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Health Information For Parents
Auditory processing disorder (APD) is a hearing problem that affects about 5% of school-aged children.
Kids with this condition, also known as central auditory processing disorder (CAPD), can’t process what they hear in the same way other kids do. This is because their ears and brain don’t fully coordinate. Something interferes with the way the brain recognizes and interprets sounds, especially speech.
With the right therapy, kids with APD can be successful in school and life. Early diagnosis is important. If the condition isn’t caught and treated early, a child can have speech and language delays or problems learning in school.
Kids with APD are thought to hear normally because they can usually hear sounds that are delivered one at a time in a very quiet environment (such as a sound-treated room). The problem is that they usually don’t recognize slight differences between sounds in words, even when the sounds are loud and clear enough to be heard.
These kinds of problems usually happen when there is background noise, which is often the case in social situations. So kids with APD can have trouble understanding what is being said to them when they’re in noisy places like a playground, sports events, the school cafeteria, and parties.
Symptoms of APD can range from mild to severe and can take many different forms. If you think your child might have a problem processing sounds, ask yourself:
APD is often misunderstood because many of its symptoms can happen with other problems, like learning disabilities, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and even depression.
Often, the cause of a child’s APD isn’t known. Evidence suggests that head trauma, lead poisoning, and chronic ear infections could play a role. Sometimes, there can be more than one cause.
If you think your child is having trouble hearing or understanding when people talk, have an audiologist (hearing specialist) examine your child. Only audiologists can diagnose auditory processing disorder.
Audiologists look for five main problem areas in kids with APD:
Because most tests done to check for APD require a child to be at least 7 or 8 years old, many kids aren’t diagnosed until then or later.
A child’s auditory system isn’t fully developed until age 15. So, many kids diagnosed with APD can develop better skills over time as their auditory system matures. While there is no known cure, speech-language therapy and assistive listening devices can help kids make sense of sounds and develop good communication skills.
A frequency modulation (FM) system is a type of assistive listening device that reduces background noise and makes a speaker’s voice louder so a child can understand it. The speaker wears a tiny microphone and a transmitter, which sends an electrical signal to a wireless receiver that the child wears either on the ear or elsewhere on the body. It’s portable and can be helpful in classroom settings.
A key part of making the FM system effective is ongoing therapy with a speech-language pathologist, who will help the child develop speaking and hearing skills. The speech-language pathologist or audiologist also may recommend tutoring programs.
Several computer-assisted programs are geared toward children with APD. They mainly help the brain do a better job of processing sounds in a noisy environment. Some schools offer these programs. If your child has APD, ask school officials about what’s available.
Strategies applied at home and school can ease some of the problem behaviors associated with APD.
Kids with APD often have trouble following directions, so these suggestions may help:
Other tips that might help:
It’s important for the people caring for your child to know about APD. Tell teachers and other school staff about the APD and how it may affect learning. Kids with APD aren’t typically put in special education programs, but you may find that your child is eligible for a 504 plan through the school district that would outline any special needs for the classroom.
Some things that may help:
Stay in touch with school staff about your child’s progress. One of the most important things that both parents and teachers can do is to acknowledge that APD is real. Its symptoms and behaviors are not something that a child can control. What the child can control is recognizing the problems associated with APD and using the strategies recommended both at home and school.
A positive, realistic attitude and healthy self-esteem in a child with APD can work wonders. And kids with APD can go on to be as successful as their classmates. Coping strategies and techniques learned in speech therapy can help them go far.
What teachers should know about APD, and teaching strategies to help students who have the disorder.
When a kid has trouble hearing, an audiologist can help. That’s a person specially trained to understand how hearing works and to help kids who don’t hear normally.
What teachers should know about speech and language impairments, and how to help students with impairments succeed in school.
Hearing impairment occurs when there’s a problem with or damage to one or more parts of the ear. Find out its causes and what can be done to help correct it.
Do you know someone who stutters or has another speech disorder? Find out how speech disorders are treated, how you can help a friend or classmate cope, and lots more.
You might visit a speech therapist if you’re having trouble speaking or understanding others. Find out more in this article for kids.
Knowing what’s “normal” and what’s not in speech and language development can help you figure out if you should be concerned or if your child is right on schedule.
Some kids have hearing loss due to auditory neuropathy spectrum disorder (ANSD), a problem in the transmission of sound from the inner ear to the brain.
ADHD is a common medical condition that can affect kids at school, at home, and in friendships. This article is for parents who want to learn more about ADHD and how to help kids get the best diagnosis and care.
Head injuries can be external or internal. Learn more about both kinds, how to prevent them, and what to do if your child is injured.
Working with a certified speech-language pathologist can help a child with speech or language difficulties.
Hearing problems can be overcome if they’re caught early, so it’s important to get your child’s hearing screened early and checked regularly.
Note: All information is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice, diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor.
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