Child Speech Therapy: Auditory Processing Disorder

Easily distracted. Falling behind in school. Struggles to follow verbal directions. These are common signs of auditory processing disorders (APD) and attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Although ADHD and APD have similar symptoms, they are not the same and are frequently misdiagnosed. Auditory processing disorder or central processing disorder (CAPD) refers to how the central nervous system processes auditory information.

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What is Auditory processing disorder?

            APD is a brain-based condition affecting the way the brain interprets and recognizes sounds. For example, distinguishing differences in the sounds that make up words. APD impacts receptive and expressive language.

How is APD different than a hearing impairment?

            There is no hearing loss associated with APD. The problem lies within discriminating sounds, not difficulty hearing the sounds.

How does it differ from ADHD?

            Children with ADHD have difficulty understanding verbal information due to lack of attention not neural processing. Children with APD may also experience articulation difficulties by confusing similar sounds such as three instead of free. Articulation problems in children with ADHD are caused by extraneous factors unassociated with ADHD.

What are other signs/symptoms of APD?

  • Difficulty understanding speech in noisy environments.
  • Frequently asks for clarification.
  • Frequently asks for speakers to repeat themselves.
  • Demonstrates difficulty rhyming.
  • Easily distracted by loud or sudden noises.
  • May experience problems in school such as spelling, reading, and understanding information presented verbally in the classroom.
  • May prefer reading stories independently, rather than listening aloud.

Who can diagnose APD?

            Although many professionals including speech language pathologists are involved in the treatment process, only Audiologist may diagnose APD. Auditory processing disorder cannot be diagnosed through a symptom checklist alone, and requires careful and specific diagnostic measures. Most auditory processing disorder tests require the child to be at least 7 or 8 years old.

What is involved in the treatment of APD?

Treatment for APD is individualized towards the child. Treatment usually focuses on three areas: environmental modifications, developing higher order skills to compensate, and remediation of the auditory deficit.

  • Environmental modifications may include the use of electronic device (FM system) to reduce background noise and amplify the speaker. Extended time for reading and writing, preferred seating in class, quiet work space, use of pictures and gestures to enhance spoken word, and classroom notes are other examples of environmental changes in school.
  • Higher order skills are recruited to assist and compensate for auditory deficits. These skills include language, problem solving, memory, and attention to help aid with cognitive tasks.
  • There are a wide variety of treatment activities to help remediate the disorder itself. Treatment is individualized for the child and may include computer-assistance, one-on-one training with a therapists, or home-based programs. There is no one-size fits all treatment strategy for APD.

Will my child grow out of APD?

            With appropriate intervention and therapy, children with APD can be successful in school and life by becoming active participants in their own listening, learning and communication. The auditory system is not fully developed until age 15, so many children can improve auditory skills over time before the auditory system fully matures. While some children may experience complete improvement, others may experience some lifelong residual degree of deficit.

Contact Lumiere Children’s therapy for additional information on auditory processing disorder, as well as a consultation with one of our speech language pathologists.

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References:

“Auditory Processing Disorder.” Edited by Thierry Morlet, KidsHealth, The Nemours Foundation, Sept. 2014, kidshealth.org/en/parents/central-auditory.html#.

Bellis, Teri James. “Auditory Processing Disorders (APD) in Children.” American Speech-Language-Hearing Association, ASHA, www.asha.org/public/hearing/Understanding-Auditory-Processing-Disorders-in-Children/.

Rosen, Peg. “The Difference Between Auditory Processing Disorder and ADHD.” Understood.org, www.understood.org/en/learning-attention-issues/child-learning-disabilities/auditory-processing-disorder/the-difference-between-auditory-processing-disorder-and-adhd.