Auditory Processing Disorder
Symptoms of and treatments for kids with APD
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“Huh?” “What?” If your child can’t seem to follow oral instructions, struggles with reading and spelling, and frequently has difficulty understanding what people say to him, it’s possible that auditory processing disorder (APD) is the culprit.
Though people with APD have fully functional ears, they experience a disconnect between the ears and the brain, where hearing actually takes place, and they have trouble distinguishing and isolating sound and sound patterns. Incoming words are confusing; they sound garbled and often are misunderstood. This can lead to a host of issues ranging from roadblocks in decoding phonics to attention and behavioral problems that stem from an inability to follow along in class.
Lindsey Simpson knows the challenges APD brings firsthand. The coauthor of Same Journey, Different Paths: Stories of Auditory Processing Disorder struggled in school until the 7th grade, when a tutor recognized several telling APD symptoms and she was diagnosed with the disorder, along with a reading disability.
APD specialist/speech language pathologist Shelley Yada, MA, CCC-SLP, details the five most common APD symptoms.
- The child has difficulty understanding/following directions and often needs instructions repeated.
- He is easily overwhelmed, especially in noisy environments.
- He learns better when information is presented visually.
- His expressive language is disorganized — for example, he may tell stories out of order.
- He has difficulty understanding sarcasm.
Because these symptoms can point to many conditions, APD is often mistaken for everything from ADHD to hearing loss. The challenge in pinpointing APD is compounded by the fact that proper diagnosis can occur only after age 7.
“In order to separate true auditory processing from language, attention or sensory integration, the audiologist uses a variety of very specific tasks,” Yada explains. “Children under 7 simply have not developed the cognitive skills needed in order to understand what they are being asked to do during the evaluation.
After her APD diagnosis, Simpson says, “I remember feeling on top of the world. It was a relief that there was a reason for my struggles and that it wasn’t my ‘fault’ for having such a hard time in school. After that, I started getting accommodations and things became much easier on me.”
Next page: ways to accommodate APD