Cleveland speech therapists

Cleveland Speech Therapists on How Quiet Time Can Help Kids Learn

As Cleveland speech therapists, we teach kids to talk back: To find their voice, use it effectively, and engage in meaningful communication with those around them. That said, we also equally recognize the value of intentional quiet time for kids – both in our sessions and in their everyday lives.

Here’s the thing: We live in a noisy world. Whether we’re in a classroom or in the car or at a park or even at home – there’s almost always some level of background noise happening.

And although we don’t normally give it much thought, it actually takes work and practice to teach our brains to tune out this background noise and focus/fully process words that are being said to us. The more brain power we have to expend to assess and adjust those outside sounds, the harder it is to process new information.

Even as adults with practice, evidence shows our brains are slower to process audible input when there is even a moderate level of background noise (idling traffic or a television in the other room).

Our Cleveland speech therapists recognize that noise can be especially distracting for young brains.

As one psychology professor put it, “We can close our eyes, we can avert our gaze, but we hear in 360 degrees.” In one study by that same professor about how auditory distractions can impact kids’ ability to perform basic memory tasks, researchers concluded kids under age 7 in particular struggle with memorization when there are audio distractions.

This has actually been repeatedly proven in other studies too. One study of New York City schoolchildren in the 1970s found that students whose classroom was next to noisy train tracks did significantly poorer on reading evaluations compared to students of the same age/ability on the other end of the same school building.

In a more recent study of 7-9-year-olds in Switzerland, kids whose classrooms had a noticeably higher level of constant background noise did far worse on listening comprehension tasks compared to kids whose classroom volume was lower.

The impact of these audio distractions as an impediment to learning is outsized both for children who are younger and for those with speech-language delays and/or disorders.

For us as Cleveland speech therapists, that means if we’re teaching a child a brand new skill or we really want them to listen and understand what we’re saying, it’s very important that we minimize distracting noise. Otherwise, the chances of them retaining what we’re teaching them may be low.

How Cleveland Speech Therapists Utilize Quiet Spaces

Just as we recognize that encouraging social interaction and play is important to what we do, we also know that we must balance this by intentionally seeking out quiet spaces for kids during our sessions.

Certain areas of our clinic incorporate soft lighting, comfortable seating, and minimalist decor – all of which contributes to a serene atmosphere that reduces anxiety and makes children feel more relaxed and receptive to learning. Those same spaces are also quieter, with less audio input for them to process.

For some kids, we consistently work in time in these spaces into our routine. This helps create a sense of predictability. For those with sensory processing difficulties, this is often something to which they can look forward.

Ways Parents Can Incorporate Meaningful Quiet Times at Home

Even if in times when you aren’t actively communicating with your child, taking the audio distraction down a notch can help kids with self-regulation and overall focus.

We recommend:

  • Designating a quiet space. It should be comfortable, inviting, relatively free of clutter and bright colors.
  • Reducing background noise. If you can turn off the tv in the background (or at least turn it down), turn down the volume on electronic devices, that helps to make a home a place where they can truly relax.
  • Using noise canceling headphones. If you can’t avoid the volume of background noise but know they would benefit from a reprieve from it, consider allowing them to use noise-canceling headphones.
  • Limiting screen time. Excessive screen time is problematic for a lot of reasons – and one of those is the volume at which a lot of kids seem to like to watch/listen to it.
  • Engaging in quiet activities. Read books together, listen to soft/instrumental music, lounge quietly in the backyard or quiet part of the park.

Minimizing “noise pollution” for your child helps reduce distractions, conserve cognitive resources, and helps them be more present and focused.

Therapy & Wellness Connection – your connection to a life without limitations – provides speech therapy to children in Akron, Cleveland, Brecksville-Broadview Heights and surrounding communities. We also offer summer camp, day programs, education services, vocational counseling and more. Call us at (330) 748-4807 or send us an email.

Additional Resources:

The Effect of Background Noise, Bilingualism, Socioeconomic Status, and Cognitive Functioning on Primary School Children’s Narrative Listening Comprehension, March 11, 2024, Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research

More Blog Entries:

Brecksville SLP Urges Parents to Proactively Protect Kids’ Hearing, Feb. 5, 2024, Cleveland Speech Therapists Blog