Listening comprehension is a fundamental skill that lays the groundwork for effective communication, academic success, and social interaction. It refers to the ability to understand spoken language accurately and efficiently. Just as reading comprehension is vital for deciphering written text, listening comprehension is crucial for making sense of verbal communication.

I will discuss what listening comprehension entails, who evaluates it in children, propose a list of IEP (Individualized Education Program) goals and objectives for enhancing listening comprehension, and discuss methods to measure this critical skill for learning.

A young boy covering his ear with his hand, showing challenges with listening comprehension.

Much like all the other lists of IEP goals on this site, I want to add a warning and/or disclaimer to these IEP goals for listening comprehension. And that is–none of these goals should be considered in isolation.

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My intent here is to provide IEP teams (including parents!) with goal ideas to bring to the table at the IEP meeting. I’ve attended hundreds of IEP meetings myself and I know that there is much more that goes into this process.

A child who lacks listening comprehension could have a zillion things going on–anything from hearing loss to auditory processing disorder and on and on.

Comprehensive IEP evaluations in all areas of suspected disability must be done before adding any goals to an IEP.

The IEP team also needs to look at the whole child and their set of skill deficits. Addressing a skill deficiency in some aspect of listening comprehension will be an exercise in futility if that student does not have the pre skills to make that skill happen. That often includes executive functioning and other invisible skills.

The child may lack EF skills, have processing speed issues and so much more going on besides listening comprehension.

At the same time, I want to caution against treating a child punitively for skill deficits. An inability to follow instructions or other behaviors may be interpreted as defiant when it might be a lack of listening comprehension skills.

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The mantra of “Think can’t, vs won’t” applies here.

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What is Listening Comprehension?

Listening comprehension involves more than just hearing words; it requires actively processing and understanding the meaning behind them. It encompasses various components such as understanding vocabulary, syntax, context, and inferencing skills.

Effective listening comprehension involves not only understanding the literal meaning of words but also grasping underlying concepts, drawing connections, and making inferences.

A young boy is holding his hand up to his ear, working on his Listening Comprehension Goals.

Listening Comprehension vs Receptive Language

Listening comprehension and receptive language are related but distinct concepts in the realm of language development and communication.

  1. Listening Comprehension
    • Listening comprehension refers specifically to the ability to understand and make meaning from spoken language.
    • It involves understanding the content, context, and nuances of verbal communication, including following instructions, understanding stories or conversations, and extracting key information from spoken messages.
    • Listening comprehension skills are essential for effective communication and academic success, as they enable individuals to comprehend and respond appropriately to verbal instructions and information.
  2. Receptive Language
    • Receptive language encompasses a broader range of skills related to understanding and processing both spoken and written language.
    • It includes not only listening comprehension but also understanding non-verbal communication cues, gestures, facial expressions, and written language (e.g., reading comprehension).
    • Receptive language skills involve understanding language in various forms, such as spoken words, sentences, and paragraphs, as well as interpreting the meaning conveyed through visual aids, symbols, or written text.
    • Receptive language skills are fundamental for comprehension in all aspects of communication, including listening, reading, and understanding visual information.

Listening comprehension specifically refers to the ability to understand spoken language, while receptive language encompasses a broader set of skills related to understanding and processing both spoken and written language, as well as non-verbal communication cues.

While listening comprehension is a subset of receptive language, receptive language skills extend beyond mere listening to encompass comprehension in multiple forms of communication.

Two young girls whispering in each other's ear, achieving their listening comprehension goals.

Child Lacks Listening Comprehension

Children who lack listening comprehension skills may exhibit several signs indicating difficulties in understanding spoken language. Here are some common signs to watch for:

  1. Difficulty Following Directions: Children may struggle to follow simple or multi-step instructions, especially when given verbally.
  2. Limited Vocabulary: Children may have a smaller vocabulary compared to their peers, which can hinder their ability to understand spoken language.
  3. Misunderstanding Questions: They may frequently misunderstand questions or respond inappropriately to what was asked.
  4. Difficulty Retaining Information: Children may have trouble remembering information conveyed orally, such as details from a story or instructions given by a teacher or parent.
  5. Poor Academic Performance: Listening comprehension difficulties can impact academic performance, particularly in subjects that rely heavily on verbal instruction, such as language arts or social studies.
  6. Lack of Engagement in Conversations: They may seem disinterested or disengaged during conversations, possibly due to difficulty understanding what is being said.
  7. Repetition or Clarification Requests: Children may frequently ask for repetition or clarification of what has been said, indicating that they did not fully comprehend the information initially.
  8. Limited Response in Group Settings: In group settings such as classrooms or social gatherings, they may have difficulty participating in discussions or group activities due to difficulties in understanding spoken instructions or conversations.
  9. Difficulty with Storytelling: Children may struggle to retell stories or events in a coherent manner, reflecting their challenges in comprehending and processing spoken narratives.
  10. Limited Ability to Make Inferences: They may struggle to make logical connections or inferences based on information presented verbally, which can affect their understanding of complex ideas or situations.

If you notice these signs in a child, it’s important to consider seeking guidance from educators, speech-language pathologists, or other professionals who can assess the child’s listening comprehension skills and provide appropriate support and interventions.

Early identification and intervention can significantly improve a child’s ability to understand and communicate effectively.

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Who Evaluates a Child for Listening Comprehension?

Professionals such as speech-language pathologists, special education teachers, educational psychologists, and audiologists are typically involved in evaluating a child’s listening comprehension skills.

They employ a variety of assessment tools and techniques to gauge the child’s abilities, identify areas of strength and weakness, and tailor interventions accordingly. Evaluation may involve informal observation, standardized tests, parent/teacher reports, and specialized assessments designed to measure specific aspects of listening comprehension.

