What Do I Hear?

By Activity Bank on Jun 20, 2013

This activity has been revised and was originally created by Vickie Brennan, Flo Ryu, and Dennis Lolli and published in the Perkins Activity and Resource Guide (1st edition, 1992).  The second edition is available for purchase.

This activity helps the teacher identify auditory reinforcers that enhance the student’s use of functional vision. Students will indicate a preference for the activity by responding with a positive change in affect (smile, laugh); or by gesturing or moving toward the adult or the item with her hand or body (following the cessation of the sound). Lessons include Concept Development and Independent Living Skills.


  • MP3 player and speakers, or radio
  • Sing-alongs
  • Voices (male/female)
  • Shaker or rattle toys
  • Large bells, small bells that vary in intensity/pitch
  • Musical instruments


  • The adult will present a specific type of music (i.e. rock music) for five to ten seconds, turn the music off for five seconds, and then wait for the student to respond.
  • Next, the adult presents a different type of music (classical music), and again waits for the student to respond, noting whether there is a preference for one type of music over the other.
  • Nonpreference would be indicated if the student did not demonstrate any positive changes in affect or did not gesture for more when the music stopped.


  • Present items at different sound levels.
  • If the student is tolerant, try using headphones for fewer distractions.

Hint: Don’t automatically assume that if the student turns away from the sound source it is an indication of nonpreference. Instead, repeat the procedure several times. Turning her head away from the stimulus may represent the student’s attempt to position an ear toward the source of the auditory stimulations.