Improving your Child's Poor Listening Skills

Learn the best ways to improve poor listening skills, attention and memory with positive behavior supports. For most children learning how to listen does not come naturally. Receptive communication is a behavior that needs to be exercised, strengthened and positively reinforced. This is especially important for a child with auditory processing disorder or a sensory disorder that has a hard time tuning out other auditory stimuli.

When working with children showing signs of ADHD, characteristics for autism or pervasive developmental disorders (PDD-NOS) you may also consider using applied behavior analysis (ABA) as a method to improve poor listening skills.

Helpful Activities

A girl whispering into a boys ear due to poor listening skills and auditory dysfunction

For children that are able, play games that help to improve poor listening, focus and conversation skills. Some active games are things such as Simon Says, Red Light-Green Light, What time is it mister fox?, and Telephone. You may even provide a special prize when you see great listening.

Another option is to play board games or card games that focus on improving poor listening skills in order for your child to win. Some examples of good board games include, depending on your child’s age, Junior trivial pursuit, Balderdash, 20 questions for kids, and Brain Quest 1-6 board game.

When speaking to your child

When you are speaking ensure that he/she is listening to what you are saying:

• Make sure you have your child’s complete attention, have him or her stop what he or she is doing-television turned off, objects out of hands;

• Approach your child; touch a shoulder while stating his or her name, and gently lift his or her chin towards your face if necessary to make sure he/she is listening;

• Gain eye contact;

• Ask him or her to repeat what you just said;

• Verbally praise every time it is proven that he or she was listening to something you have said.

If diagnosed with autism, you may still try to do these techniques and play some variations of the active games. Incorporating them into ABA autism therapy and providing instant positive reinforcement will help to improve your child's poor listening and conversation skills as well.

Additional strategies to improve poor listening skills

• Make sure to have your child’s hearing tested regularly to eliminate this as possible cause for poor listening skills.

Especially for younger children, pay attention to signs that there may be a hearing difficulty, such as little or no reaction to sudden loud noises.

• Teach and demonstrate active listening by always making eye contact with your child and providing nonverbal behavior cues that you are paying attention to what he or she is saying, such as nodding.

You may also repeat parts of what are said to inform him or her that you were listening. Encourage your child to do similar behavior when you are speaking as well.

• Read to him/her on a regular basis. This is another activity that exercises active listening. Ask questions about the story and objects on the page to encourage listening to what you are reading.

• Engage in daily conversation skills. Talk about everything you did that day, what you will be doing tomorrow and even what you did yesterday.

This requires listening in order to understand what you are saying and over time teaches about past, present and future events. Also, frequently engage in conversations about subjects that your child is interested in talking about.

• Limit television and video games. Images on televisions and video games are frequently changing. This requires the brain very little time to perceive and process the information that is presented.

As a result, when engaging in simple conversation the brain may have more difficulty paying attention and listening to what is being said.

• Limit caffeine and sugar. These cause a temporary high that usually results in hyperactive behavior, followed by a slump resulting in fatigued behavior. Making poor listening skills even more likely.

• Add an Omega-3 fatty acid supplement to your child's diet. Studies have shown this essential nutrient to improve focus and concentration.

• Have your child use the program called integrative listening systems for poor listening skills. This program uses a special set of equipment with music to target specific areas of the brain while integrating all of the senses simultaneously to improve true listening ability.

When all techniques are applied in combination with each other you can work to improve your child's listening skills. Like all things it may take some hard work and consistency, but you can do it!

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