This comic illustrates an example of the script for auditory processing deficits in conversation that I use. Panel 1: Two characters in conversation. The first character is speaking but only half of the words are visible so the sentence doesn't make sense. "We have to leave...45...the game...the field don't leave...there." The second character responds, "...what?" Panel 2: First character shows mad expression and says, "Weren't you listening?" The second character responds looking guilty, "I'm sorry, I was trying." Panel 3: (depicting script used as strategy) Restart of scenario with the first character saying the same unintelligible sentence. This time, the second character has a lightbulb moment and asks, "Can you say that again slower?" Panel 4: The first character is smiling and says, "Oh sure, I'm sorry!" She then repeats the sentence, "We have to leave practice at 4:45 before the game tomorrow after school to clear the field for varsity all stars division, so don't leave anything lying around there." The second character smiles back and replies, "Oh ok, I can do that!"

This post focuses on a specific compensatory strategy that you can teach people with auditory processing deficits to use in conversation to accommodate them. I use the following script: Can you say that again slower?

Storytime – My Auditory Processing Deficits in Conversation

I used to be a chronic “what”-er. I would miss part of what someone was saying, or not process full sentences fast enough, and I’d have to pause the conversation in obvious confusion.

I’ve learned through numerous data points of this exact scenario of asking “…what?” that people don’t generally trend toward a compassionate response and kindly repeat themselves. Often, there is some kind of expression of being bothered by my apparent ineptitude. I would feel bad, shamed, and so I would dread the next time it inevitably happened in conversation. I didn’t understand why people would be suddenly hesitant to share something that I was actively trying to follow.

I wanted to follow along, understand the entire story or news, directions, questions, but time and time again there would be some processing roadblock that I couldn’t navigate, except to ask for a repeat.

So I experimented until I found an effective script for auditory processing deficits in conversation.

Why This Script Works

Many people automatically associate needing to repeat themselves with the conclusion that you weren’t paying attention. They didn’t have your complete focus. What they were saying wasn’t important enough for you to have bothered to fully listen to the first time. You must be thinking of other more important things than them. These subconscious thoughts can dominant the speaker’s response to needing to repeat themselves, whether they’re aware of it or not.

The speaker may not be aware of auditory processing deficits and they may not even be receptive to learn about them. That would be turning the conversation away from them and onto you without an invitation, (another social faux pas no-no). So I’ve discovered a simple substitute to asking “what?” and feeling guilty over my brain’s difficulties with auditory processing as well as difficulty filtering out background noise and tuning only into the speaker’s voice.

Instead, I calmly request, “Can you say that again slower?” Without feeling guilty.

How is that different? Two things:

1) Without prematurely acting guilty, like you did something wrong, the speaker is less likely to see you as guilty. If your facial expressions and tone of voice present guilt when asking “what” – you’re actually encouraging the other person to also see you as guilty of committing a wrongdoing – in this case failing to pay proper attention.

2) Instead of outing yourself as the guilty party in the communication breakdown, you’re actually implying that they are the guilty party, in a socially acceptable way (i.e., indirect). By asking them to repeat themselves but slower, the speaker now thinks that they must have been speaking too fast and made the conversation difficult to follow. So, now the person is more likely to eagerly repeat themselves, to rectify their perceived error and because they continue to believe that you wish to actively listen to what they have to say.

It doesn’t matter whether the speaker was actually speaking too fast or not because you’re not calling them out directly, (this would more likely put someone on the defensive). Regardless, if the listener subconsciously thinks that they have made an error rather than you made the error, I’ve found that you can often unlock that compassionate response and they kindly repeat themselves.


This is a real-world example of effects from the double empathy problem from my own personal experience. Because the neurotypical brain does not have difficulty with filtering out stimuli, tuning into a specific source, and auditory processing, a neurotypical person will generally assume that your brain also doesn’t have difficulty with these seemingly basic tasks. And they may struggle to relate to having auditory processing deficits, and therefore, assign their own conclusion, based on their own brain’s operating system.

Educating others about auditory processing deficits is important, but sometimes we could just use a quick tip, a compensatory strategy, to get what we need without starting a neurodiversity lecture.

I hope to make this a series – compensatory strategies in action – to share tools to manage various differences and deficits common in autistic or neurodivergent people in our daily lives.

Having a toolkit with scripts or strategies for common social situations can reduce some of the anxiety when navigating social interactions. I share these strategies with some of my autistic and ADHD students in speech therapy sessions if I feel it’s relevant and could be useful to them.

Let me know if you find value in this, thanks!

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