Huh? What? Why do parents have to repeat themselves?

Posted by Peter Harris

| Pediatrics

As a parent, there's something extra frustrating about preparing breakfast when I have to ask my kids twenty times what they'd like to eat. I can imagine myself sounding like the adult voices in a "Charlie Brown" cartoon… "wah wa wah waaaaa" as I'm ignored over and over again.

Do you find yourself asking "Why do I have to repeat myself all the time?!" or "Why do I find myself yelling to get my child's attention?" Recently, some fascinating science behind why this might be was recently published and helps shed some light on this topic.

According to an article published in the Wall Street Journal in Feb. 2018, children process information from their right ear faster than their left ear (as much as 300 milliseconds faster). Scientists described a "right ear advantage" which typically diminishes as nerves develop and increase the speed of impulses traveling across the brain.

When presented with a recording of two digits in each ear, a typical 7-year old will accurately repeat the information in the right ear 70% of the time versus 55% of the time for information entering the left ear. For a 9-year old, the average increased to 90% accuracy in the right ear and 80% in the left. By age eleven, children typically reach 90% accuracy in both ears which is where most adults are.

But because the brain must also compare sounds with remembered patterns, or phonemes, and we commonly receive more than two digits of information at a time, auditory processing is much different than a reflexive reaction that someone experiences when startled.

Auditory processing describes when a person takes a sound from the ear to the part of the brain for interpretation. As a pediatric occupational therapist, it is one component of three critical learning pathways that must be considered when working with children. I look to support a child's strengths as a teaching tool whether they are a visual learner, auditory learner or kinesthetic learner. If I suspect a child is having significant difficulty processing auditory information, a referral to a specialized audiologist is appropriate.

The last takeaway point I found in this article is that accuracy can be significantly impacted by cognitive demand. Just think about the last time you were focused on an activity and your spouse asked you a question. Did you ask them to repeat the question? By better understanding how children develop, we can begin to understand how to help. If your child is engaged in an activity, divert their attention, keep sentences short and words simple, try speaking in their right ear…


If you have questions or concerns about your child's auditory processing, or any developmental delay for that matter, please contact our pediatric clinic today for an evaluation:

Contact our Pediatric Team today

Author Bio:

If Keith Carson's hand is the first one you'll shake, Peter Harris' may be the second. He is responsible for business development as it relates to our outpatient clinics.

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