By Patti Hamaguchi, M.A., CCC-SLP
Games and Activities to Strengthen Auditory Skills
Throughout May, in recognition of “Better Speech and Hearing Month,” I am writing each week about one facet of an “action plan” for parents of newly-diagnosed children with auditory comprehensions weaknesses, exclusively for TechInEd.com! This week, we are highlighting Games and Activities to Strengthen Auditory Skills.
Welcome to the third installment! Parents often ask, “What can I do at home to help my child? Are there games and activities that help him listen better?” While playing games won’t cure a weak auditory system, continued practice and exercising of listening skills should help improve it. In general, it is best to get input from a professional in terms of the specific needs and level of your child, but here are a few fun things you can do:
1. Simon Says! Listening to what you say and tuning out what you do is a great way to work on focusing and listening. In case you forget how to play:
Rules for Simon Says
One person is Simon and the rest of the players stand in a line facing Simon. It can only be one person, that’s ok! The ‘Simon’ calls out instructions like this, “Simon says, ‘Touch your nose’.” Everyone else has to touch their nose. If Simon calls out an instruction without saying “Simon says” first, then everyone should ignore the instruction. If you don’t follow a Simon says instruction you are out. If you do follow an instruction that doesn’t have “Simon says” first, you are also out. The person who wins can then be Simon next time.
2. Songs, Singing and Music: Listening and matching your pitch to music, remembering lyrics, and listening for directions embedded in a song are a great way to work on early auditory skills. It may take many repetitions of a song to remember the words or tune, but it’s a fun, easy way to tune up the brain. Adding physical movements (I’m a Little Teapot, Where is Thumbkin, Hokey Pokey, Itsy Bitsy Spider) helps the left-right brain connections, but feel free to modify as you need to! For older children, learning a musical instrument and playing in a band is a terrific way to develop pitch/pattern.
3. Listening to Stories on CD: Reading to your child is certainly a super way to enrich their vocabulary and language. But to really work the auditory system, it’s especially helpful to make a bedtime routine of having your child lie down and listen to a favorite, familiar story on a CD. Turn out the lights and have your child close his eyes and listen. Why? Because it is familiar, your child can picture or visualize the story elements and make connections with what he is hearing. These stories can be as simple as a Curious George story or as complex as Harry Potter. The added benefit of doing this at night is that your child is generally a little bit sleepy, or perhaps reluctant to go to sleep yet. By closing his or her eyes, it helps them focus on the action and words of the story in a way that is often too challenging to do when the eyes are open and your child wants to move around.
4. Go Get It! There are lots of variations of this game, but the idea is that you start with a basket or box of objects and put it fairly close by. One player tells the other which 2 to retrieve from the basket. The player finds them. (*If your child gets stuck or YOU do—the other player can give them the first sound of the name of the object they should be looking for. For example, “It starts with the ‘b’ sound”) Each time, the basket or box gets moved further away—to another room, upstairs, in a closet, in the bathroom, etc. You can have a list of acceptable places, and the other person has to choose one. Once 2 objects are done fairly easily, move on to 3 objects, then 3, then 5, etc. The player who is searching for the basket should be careful to use a strategy to remember them, typically repeating them over and over out loud works well, especially in a sing-songy way if possible or to a rhythm. Share with each other strategies you use to help keep it in your head. Each time you collect the correct number of objects, you get that number of points. Whoever gets the most points wins. (Make sure you “forget” a few times so it is a close competition and your child can feel some success)
5. Toss Across: Use a beanbag or ball. Have family members in a circle or just go back and forth with your child. You name a category and a sound. The other player has to tell an object that begins with that sound, that belongs in that category. For example, “Animals—p” could be panda, pig, penguin, or polar bear. If the other player can’t think of one, it goes back to you. If you don’t have one either, they get the point because you are supposed to have a ready answer for anything you propose. If you do have a ready answer (that has not already been said previously) they get the point. Whoever has the most points, wins. The idea for this game is to work on remembering 2 things at once (category/sound) and for sound discrimination and word retrieval, which is often a challenge for children with weak auditory skills.
6. Rhyming! Books that have rhymes such as Mother Goose Nursery Rhymes, Dr. Seuss, Shel Silverstein, and A.A. Milne (Now We Are Six) all have great poems in them. Read them to your children and practice rhyming with other words, such as your names. Make it silly and make it fun! Hearing auditory patterns is a great way to strengthen auditory discrimination and prepare for reading and spelling patterns.
7. What Am I? Have your child listen to a series of 5 clues about an object. He will need to listen and remember them, and figure out what object you are describing. Try to keep the obvious clues for the last one. Start with more general clues—keep them guessing! This forces them to keep remembering what is being said. For example, for “train” you could say: 1. I have wheels. 2. I can go fast. 3. I have seats. 4. You buy tickets to go on me. 5. I go on tracks. What am I? Make it harder/easier, depending on your child’s age. Take turns but don’t be critical of the way he/she gives clues. It is tricky and so he might give it away or tell you outright what it is. Use a marker and paper to help draw out the clues if needed, then turn it over and see if your child can “put it together”.
Next week: Week 4: Resources and Programs for Children with Auditory Comprehension Weaknesses
Patti Hamaguchi has been a speech-language pathologist for over 30 years. She is Director at Hamaguchi & Associates, a pediatric speech therapy practice in Cupertino, CA, and the author of Childhood Speech, Language & Listening Problems: What Every Parent Should Know, as well as several books on auditory processing disorders. She is a columnist with Autism Bay Area, and an expert speech pathologist panelist on BabyCenter.com. Patti is also the founder and creator of Hamaguchi Apps for Speech, Language & Auditory Development.