Functional Hearing Assessments

A functional hearing assessment, also known as a functional hearing evaluation or functional hearing screening, is a process used to evaluate an individual’s ability to hear and understand sounds in everyday situations.

Unlike formal audiological evaluations conducted by audiologists, which typically involve comprehensive testing in a controlled environment, a functional hearing assessment focuses on practical listening abilities in real-world settings.

Here are the key aspects of a functional hearing assessment:

  1. Observation: The evaluator observes the individual’s behavior and responses in various listening situations to assess their functional hearing abilities. This may include observing how they respond to spoken instructions, conversations, environmental sounds, and other auditory stimuli.
  2. Interviews and Questionnaires: The evaluator may conduct interviews with the individual and/or caregivers to gather information about the person’s hearing history, communication challenges, and everyday listening experiences. Questionnaires may also be used to assess the impact of hearing loss on daily activities and communication.
  3. Functional Listening Tasks: The assessment may include various listening tasks designed to evaluate the individual’s ability to hear and understand speech and other auditory stimuli in different environments. These tasks may involve following verbal instructions, participating in conversations, identifying sounds, and responding to auditory cues.
  4. Environmental Testing: The assessment may involve testing the individual’s ability to hear and understand speech and other sounds in different environments, such as quiet settings, noisy environments, and reverberant spaces. This helps identify specific listening challenges and determine how well the individual can function in various real-life situations.
  5. Assistive Listening Device (ALD) Evaluation: If appropriate, the evaluator may assess the individual’s use of assistive listening devices, such as hearing aids, cochlear implants, or FM systems, to determine their effectiveness in improving functional hearing abilities.
  6. Recommendations: Based on the assessment findings, the evaluator may provide recommendations for accommodations, communication strategies, and assistive devices to support the individual’s functional hearing needs in daily life.

Functional hearing assessments are particularly useful for evaluating the practical impact of hearing loss on an individual’s communication and daily activities, as well as for guiding intervention and support strategies tailored to their specific listening challenges and needs.

These assessments are often conducted by speech-language pathologists, educators, or other professionals trained in assessing communication disorders.

IEP Goals and Objectives for Listening Comprehension

  1. Objective: Improve auditory discrimination skills.
    • Goal: The student will correctly identify and differentiate between similar sounding words in spoken language with 80% accuracy in a given set of stimuli.
  2. Objective: Enhance understanding of main ideas and supporting details.
    • Goal: The student will identify the main idea and at least three supporting details in orally presented passages with 90% accuracy.
  3. Objective: Develop inferencing skills.
    • Goal: The student will make logical inferences based on context clues in spoken sentences with 75% accuracy.
  4. Objective: Expand vocabulary comprehension.
    • Goal: The student will accurately define and use newly learned vocabulary words in context in spoken language with 85% accuracy.
  5. Objective: Improve comprehension of complex sentences.
    • Goal: The student will accurately interpret and explain the meaning of complex sentences in spoken language with 80% accuracy.
  6. Objective: Enhance listening for specific information.
    • Goal: The student will listen to spoken directions and accurately follow multi-step instructions with 90% accuracy.
  7. Objective: Foster listening for understanding of social cues.
    • Goal: The student will accurately interpret and respond to social cues such as tone of voice and body language in spoken interactions with peers with 80% accuracy.
  8. Objective: Strengthen auditory memory.
    • Goal: The student will recall and sequence orally presented information accurately with 80% accuracy.
  9. Objective: Improve listening comprehension in noisy environments.
    • Goal: The student will demonstrate improved comprehension of spoken language in noisy settings by accurately answering questions with 75% accuracy.
  10. Objective: Enhance listening comprehension of narrative passages.
    • Goal: The student will accurately summarize orally presented narratives, including key events and details, with 85% accuracy.
  11. Objective: Develop active listening skills.
    • Goal: The student will demonstrate active listening by paraphrasing spoken information and asking relevant questions with 90% accuracy.
  12. Objective: Improve listening comprehension of academic content.
    • Goal: The student will accurately comprehend and respond to academic lectures and discussions on grade-level topics with 80% accuracy.
  13. Objective: Enhance listening comprehension during conversations.
    • Goal: The student will accurately follow and participate in conversational exchanges by asking relevant questions and providing appropriate responses with 85% accuracy.
  14. Objective: Develop critical listening skills.
    • Goal: The student will critically evaluate spoken information, identify biases or inconsistencies, and formulate reasoned responses with 80% accuracy.
  15. Objective: Strengthen auditory processing speed.
    • Goal: The student will demonstrate improved auditory processing speed by accurately responding to rapid auditory stimuli with 75% accuracy.
  16. Objective: Enhance listening comprehension of figurative language.
    • Goal: The student will accurately interpret and explain figurative language such as idioms and metaphors in spoken language with 80% accuracy.
  17. Objective: Improve listening comprehension during storytelling.
    • Goal: The student will accurately recall and retell orally presented stories, including key plot points and character motivations, with 85% accuracy.
  18. Objective: Develop listening comprehension strategies.
    • Goal: The student will use active listening strategies such as summarizing, predicting, and clarifying to enhance comprehension of spoken language with 90% accuracy.
  19. Objective: Enhance listening comprehension of informational texts.
    • Goal: The student will accurately extract and summarize key information from orally presented informational texts with 85% accuracy.
  20. Objective: Foster listening comprehension in real-life situations.
    • Goal: The student will demonstrate improved listening comprehension in everyday situations, such as following directions, participating in group discussions, and engaging in social interactions, with 80% accuracy.

I hope this gave you knowledge and ideas to be a better IEP team participant. We’re always taking ideas if you want to email us.

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