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Signs and Symptoms of Auditory Processing Disorder

What Is Auditory Processing Disorder and How Is It Different From ADHD?

If your child struggles to follow instructions or has trouble with hearing and comprehending, they may have auditory processing disorder or APD. This disorder can affect their ability to learn, but it can be managed with the right tools.

What is Auditory Processing Disorder?

Auditory processing disorder, also called central auditory processing disorder, is characterized by an inability to process, interpret, and retain what a person hears. Children with auditory processing disorder may struggle to understand speech in noisy environments, mix up similar speech sounds, fail to follow directions, and misunderstand verbal instruction in the classroom, which leads to difficulty in task completion both at home and at school. This APD disorder is often associated with a learning disorder because the child cannot always understand what is expected of them.

The National Center for Learning Disabilities lists four types of auditory skills needed for a child to properly process what he or she hears:

1. Auditory discrimination is the ability to notice, compare, and distinguish the distinct and separate sounds in words. If a child has difficulty with auditory discrimination, he or she may confuse similar words like seventy and seventeen, have trouble learning to read, and be unable to follow directions even when the child appears to be paying attention.

2. Auditory figure-ground discrimination is the ability to pick out important sounds from a noisy background. A child who struggles with auditory figure-ground discrimination may be unable to filter background conversations and noises to focus on what is important. For example, a child may miss lessons in class if he or she can not filter extraneous background noise in the classroom.

3. Auditory Memory is the ability to recall what is heard after a period of time and includes both short-term and long-term memory. Difficulties associated with auditory memory may include remembering people’s names, memorizing telephone numbers, following multi-step directions, and recalling stories or songs.

4. Auditory sequencing is the ability to understand and recall the order of words. Difficulties with auditory sequencing may include confusing numbers like 93 for 39 and confusing lists and sequences. For example, a child with  auditory sequencing problems may not be able to complete a series of tasks in the right order. He or she may fail to be able to do so even when appearing to have heard and understood the directions.

Auditory Processing Disorder Symptoms

Children with auditory processing disorder may have trouble distinguishing sounds and words, especially in noisy environments, leaving them feeling overwhelmed. Because of this, the child may perform better in a quiet environment.

The child may also have trouble following verbal instructions and understanding spelling and phonics. They may also struggle with word problems in math. Additionally, you may notice that they seem to struggle to follow conversations, particularly in group settings or situations with background noise.

At first glance, a child with symptoms of auditory processing disorder may be thought to have ADHD since he or she may appear to be inattentive. In addition, the outward frustration exhibited by a child with auditory processing disorder may be mistaken for impulsive or oppositional behavior. We encourage parents to closely observe a child's struggles and difficulties in various settings to ensure he or she receives proper support. Read more about childhood disorders with symptoms that are commonly mistaken for ADHD.

Managing Auditory Processing Disorder

A child’s auditory system continues to develop until they are about 14 years old, but even a child diagnosed with auditory processing disorder can continue to develop their auditory skills. 

Parents and teachers may need to make accommodations to improve the environment as part of APD management. Therapy and counseling can help, too. For instance, therapy can assist with sensory issues, counseling can provide support for anxiety or depression associated with the disorder, and speech-language therapy can help resolve deficits in language. Art and music therapy can help the child build self-esteem, while some therapies may even help the brain process sounds better in noisy environments.

Furthermore, there are assistive listening devices that emphasize the speaker’s voice while minimizing background sounds. In this case, the child wears a receiver in their ear, helping them understand what is said.

Other strategies include:

  • Teach your child to look at the speaker to use visual information to make up for any missing words
  • Have your child repeat instructions back to make sure they understood
  • Slow down when speaking to your child
  • Encourage your child to write notes or keep a list of instructions
  • Use closed captioning or subtitles on TV and the computer
  • Teach your child to speak up when they are having trouble hearing

The Brain Balance can help train the brain to develop new pathways, which assists with learning challenges. Our program uses exercises and activities to help kids overcome these difficulties.

Contact us today to schedule an assessment. You can also view the research and results of the program on the website.

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