Auditory Processing – Beat competency and reading readiness

Reading is a key skill for life. In 2019, 27% of children at age 11 in the UK, did not meet the required standard for reading. In the USA, levels dropped in 2019 with only 34% of 13 & 14 year old children achieving proficient levels.

Quite naturally, many interventions for children with delayed reading development involve more reading. However, we need to look deeper than this to get to the root of many reading problems. The previous blogs regarding frequency and speech as well as volume, focussed upon the sensory aspects of developing strong auditory processing for good reading.

Another area that is important is timing and beat competency. This is being able to hear and copy a steady beat and is intricately linked to reading development. We need to understand that this is about listening to an external beat and copying it by tapping, clapping or marching in time. Beat competency is NOT about an internally generated beat. If you ask someone to simply think of a beat and clap, they may be able to do this easily. This is about copying a beat!

Thomson and Goswami (2008) amongst many other researchers have shown very clearly that the ability to keep to a beat is linked closely to language development, phonological awareness, reading and writing skills. Measurements can be taken at the level of the brainstem to measure how good any one is at beat competency. Those with poor timing in the brainstem are the ones who are delayed in reading, language and other areas.

Imagine trying to read or listen when your ‘timing is out’! It is no wonder that many with Dyslexia, Specific Language Impairment and other labels have challenges with beat and rhythm.