in a child's life.

Q. How should I read it?

Snuggle up and make the experience pleasurable. Re-read and use the pictures as prompts to talk about what happens in a school day. Getting dressed. Packing school lunch. Having a peg for your belongings. Going out to play. Using the play equipment. Listening to the teacher tell a story. Which is a favourite page? Why? Do funny voices.

The mischievous hippo openly disregards a few rules, but it always knows what to do.

My favourite is playing hide-and-seek where he is a bit too big to fit behind the tree.

Bibliotherapy is the fancy name for reading books that help you deal with problems. Starting school can be fun, not a problem. You just need a sense of humour and a character like the rooftop-cake eating hippo.
In the Year of the Potato, the hippo took potato cake as his special cake to school.

How to Read With Your Kids Checklist

Choose books YOU like
Have a big enough bag to carry the book with you
Use audio books in the car if you travel a lot, or spend much time chauffeuring
Try e-books on screen
Practice holding the book at an angle they can see
Look at the illustrations too. They are clues to the story.
Involve them by asking questions e.g. 'What sort of exercise do you think he was doing in the picture?
Accept all answers. Don't say 'No' or 'That's wrong.' Add, 'And why do you think that?' Remember that the book belongs to the reader's imagination too, as well as the creator.
Sub-text is what goes on underneath the story. Some kids 'get' it. Others do later.
'Why?', 'How?' and 'What do you think happened after the end of the story?' is a good start
If you have mixed aged children, start a family serial using a junior chapter book
Read a page turnabout, even if the interest level is a little low for the older children
Encourage funny voices for the dialogue.

Literacy & Numeracy Activity Ideas

Eat Your Words: bring a plate of food to share that is based on the title of a book (or a paper plate with the food drawn on it if any allergy problems) e.g. Icy poles or meringue for 'Antarctic Dad'.
Adopt a character with your name! Review a book where a character has your name and send the review to the author. E.g. Jack in Susanne Gervay's 'I am Jack', 'Zoe' in 'Muscles' or Zanzibar from 'Plato the Platypus Plumber (part-time)'
Book-finger puppets
T for Title Story: Link up lots of/ all the titles of one author into a story. Count how many you can include.
Be a TV interviewer and prepare five questions to ask your favourite character from your favourite book. Become your character and answer them.
Made a model from a story. For free downloadable polar ice ship model to make in connection with picture book 'Antarctic Dad'
Create a Compliments Jar as a gift. Write personal compliments on sticker and wrap around lolly or fruit e.g. You are a good reader. Put all compliments in a decorated jar.
Try reading a Braille picture book with your fingers
Check out an Auslan signed DVD for deaf kids, which has signed stories
Make up your own story from just pictures


Hazel Edwards is an author-educator who is passionate about encouraging children to read as a way of increasing their confidence and skills. She is an ambassador for literacy and for literature.

But an author's perspective is a little different from a parent, teacher or grandparent, because the picture book needs to be crafted in a way which appeals to a beginning reader or a child just starting school.

You just need a sense of humour and a character like the rooftop-cake eating hippo.

There's a Hippopotamus in the Playground Eating Cake by Hazel Edwards Illustrated by Deborah Niland is available from Penguin Books.

More Information

Hazel Edwards
2009 ASA Medal
2012 National Year of Reading Ambassador

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Weight Wise Kids - Get Ahead Kids

Weight Wise Kids

By Dr. Kim Chilman-Blair

Media attention on the topic of weight is growing and reports highlight children, as young as two years old, being overweight. Such labels can be detrimental to self esteem especially in children.