Teaching Students with Phonological Processing Disorders

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  • 0:00 Phonological…
  • 1:12 Symptoms
  • 2:12 Assisting PPD
  • 4:33 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Maria Airth

Maria has a Doctorate of Education and over 20 years of experience teaching psychology and math related courses at the university level.

Phonological processing disorder occurs when a person has difficulty processing certain sounds. This lesson reviews phonological processing disorder, what to expect and how to accommodate it in the classroom.

Phonological Processing Disorder

Can you imagine a life where nothing made sense? Imagine being in school and listening to the teacher give instructions, watching all the other students begin to follow the instructions, and having no idea what was said. Or imagine reading a book out-loud. Even though you are perfectly comfortable with the words, you can't make them sound right and no one understands you as you read. How would it feel to have such a difficult time expressing yourself verbally or understanding others?

This is how many children spend their days at school. They listen, but don't seem to understand verbal instruction. They read, but get incorrectly assessed as poor readers. This is not because they have physical difficulties with hearing, but because they have mental difficulties with processing sounds. So their ears work fine. This is not an issue with actually being able to hear, but their brains are not able to properly process sounds that they hear or try to make. This is called Auditory Processing Disorder.

Phonological processing disorder is a specific part of auditory processing disorder that refers to the ability to discern sounds and specifically to make those sounds.


A student with difficulties processing phonological concepts will exhibit delayed speech or a speech impediment. It may be difficult to understand the student or you may notice that he or she often mispronounces words that should be age appropriate.

Another symptom of phonological processing disorder is an inability to identify rhyming words or create rhyming sounds. Remember that phonological refers to sounds. If a person is having difficulty producing sounds and processing sounds they have heard, then it becomes almost impossible to identify sounds that sound alike.

The child will likely not be able to identify beginning, ending, or blended sounds within a word. This is a key aspect of early childhood education. A child that has age-inappropriate issues with correctly stating beginning and ending sounds should be assessed for phonological processing disorder. You might also notice children omitting vowels when spelling orally. These are all symptoms of phonological processing disorder.

Assisting PPD

Phonological processing disorder is not a disorder of the mechanics of hearing; it is an issue with aural information. Thus, the best way to work around it is to engage children's other senses while practicing phonological concepts. By engaging more senses, more of the brain is actively connecting with the information, thus stronger connections are made. The more of the brain that is used, the better.

To do this, many teachers use the clapping method to highlight syllables in each word. Students clap with each part of the word, really emphasizing the different syllables in each word said. By engaging the body, the student has many more mental connections with the proper pronunciation of words than if they were simply trying to say the word out loud.

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