Auditory Processing Disorder: What is It and How Does It Affect My Child ?

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Your child has just received an auditory processing disorder (APD) diagnosis, but passed their hearing test at school. How can your child receive this diagnosis when they don’t have anything wrong with their hearing?

Children with APD have normal hearing. But, they have a hard time processing and making meaning of sounds, particularly when there is background noise.

APD is often confused with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) or other learning disabilities. However, children can have both APD and a learning disability or ADHD.

It’s estimated that about two to seven percent of children have APD.

Consequences of Auditory Processing Disorder

One of the key issues involving ADP is socialisation. Withdrawal is common with this condition. Having an auditory processing disorder can affect your child’s ability to make friends. Kids with APD have difficulty keeping up with conversations. On the playground, by the time they hear other kids’ words and process what they’re saying, the other kids have already moved on to a different conversation. The child’s socialization skills are lacking which can cause the child to have low self-esteem and withdrawal from other kids.

APD can cause anxiety and humiliation in the classroom too. The teacher will eventually ask your child to participate in the class whether by a request or a question. And, responding immediately isn’t an easy feat for APD kids. They require several seconds in order to process the request or question and then decide on their response.

Causes of Auditory Processing Disorder

Doctors often don’t know the cause of auditory processing disorder. In kids, APD could have an association with conditions like:

  • Autism
  • ADHD
  • Dyslexia
  • Specific language impairment
  • Developmental delay
  • Pervasive developmental disorder

It could have hereditary factors. Research also suggests a potential link to other factors, including low birth weight or premature birth, chronic ear infections, head trauma and lead poisoning.

Auditory Processing Disorder Symptoms

APD symptoms can vary and take on various forms. They can be mild to severe. Symptoms may include:

  • Your child is unusually bothered by sudden or loud noise.
  • Your child is easily distracted.
  • Your child is experiencing extreme tiredness after school.
  • Your child gets upset in noisy environments.
  • Your child has difficulty following conversations or directions.
  • Your child has difficulties in spelling, writing, reading or other spoken language.
  • Your child is forgetful and disorganized.

Often these behaviors above can accompany other conditions such as ADHD, learning disabilities and even depression, which can make it difficult to recognize APD.

Treatments for Auditory Processing Disorder

The pediatrician needs to first rule out other ailments like ear infection-related hearing loss. A school psychologist or speech-language pathologist might test your child to measure their listening comprehension skills, receptive language and cognitive abilities. However, a trained audiologist will be the doctor to make the official diagnosis of APD.

There are several ways to help children with APD. Once diagnosed, your child may be eligible to benefit from special education services such as:

  • Modifications: Minimizing the weakness area by altering assignments
  • Accommodations: Changes in formatting, setting, timing or presentation of assignments
  • Remediation: Therapy and training to build skills

Treatments and therapies may include:

Speech Therapy

A speech therapist can help your child develop listening and conversational skills and identify sounds through special training and exercises.

Reading Instruction

Group or one-on-one reading skills instruction can help your child target weakness areas.

Certain accommodations that may help your child include:

  • Improved acoustics: Minimizing outside noise by closing windows and doors.
  • Preferential seating: Seating your child away from distractions in the front of the room.
  • Quiet rooms for test taking.
  • Assistive technology: A wireless FM system or another amplification system to reduce poor acoustics and background noise.
  • Special instruction: Computer programs to help improve your child’s language-processing skills.
  • Classroom visuals: The teacher can use gestures and images to help with your child’s memory and understanding.

If you leave APD untreated, it can impact many aspects of your child’s life.

How Parents Can Better Handle the Disorder

Some at-home strategies can help with certain APD associated behaviors. You can:

1. Ensure your child is looking at you when you speak.

2. Try reducing background noise at home whenever possible.

3. Use expressive and simple sentences when talking.

4. Have your child repeat directions or instructions back to you and continue repeating them until they complete the directions.

5. Speak at a mildly increased volume and a slightly slower rate.

If you suspect your child is struggling with auditory processing disorder, have a hearing specialist (audiologist) examine your child. If diagnosed with ADP, a pediatric occupational therapist and speech therapist can help. With proper therapy, children with APD can have success at school, home and in life in general. Early diagnosis is essential since the disorder can cause language and speech delays or learning disabilities in school if it goes untreated.

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