A computer-based auditory and visual sequential pattern test for school-aged children (2011)
AuthorsSmales, Caroline Joyshow all
Auditory processing refers to the efficiency and effectiveness by which the CNS utilises auditory information (ASHA, 2005). Auditory processing disorder (APD) is a processing dysfunction characterised by severe listening difficulties, despite normal peripheral hearing sensitivity. It affects approximately 3‐5% of school aged children (Musiek & Chermak, 2007). An important step towards effective identification and treatment of these children is to develop improved methods of assessing listening skills and differentially diagnosing APD. A test that is commonly used internationally as part of a standard APD assessment is the Frequency Pattern Test (FPT). The FPT specifically targets temporal processing abilities related to the recall of a sequential pattern of a series of auditory stimuli. However, interpretation of this test is complicated by the multiple listening and cognitive skills involved, and by factors that may negatively affect test performance such as fatigue, motivation and attention. These factors are particularly relevant when testing children. In order to establish APD as an auditory specific deficit rather than the auditory manifestation of a more global amodal or multimodal processing or cognitive deficit, some researchers (Cacace & McFarland, 2005) propose the incorporation of multimodal testing into standard clinical APD assessments. It has been suggested that comparisons on analogous auditory and visual tasks, for example, may hold implications for the differential diagnosis of processing deficits involving the central nervous system. However, there is a paucity of evidence regarding the clinical utility of visual analogs of central auditory tests in the differential diagnosis of central auditory processing deficits. We have developed a new computer‐based auditory and visual sequential patterns test, the Bird Song Game, which uses engaging computer animations and an interactive touchscreen interface, and have collected data from typically developing school‐aged children and children with APD. A total of 128 children aged 6‐10 years were recruited from two independent mainstream schools of differing decile rating; and a further 11 children with previously identified APD also participated. Analysis of results included comparisons between age, gender, left and right ears and schools. Further analysis compared results between the manual and verbal mode of reporting responses, as well as between the visual and auditory modalities. Results demonstrate that scores attained by typically developing children on the Bird Song Game were similar to current normative scores on the traditional FPT. This indicates that the computer based version of the test is a good clinical substitute, and that the current normative values may be used in interpreting performance on the Bird Song Game in a clinical setting. There was a significant difference in performance on sequencing tasks in the auditory and visual modalities for both groups of children (three‐way ANOVA, p < 0.001). There was no significant difference in performance between the two reporting modes (manual and verbal) for either group (two‐way ANOVA, p < 0.05). A significant difference in performance was found between the low and high decile school (p < 0.001) and an effect of musical education was seen in some groups These findings provide evidence that a computer based interactive test offers an alternative procedure, and has several advantages over its CD based counterpart.