Does my child have Auditory Processing Disorder?

Auditory processing disorder affects about 5% of school-age children. Children with auditory processing are unable to process the information they hear in the same way as others because their ears and their brains do not coordinate together completely. Something adversely affects the way their brain recognizes and interprets sounds, most notably the sounds composing speech.

The causes of auditory processing disorder are unknown. There is much evidence to suggest links to autism, dyslexia, middle ear infections, lack of oxygen at birth as well as other conditions.

The symptoms in each individual can range from mild to severe and only a trained professional, such as a speech-language pathologists and an audiologist can determine if your child actually has a central auditory processing disorder.

The five main problem areas for students with auditory processing are:

Auditory Attention Deficits - difficulties staying focused on a listening task.

If a teacher is giving a lecture, for example, the student might listen in for a few minutes but then drift off and daydream.

Auditory Memory Deficits - difficulties remembering information given.

If the teacher says "get a piece of paper and a pencil out of your desk and write down your spelling words," the student may get confused because there are too many commands at once.

Auditory Figure-Ground Deficits - difficulties focusing with a background noise.

Auditory Discrimination Deficits - difficulties hearing the differences between words or sounds that are similar.

This can affect the students reading, spelling, and writing skills because the student has difficulties connecting sounds to letters.

Auditory Cohesion Deficits - difficulties with higher level listening tasks.

Comprehending abstract concepts that are communicated through hearing become a huge challenge for students with auditory processing. These include drawing inferences from conversations, understanding riddles and comprehending verbal math problems among many more.

If your child does have central auditory processing disorder and finds it difficult to concentrate and follow directions, there are numerous strategies that parents and teachers can implement for their child.

What was I supposed to do again?

In order to help a child with auditory processing follow directions, try reducing background noises, always have the child look at you when you are speaking and use simple, expressive sentences. Speaking at a slightly louder volume and at a slower tempo will also help significantly. Have your child repeat the directions back to you aloud a few times and be certain that they understand the directions they are repeating and not just mimicking your voice.

I left my book at school.

A student with APD will thrive on routine and structure. Teach your child how to focus and cope in chaotic environments (like middle school). Before going home for the day, for instance, have the child check his or her assignment book and list what he or she needs to take home that day

I can't concentrate; it's too loud in here.

At school the child should sit towards the front of the room facing the teacher with his or her back to the windows, doors, and other sources of distraction. The teacher can periodically touch the child's shoulder to remind him or her to focus or get ready for a transition. Teachers should use lots and lots of visual aids jotting down instructions or key words on the board, and providing simple written outlines. For younger students a drawing works fine as a reminder.

At home, provide the child with a quiet study place. Keep the TV turned off and any outside stimuli far away. Make sure the work desk is free of clutter and well organized. Maintain a peaceful, organized lifestyle that also encourages good eating and sleeping habits and keeping a neat room and desk.

Teachers and parents both need to remember that auditory processing disorder is a real condition. The symptoms and behaviors are not within the child's control. Children with auditory processing are not being defiant or being lazy. A child with auditory processing disorder can go on in life and become just as successful as other classmates. Help them build a strong self-esteem and learn to advocate for themselves, as they get older. Keep it positive and keep life fun!