Helping a child with a processing disorder


A processing disorder, either an auditory processing disorder, visual processing disorder or sensory processing disorder, are caused by a deficiency in a persons ability to effectively use the information gathered by the senses.

When my younger son was seven years old he was diagnosed with an auditory processing disorder. The external symptoms of his processing disorder were that he took longer than average to complete his school tasks, found learning to read more difficult than the average learner of his age and had difficulty in implementing a list of tasks.

I was not unduly surprised when Michael’s grade 1 teacher told us that she thought he had an auditory processing problem as I had already noticed some of these symptoms. It was not immediately obvious with his reading ability as Mike was able to learn short and frequently used words off by heart. As a result he was able to hide his difficulty in sounding out words and interpreting complex sounds in the early phases of his learning to read. By the middle of Grade 1, however, the reading expectancy had increased and he was no longer able to get by without being able to unpack and interpret complex sounds in words. Michael’s writing was also slow and laboured. He could easily grasp and understand a story and could answer easily and efficiently in a verbal form but he struggled to write answers to questions down quickly and accurately.

Michael is now eleven years old and his reading, while fairly slowly paced, is at the average level for his peer group. He has very good comprehension skills and I was very proud when he achieved an average of 78% on his first ever English cycle test a few weeks ago. Michael’s writing has also improved together with his punctuation and spelling. It seems to me that a fair number of children struggle with these processing problems and so I thought I would share some of the steps I took to help Michael with his reading and writing.

  1. We moved Michael to a much smaller, remedial school. Michael’s self confidence was suffering in his previous school due to his struggle to finish his tasks in the allocated time. His previous school was very good about providing remedial and occupational therapy support outside of the classroom but, I found, that the extra time allowance did not make its way into the classroom. I can fully understand this as, with a class of twenty five children, the teacher didn’t have time to give my son private attention and extra assistance with tasks. Michael is now one of a class of fifteen children and this, together with his home teacher and reading therapy teacher, who are both trained remedial teachers, together with the other supporting therapists has helped teach Michael how to manage his academic challenges better. Changing schools is not an option for everyone but I think it is one of the best things I was able to do for Michael;
  2. I encouraged Michael to listen to audio books so that he could enjoy stories and books at his comprehension level and not at the level of his reading ability. We enjoyed a large number of wonderful books in this way including classics such as Children of the New Forrest, Five Children and It and The Phoenix and the Carpet. Michael also listened to all the Roald Dahl books and all the Famous Five adventures by Enid Blyton. I believe that this encouraged a love of books and reading in Michael and he now reads books on his own. We are currently reading some of the Classic Starts collection of abridged classic stories for children;
  3. I made flash cards of frequently used words and Michael and I went through these often. We also used the flash cards to play games so that it was a bit more fun that just plain rote learning;
  4. I encouraged Michael to write down his lovely little stories about Sir Chocolate and his friends. Michael enjoyed doing this and he practiced his writing and spelling. We eventually converted his stories to the rhyming verse books that comprise the current Sir Chocolate Series of Books; and
  5. Finally, I have always, and still do, read with Michael six nights a week. We choose books that Michael wants to read and that are a bit of a challenge for him. He reads one page and I read one page. That way, he gets to practice his reading and also reads a book that he enjoys. I get to move the story along a bit quicker and it is a bonding session for us. I also read to Michael most nights unless we run to late with other homework.

I am sure that there are lots of other ways a parent can help a child overcome a processing disorder. I have listed the five methods that have worked the best for me and my child. I have definitely seen excellent progress with Michael in both his reading and his written work and he is enthusiastic to read. I see that as a big success.

Robbie and Michael Cheadle are co-authors of the Sir Chocolate Book series.

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37 thoughts on “Helping a child with a processing disorder

  1. Excellent, Robbie – both the article and your reaction to Michael’s struggles.

    I went back to add a link here from my Sensory Overview article [Sound Sensitivity and Sensory Integration] – it goes thru all the senses, introducing struggles below diagnostic levels as well. As I add to this topic I’ll most likely link here again.
    (Madelyn Griffith-Haynie – ADDandSoMuchMORE dot com)
    ADD Coach Training Field founder; ADD Coaching co-founder
    “It takes a village to educate a world!”

    Liked by 3 people

  2. Hi Robbie, I really enjoyed your article and it’s great to hear about ways in which you proactively supported Michael’s learning. Finding out what works can sometimes be a challenge, but you’ve done very well. Sharing a love of books, and writing as well as reading, are great places to start – for any child. Reading to and with a child every, or almost every, night is going to make a huge difference to their education. How rewarding for both of you. Many of your suggestions work well for any child. Thanks for sharing.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Thank you, Norah. I taught my older son, Greg, to read from scratch so it was quite hard for me to accept that Mike needed more than what I could give and that no amount of determination on my part was going to solve this problem for us without external input. Changing Mike’s school and getting strategies and assistance from trained teachers was the best thing I could have done and daily reading has helped him to really learn to enjoy books despite his challenges.


  4. Thank you for sharing these tips. My son was diagnosed with APD after he suffered from encephalitis. He used Tomatis therapy, which seemed to help. We have special accommodations at school. It’s always nice getting more advice. Thank you. The ADP for us is new within the last year.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Encouraging and inspiring! There are so many out there who will focus on the problem and not the solution. I believe that Michael is blossoming into the person of perfection he was created to be and that has a lot to do with how you have turned an obstacle into an opportunity! ❤

    Liked by 2 people

  6. Beautiful post! You are a great mom!! My friend’s son has an auditory processing disorder and struggled all through elementary and high school but has blossomed in college and university (even got into a very competitive program). It’s so inspiring to watch someone overcome an obstacle with such success!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Isn’t the role of being a parent just awesome. We know our children and therefore invest in them with all we got and because of that they overcome and produce fruit. If only we could restore this role the world would changes in an instance.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Thanks for sharing. I have no children of my own but I’ve shared on the joys and the hardships of some of my friends (I still do) and know that there’s never a one-size-fit-all approach. You’re doing a great job and it’s fabulous that you’ve found ways to encourage Michael’s love of reading and writing and his creativity.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. I have done many of the same things with my daughter who has Dyslexia. Knowing how much work it is, I do have to applaud you on all your effort and also good much he has accomplished. Bravo!

    Liked by 1 person

      1. I will talk with my kids (yes, I’m getting old and forget 🙂 We tend to overlook what works because we just go with it. I will ask them if they have any ideas and I definitely will share. Learning difficulties are not easy and people often look down on those who are different – but they have a lot to be celebrated for. I have never seen people work so hard and get back up and keep trying, even when they are knocked off their feet.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. That is wonderful, you must be very proud. I agree that people have a tendency to think that a learning barrier means that you are not as bright as other people. That is certainly not true – Michael and all of his little friends are very special people with lots of lovely talents.


  10. Hi Robbie. My oldest son, Bradley, who is now 20, was also diagnosed with an auditory processing disorder as well as dyslexia, when he was in Grade one. He spent 5 years in a remedial school and he still says that those were the best of his school and learning years. He passed matric with a university pass in 2015 but couldn’t settle in at university. He has recently been diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Kim, thanks for sharing this information about your son. It is always encouraging to hear about kids that do well despite some adversity. University is not for everyone so it is a good thing that there are so many other options available to the young.


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