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What We Do With What We Hear

July 12, 2012

Auditory processing; in simple terms, is “what we do with what we hear.” When someone asks us a question, we take it in, make an association with what we know, and respond.

I was working with a social skills group of school-aged girls who have difficulty keeping up with conversations with their peers. Let’s face it; groups of girls can speak quickly. My clients told me that when they are in a group, they listen but very rarely do they add to the conversation. Accordingly, I had my clients practice auditory processing in real-time (within the group). The therapy task was to respond to a question by identifying the topic and making an association (an association was defined as anything they know on the topic).  For example, “What do you like to do when you are at home?” Before responding, the clients identified the topic: home activities, and stated an association: things in my room. Then they responded to the question. I also had them state associated topics such as “things to do in the backyard” to learn how to change to a new, yet associated topic to keep the conversation going.

Of course taking the time to make an association means extra processing time. To gain this time, our next therapy task was to respond to a question by using what I call a “Processing Phrase.”  Using a processing phrase lets people know that there will be a response after the thinking time. I had the girls choose a phrase that worked for them.

Processing Phrases


Give me a sec.

I’m just thinking.

That’s a good question… Let me think.

What did you ask again?

I think that… hmmm.

I don’t know…what do you think?

Wait, you asked…?

Let me make sure… you asked…?


I also had the girls practice repeating the question to gain more processing time.

Ex:       (Q) What did you do over the weekend?

(A) Hmmm, What did I do over the weekend? … Thinking time, Response.

And, repeating one word of the question.

Ex:       Weekend, hmmm, weekend…Thinking time, Response.

This strategy kept the girls on topic and helped them remember the question while thinking.


Lastly, the girls practiced jumping in with their thoughts. Ah, success!

*To practice at home: Take turns asking each other a question, respond with a processing                                                             phrase; when ready answer the question, and have fun!