What is an Auditory Processing Disorder?
Auditory Processing Disorders (APD), also referred to as Central Auditory Processing Disorders (CAPD), refers to how the central nervous system (CNS) uses auditory information. However, the CNS is vast and also is responsible for functions such as memory, attention, and language, among others. To avoid confusing APD with other disorders that can affect a person's ability to attend, understand, and remember, it is important to emphasize that APD is an auditory deficit that is not the result of other cognitive, language, or related disorder.
There are many disorders that can affect a person's ability to understand auditory information, this does NOT mean that every child who has difficulty understanding auditory information has an APD. It is also important to note that a child with APD does not neccessarily have a hearing loss! A (peripheral) hearing loss refers to the ability to hear certain sound frequencies at the level of the ear. An APD goes further and looks at how children perceive sounds beyond the ear within the brain.
How do I know if my child has an Auditory Processing Disorder?
In order to obtain a true diagnosis of an Auditory Processing Disorder, your child will undergo a series or group of evaluations which look at many skills. Some common signs of an Auditory Processing Disorder are:
- Easily distracted by background noise.
- Doesn't follow oral directions well, especially if they are complex and have to be carried out some time later.
- Has problems recalling names, dates, times, and other information.
- Has poor memory for numbers, letters, words, and other information that is heard.
- Has difficulty with directions, especially if they are complex, lengthy, presented in a noisy background or to be carried out some time later.
- Asks for statements to be repeated.
- Is slow to respond to questions or directions.
- Gives inappropriate answers to simple questions.
- Has difficulty interpreting abstract information.
- Has poor musical abilities.
- Is slow to respond to questions or directions.
- Has difficulty with verbal math problems.
- Shows unusual reaction to sudden or loud sounds.
- Has difficulty identifying the source or location of a sound.
- Is easily distracted by noises.
- Performs better in one-to-one settings
What can I do at home to help develop my child's auditory processing skills?
- At mealtime, include your child in family conversation by encouraging your child to talk about what happened in school and listen as family members talk about their experiences. Cue your child to look at the speaker’s face. Eliminate as much background noise as possible. If your child has difficulty following or adding to a conversation appropriately, recap by speaking in short sentences with expression.
- When asking your child to perform a task (i.e. "go upstairs, put your pajamas on and bring me your school bag") have your child repeat back what he has to do. This is a skill that is taught in the classroom and home carryover will help!
- Play games that require the players to use logic, strategies, and problem-solving. Spelling and vocabulary games are good. Games in which no one “loses” are best.
- Encourage the habit of making lists for a variety of purposes such as groceries, chores, and homework assignments. This helps to develop planning and organizational skills.
- Play the telephone game. One child whispers a secret to the next child, who whispers the secret to the next child, and so on.
- Watch good ½ hour television programs that involve characterizations and plot development with your child. At the end of the program, discuss with your child opinions, solutions to problems, sequence of events, character flaws, poor choices made by characters, and alternative endings.
- Play games in the car that involve identification, for example finding license plates from particular states or with particular letters or numbers. Ask riddles and sing silly songs.
- Talk to the child about listening for words that give order clues, words such as “now,” “later,” “after,” and “before.”
- When reading stories, ask the child to recap what was heard, after a page or two. At the end of the story, ask the child to summarize the entire story.
What can be done for my child in the classroom?
- Directions are presented at a slower rate, with more expression in the teacher's voice.
- Simpler, shorter sentences are used.
- The child should be asked to repeat directions over and over in a low voice (or silently) until the task is finished. He should also be asked to repeat the directions back to the teacher to demonstrate understanding.
- The child should visualize tasks before completing them.
- Present directions in short, concrete segments, with visual cues.
- Be sure the child is making eye contact when you speak.
- Have the student seated up in the front of the classroom or very nearest the place of instruction where there is a good view of the chalkboard and other visual means of instruction.
- Provide “quiet” areas in the classroom where concentration may be easier to maintain.
- Have the student eliminate excess movement during instruction, chewing gum, talking to a neighbor, etc.
- When working on projects, allow children to work in small groups as opposed to large ones.
- Classroom assistive listening devices could be put in place. FM units are listening amplification devices which can be used within your child's classroom. These systems are used in conjunction with a teacher microphone which allows the teachers voice to be heard above background noise (i.e. fans, traffic, talking, etc.)
- There are many techniques for auditory training that are used within the therapy setting at school both on an individual basis and in a small group setting.