Improve Your Processing Skills: Processing Activities
Reverse Auditory Digit Span - Video Instructions
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Reverse Auditory Digit Span - Instructions
This activity improves auditory sequential processing and working memory. It may be used for both children and adults.
Start by testing the auditory reverse digit span to establish a baseline. To test the reverse auditory digit span, say a sequence of numbers (0-9) in a monotone voice and at exactly one-second intervals to the individual. He should then repeat that sequence in the reverse order of the order given (i.e., backwards). Begin with an easy sequence that you feel confident the individual will be able to reverse; if he gets it correct, add another digit and continue until a mistake is made. Give one more sequence at the level missed; if he gets it correct, try going up a level. The highest level at which he was able to give you a correct response is the baseline. For example, you might start with a sequence of 3 digits. If he reverses the sequence correctly, you would then give a sequence of 4. If he is correct again, give a sequence of 5. If he misses the 5, give another 5. If he misses the second 5, the baseline is 4. It is important that sequences are given at the same speed and that each sequence is different. It is okay for the listener to think the digit span forward a couple times after you have given it in order to think through it enough to get it backwards.
Now that you have established a baseline, you are ready to work on the activity. We have discovered that most people do better if we work within a range of reverse digit sequences. For example, if the individual's baseline is 3, you should present sequences of 2, 3, and initial 4s. As he starts getting the 4s, add more 4s and fewer 2s and 3s. At the point where he is reversing many of the 4s correctly, give three 4s in a row, and if he is able to get two of the three correct, move the baseline up to 4. With a baseline of 4 you would present 3s, 4s, and initial 5s.
Please be aware of the ways that people may invalidate this activity. First of all, it is very important that when the individual says an auditory digit or object sequence that he does not chunk the numbers, for example, 52…835. The individual would then process that auditory digit span as two pieces versus five pieces. It is also important that he does not sing or put the sequence to a rhythm. This will also allow him to process it as fewer pieces. Make sure that he gives you the sequence at one-second intervals and with a monotone voice. Chaining is another strategy that should be discouraged. Chaining is the repetition of the sequence over and over again as it is being said. So as the individual listens to the numbers, he repeats them all, as in 8, 80, 803, 8034, 80345, 803459. Finally, some people will visualize the auditory sequence. You can tell they are visualizing by their eye gaze - they either look up to the side or close their eyes, or they hold up fingers for each number they say. If this happens, have them sit on their hands and/or look down. Looking down will discourage visualization.
With this activity intensity is vital. You need to do whatever is necessary to get the individual's intensity level as high as possible. The nature of doing something frequently can decrease intensity, so for children you will probably need to offer an outside reinforcer. A hearty "WELL DONE!" might carry you through a few sessions, but may not be adequate for the long term. Establishing competition can often help increase intensity and should be encouraged. It is important to remember that improving sequential processing is going to impact virtually every aspect of an individual's life, so think big. If on a scale of 1 to 10 the listener's intensity level falls below a 5, then he would be better off taking a nap; but if you can get the intensity level at about a 6 or a 7, you are going to see real progress.