Probably the most prevalent but most often overlooked learning skill deficiency is auditory memory. Auditory memory involves being able to take in information that is presented orally to you, process that information, store it in your mind and then recall what you have heard. Basically, it involves the task of attending, listening, processing, storing, and recalling. This, for many students, even those who are not learning disabled, can be an extremely difficult task. A weakness in auditory memory can have serious consequences in the realm of learning for students because students pick up only bits and pieces of what is being said during a classroom lecture. And, auditory memory weaknesses of students can easily go undetected by a teacher. Often children with auditory memory problems appear to be trying very hard to listen. Because their eyes are focused on the teacher and they appear to be attentive, it is easy for the teacher to assume that these children have heard all that is being taught. However, in reality, they often absorb and make sense out of very little of what is being stated by the teacher. As a result, these students recall only a small amount or none of what is being said. They might remember a word here or there, or part of a thought, but often do not truly understand much of the information presented orally to them. Students with auditory memory deficiencies frequently experience difficulty comprehending orally presented directions. They often think that they have understood directions for completing their assignments, when actually they have understood very little. As a result, assignments are often completed incorrectly.
Students with auditory memory deficiencies will often experience difficulty developing a good understanding of words, remembering terms and information that has been presented orally, for example, in history and science classes. These students will also experience difficulty processing and recalling information that they have read to themselves. When we read we must listen and process information we say to ourselves, even when we read silently. If we do not attend and listen to our silent input of words, we cannot process the information or recall what we have read. Therefore, even silent reading involves a form of listening.
It is important to understand that each aspect of auditory memory is specific unto itself. Students must learn to take in all types of information, that which is presented in isolation as well as in context. While one area of the brain involves the intake of a series of unrelated letters, another involves numbers, another words, and, there are others that involve a contextual series of words, sentences, and whole passages. It must not be assumed that because a student can attend, listen and recall a series of numbers, for example, that he will also be able to recall a series of words.
Isolated units of information are often presented orally in school. Being skilled in recalling a series of items is essential for all students. For example, a teacher may say, "Color only the apples, bananas and pears on your paper." If a student has an auditory problem for series of words he will not be able to recall the series of apples, bananas and pears. Students need to be tested to determine if they can recall the number of items in a series proficiently for their age. While some students may be able to recall a series of three items, they may not be able to recall a longer series of items. For example, add one more item to the list, apples, bananas, pears and grapes, and this longer series may be impossible for those same children to recall.
Auditory memory involving contextual information is equally important to the process of learning. Students with auditory memory problems in this area often cannot recall an entire sentence that has been presented orally. Or, they may be able to recall a short sentence of three words in length but not a longer sentence. This posses many problems in school with oral comprehension and the ability to follow oral directions. In addition, while some students can recall a lengthy sentence well, they may not be able to process and recall a short passage that is presented orally. These students may be able to answer a specific question about the information that has been presented to them orally or that they have read, but are not able to grasp the whole paragraph. Often, these students assume that they know what they have heard or read orally, when actually, they have processed and recalled very little of the material. Sometimes parents and educators assume that children have understood an entire passage when they answer a specific question about the passage, yet, that specific information might be all that they have gleaned from the passage. Therefore, students should be encouraged to restate passages, that is, the main idea and supporting details, in order to demonstrate that they have total comprehension. There is a vast amount of information that is lost by students with auditory difficulties. While we want our students to be prepared to answer specific questions from passages they have read, we also need to be certain that they comprehend passages in their entirety.
Throughout my years of testing I have found a higher percentage of students with weaknesses in the auditory memory areas than any other learning skill area, even among those students whom we would not classify as learning disabled. In addition, most children who have attention deficit disorders and/or hyperactivity have serious auditory memory deficiencies. These children are desperately in need of remediation in the auditory skill areas.
Students with auditory memory weaknesses learn best when.....