Understanding Auditory Processing Disorder

Understanding Auditory Processing Disorder

auditory processing disorderIn trying to help my son, Xander, with his sensory issues, it proved to be a much more complicated journey than it was with my daughter, Jaimie. With her, once we knew she had Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD) and understood her specific form of it, we were able to learn tools and strategies to help her.  For my son, we went a different journey.  A journey that led us to learn about auditory processing disorder.

For Xander, however, he seemed to have had several layers that we had to peel back and deal with individually before we got to the core of his issues.  At the beginning of our journey, we discovered and dealt with eating, language and sensory isms. Later on in our journey, we discovered that his language isms were based on auditory isms.  These auditory isms ran much deeper than we ever realized.  Xander was found to have an Auditory Processing Disorder (APD) also known as Central Auditory Processing Disorder (CAPD).

What is an Auditory Processing Disorder?

Auditory processing is what happens when your brain recognizes, processes and interprets sound. APD interferes with the processing or interpretation part of the auditory information.
Depending upon the type of APD, some children may not be able to distinguish the tiniest differences in words or sounds (phenomes) even when their ears are hearing them clearly. This sort of auditory processing ism seems to be most common for these children when they are in a noisier or busier environment.  Listening to complex information, instructions or directions also can be an auditory processing ism.

What Causes an Auditory Processing Disorder?

Specific causes of APD aren’t always known. In children, APD has been associated with such conditions as Dyslexia, ADD or ADHD, Autism Spectrum Disorders, language delays or other developmental delays.  APD can also stand alone without being associated with other isms.

Common Signs or Symptoms of an Auditory Processing Disorder

Children with APD often have normal intelligence and hearing but seem to have the following characteristics:
  • trouble concentrating and understanding oral instruction
  • struggles with multi-step problems or tasks
  • poor listening skills
  • frustration and anxiety with trying to process information
  • behavior problems
  • language difficulties – Confusing syllable sequences, vocabulary development or pragmatics, the social side of language.
  • struggle with reading, comprehension, spelling, and vocabulary

The Diagnosis of Auditory Processing Disorder

Unfortunately, obtaining a diagnosis of APD is a long process.  In our case, professionals had to rule out all other factor such as disease, hearing deficits, developmental delays such as speech and language delays.  We visited our pediatrician first to rule out any health issues. From there, we were sent to an audiologist to rule out any hearing problems.  We then visited with a speech-language pathologist to assess his ability to understand and process sounds and language.  While all this was going on, we continued to see our Occupational Therapist (OT) who had experience with sensory and auditory processing isms.   Our OT was able to determine that Xander’s auditory issues were related to his SPD.  Our OT recommended deeper auditory testing with an audiologist when he turned seven or eight years of age.  It is a very complex test which cannot be performed until they have reached the developmental age of seven or eight.

Treatment of Auditory Processing Disorder

There are multiple strategies available including but not limited to:

Auditory Trainers

Auditory trainers allow the child to focus on a specific speaker, such as the teacher, by reducing background noise. In these situations, teachers wear a microphone to transmit sound.  The child can wear a headset to receive the sound or the sound may be transmitted throughout the class via a speaker system.  These are also known as FM Systems.  Ask your audiologist, speech therapist or school district about how to access this option.

Environmental Modifications

Environmental modifications may include but not be limited to:
  • Reducing classroom acoustics
  • Seating the child on the outside of desk rows
  • Seating the child in the front row
  • Ensure seating is away from windows or classroom doors

Since each child’s auditory challenges vary, rely on the specific recommendations from your child’s audiologist.  The audiologist can make other suggestions for classroom accommodations or modifications that will help make the classroom more “auditory friendly” for your child.  Perhaps, other children who are struggling in the classroom will benefit as well!

Language Building Exercises

Read with your child.  Help your child sound out letters and word sounds.  Help him to discover new words to increase his language base.  Another option to consider is using books on tape while reading along with the actual book.  Many online reading programs offer this option.  Check with your school district to see if they have programming available that you can access.  There are some other options available:

Auditory Memory Enhancement

Auditory memory enhancement is helpful as many children with APD struggle with complicated or multi-step tasks due to reduced auditory memory. Super Duper Inc offers a wonderful fact sheet, Helpful Strategies for Auditory Memory

Auditory Integration Training

Auditory integration training or programs such as iLs is used by many OT’s.  It is often used to supplement sensory integration therapy.  It can help to retrain the auditory system and decrease auditory processing distortions.  iLs did wonders for my daughter, Jaimie.

Explore More >> Auditory Processing Disorder

Yes, it was a long road for Xander.  As we peeled back each layer, we learned everything we could about that specific layer.  Through our journey, we developed a stronger understanding of our little guy.  Learning about and dealing with APD helped us get closer to our end goal.