Listening is the ability to attend our self to the sound messages we require the most and ignore or protect ourselves from unnecessary or unwanted messages.
Listening plays a fundamental role in auditory processing and attention span both, which is essential to the acquisition of receptive language. When we talk about autistic children, these children tend to have difficulty with blocking away the unwanted background noise. This protection issue is probably the most disabling aspect of autism. Unable to protect herself / himself from the unwanted stimuli, the child is over-stimulated and overwhelmed by outside stimuli which keep startling and ‘aggressing’ her / him. Hypersensitivity to sound and tactile defensiveness is common in autism. These are the two aspects of this protection issue. The only option left out for these children is to build up a shell around them or cocoon state, as you can call and lock them up. The problem is that this state of withdrawal creates a barrier for communication and learning.
Children with autism do their best learning when they participate in consistent routines. Learning to listen is no different! Establishing clear and structured routines related to listening and using visual aids or illustrations and icons, is the best way to help these children to remind them that it’s time to listen. For instance, you should hold a large photo of an ear when you want the students to listen. Consistent practice makes these children to know that during listening time they are supposed to sit up straight, look directly at therapist / parent, and focus on the words they says.