What is Auditory Processing Disorder?
Also known as APD and Central Auditory Processing Disorder (CAPD), Auditory Processing Disorder is a neurological condition that impacts the way the brain is able to process what is heard. Somewhere between the sounds that are heard and how the brain remembers or understands those sounds, the information is jumbled or even lost. What makes this condition so challenging to diagnose and so frustrating for many parents whose children struggle with this condition is that functional hearing is usually not affected in people with APD – it is the processing of sounds that is affected.
What are the Symptoms of Auditory Processing Disorder?
Children with Auditory Processing Disorder are often not diagnosed right away because their symptoms mirror so many other conditions, such as ADD or ADHD. Some of the common symptoms of APD include:
- The inability to follow oral directions well
- The tendency to appear forgetful
- Difficulty with speaking clearly in full sentences
- Increased academic problems
- Increased behavioral problems
- Increased levels of distraction when there are background noises, even subtle ones
- The appearance that the child is ignoring parts of conversations
- Difficulties learning to decipher phonics and learning to read
As you can see, many of these symptoms can easily mirror other conditions, or even just be characteristics of kids who have struggles, but aren’t diagnosed with actual disabilities or conditions. APD can also occur with other disabilities, making the diagnosis even more challenging. Parents who are concerned about their children’s processing have several options for testing.
Testing for Auditory Processing Disorder
The first stop is usually the pediatrician, who can help assess general health, especially of the ears. Speech-language pathologists can assess communication proficiencies and make recommendations for further testing as well. If structural auditory health is not an issue and there are no recurring ear infections that could be contributing, the next step is often to meet with an audiologist or professional who specializes in auditory processing tests. These tests go beyond hearing tests and measure the ability to process the information that the ears hear.
It is usually advised that children be at least 7 or 8 years of age before having these assessments done because the child needs to feel comfortable in the testing situation and able to respond at age-appropriate levels. When my child went through this testing process, it helped to allow him time to become comfortable in the sound proof room before beginning the exam, and I was allowed to sit on the other side of the window where he could see me for reassurance.
The examiner gives various verbal directions to the child in a series of tests, some timed and some untimed. Some responses are recorded with hand signals, and often buzzer systems are used to mark answers. It is amazing that subtle changes in how questions are phrased can be clues to APD, and no one single test gives the definitive answer. Instead, through mapping the results of many tests, audiologists and APD specialists can either rule out or further include APD as a diagnosis.
My Child Has APD – Now What?
As a relatively new condition in the scheme of medical diagnoses, there is not a unifying consensus as to what causes APD or the definitive ways for which professionals can test and diagnosis the condition. Instead, comprehensive testing by a team of medical professional and symptoms that continue for more than 6 months are important to making an accurate diagnosis. If your child has been diagnosed with auditory processing disorder, there are therapies and strategies that can be used to improve communication and language skills. Join us for Wednesday’s blog post as we share some of these methods.