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How to Recognize Auditory Processing Disorder in Children

You’re not sure what the problem is, but your child doesn’t seem to be able to pay attention for very long. He doesn’t want to sit still in class and he has difficulty following directions. You’ve heard about attention deficit disorder, and you can’t help but think your child may be suffering from it—but is he having trouble listening, or is he having trouble hearing?

What Is Auditory Processing Disorder?

Auditory Processing Disorder, or APD, is a neurological condition that prevents children from processing spoken language effectively. There may be nothing wrong with the child’s ears, but APD is considered a hearing disorder because the brain does not correctly perceive the sounds the child hears. Problems processing auditory information can cause memory deficits, diminished attention, and difficulty using and understanding spoken language.

Many children who suffer from APD are misdiagnosed with attention deficit or behavioral conditions. As the two conditions share a number of symptoms, it is important to have your child evaluated carefully to avoid ineffective treatment. Your doctor may take information from a number of sources to determine whether a child has APD. For example, he may ask your child’s teacher about specific behaviors that can indicate APD, such as mishearing instructions or an inability to hear in a noisy environment. In addition, your child may be evaluated by a psychologist (to rule out a cognitive disability) or a speech-language pathologist (to examine your child’s ability to use written and oral language).

An audiometric exam is the only way to definitively diagnose APD. If your doctor suspects APD, he will likely send your child to an audiologist for confirmation. The hearing specialist will perform a number of tests, such as asking your child to repeat certain words and phrases or press a button when he hears certain tones.

Your hearing care provider will examine the responses and tell you whether your child has APD, and what type of processing disorder he or she has. There are many different ways APD may manifest itself, so your specialist will explain the results to you and discuss which sounds and environments are most troublesome for your child to understand. This way, you and your specialist can create an individualized treatment plan that will give your child the best chance at hearing and understanding information.

Symptoms of Auditory Processing Disorder

The symptoms of APD vary from child to child, and may get progressively worse if the condition goes untreated. An inability to process spoken language can lead to social isolation, poor testing skills, difficulty recognizing social cues, anxiety disorders, and other conditions that can greatly affect quality of life.

The most widely-known symptoms of APD include:

  1. Problems hearing or understanding instructions in noisy environments
  2. Improved behavior and comprehension in quiet environments
  3. Startling easily at loud noises
  4. Delay in speaking his or her first words
  5. Saying “what?” or frequently asking teachers and parents to repeat themselves
  6. Difficulty following spoken directions or conversations
  7. Deficits in reading, spelling, and writing skills
  8. Problems with verbal math problems, but not written math problems
  9. Poor organizational skills
  10. Forgetfulness or becoming easily distracted
  11. Restlessness
  12. Problems making a connection between letters and their sounds
  13. Difficulty pronouncing and choosing words in conversation
  14. Clumsiness or poor coordination
  15. Difficulty understanding body language, facial expressions, and abstract concepts
  16. Unclear or illegible handwriting

Treatment of Auditory Processing Disorder

In order for treatment of APD to be effective, it is vital that you understand the specifics of your child’s disorder. There is no one way to treat APD; rather, your audiologist should clearly outline the areas of difficulty and recommend therapy that targets these sounds and pitches.

If your child has difficulty understanding in a crowded classroom, he or she may benefit from environmental changes, such as wearing hearing devices that drown out background noise. Speech therapists may be necessary to assist the child in making links between written and spoken language, including teaching coping mechanisms and language skills in a way the child can comprehend. Therapy should focus on creating strategies to compensate for the disorder, teaching children with APD to take an active interest in their own listening success, and exploring problem-solving strategies that can be used to understand the core message of speech in a variety of environments.

The longer you wait to seek treatment, the more likely it is that a child with APD will suffer long-term social and cognitive effects. If you suspect that your child is suffering from APD, you should have your child undergo hearing testing as soon as possible. Call us today at 866-517-4415 to schedule a hearing testing appointment at the Florida office nearest you!