Dear Jacqui, My teenage daughter is having difficulties concentrating at school and understanding her work. She is a bright girl but struggling to achieve her potential. Do you have any explanation for this?

This is an interesting question and there are a number of teenagers like this. A Speech and Language assessment is required to see if there are any aspects of subtle higher level language difficulties and an Auditory Processing assessment to find out if there is also any aspect of an auditory processing disorder. There is often a spatial processing difficulty. This is when a person struggles to hear in background noise when these noises come from different directions i.e. they are spatially separated. The combination of some auditory processing difficulties and a subtle higher level language difficulty will present as:


  • Poor attention and concentration in the classroom and in group conversations
  • Difficulties following a set of instructions
  • The teenager often saying ‘Huh?’ or ‘What?’ as if they haven’t heard
  • Mishearing what is said at times
  • Difficulty with understanding the flow of conversation or a teacher in a lesson
  • Difficulty understanding new and complex vocabulary at the secondary school level
  • Difficulty understanding language in written text
  • Difficulty interpreting exam questions and long written answers


It is advisable to have a full Speech and Language assessment in the first instance. Following this, a therapy plan can be put in place to improve auditory and language processing. With the right support, these students can improve and achieve their potential.