Is Your Child Having Trouble Processing the Information They’re Hearing?

You asked your child to do three simple things – “get your coat, your hat and your mitts,” but all they brought you was their mitts. This seems to be a regular occurrence and you’re starting to wonder why they can’t seem to follow through on what you ask them to do.


Perhaps the teacher has also commented that your child has a hard time following classroom instructions. Are they just being defiant or is there something wrong? You had their hearing checked just to be certain that they were in fact hearing what you were saying, but the testing came out fine.

So why does it seem like your child is unable to follow through on what seems like a simple task?


For many children, hearing is not an issue but they struggle to process and act upon what they have heard. These challenges may be more noticeable when the child is in a noisy or busy environment such as a classroom or a living room with the television turned on.

In these situations, it is especially difficult for the child to listen to and hold on to information long enough to act upon it. The result is a child that seems to have difficulty listening.

Signs that your child may be struggling to process what they hear include:

  • Only following through on part of the instructions given (e.g. only getting their math book when they’ve been asked to get their math book, turn to page 91 and complete questions 1 through 3).
  • Mixing up directions (e.g. you asked them to get their red shirt and their blue socks but they got their red socks instead).
  • They often ask you to repeat what you’ve said.
  • Difficulty remembering words or numbers (e.g. trouble remembering phone numbers or a list of words).
  • Difficulty with pre-reading skills such as rhyming, sound blending, playing with sounds in words (e.g. say “cat” without the “c”).
  • Increased difficulty listening when there is competing noise in the environment (e.g. ignoring the radio while listening to a conversation).
  • Trouble listening to stories read aloud and responding to questions accurately or providing a summary of what has happened.
  • Difficulty “reading between the lines” or picking up on subtleties in stories.

There is help for these children. Speech-Language Pathologists help learn strategies to improve their understanding of language and their ability to effectively process incoming information.


These skills may include teaching strategies such as note taking, using imagery or visualization (i.e. picturing what is heard), rephrasing what is heard, requesting clarification, or breaking down information into manageable parts.

Additionally, Speech-Language Pathologists can work with you and your child to determine what needs to be done in specific scenarios such as the classroom to facilitate their learning (e.g. looking at changing the seating plan, developing a strategy for dealing with group work, etc.).


For some children, specific training programs such as Fast ForWord or Earobics may be recommended. For other children, using an assistive listening device such as a Frequency Modulated (FM) amplification system may be required.

This kind of system helps the individual focus in on what they need to hear (e.g. the teacher’s voice) while filtering out background noise (e.g. chairs moving, children talking). If challenges with processing are also impacting on other skills such as spelling, reading, or writing Speech-Language Pathologists can also address these skills as needed.