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Auditory Processing Disorder in the Classroom — How Parents Can Help

Auditory processing can impact not only the ability to hear what's being said, but also the interpretation of what's said, a student's ability to pay attention, and their overall wellbeing in school and at home.

Hearing involves more than just the perception of sound by your ears. It's also dependent upon the comprehension of that sound by your brain, a mechanism known as auditory processing. Your child can have normally functioning ears and yet still struggle in school because the sounds he hears don’t make sense to his brain. If your child has had normal hearing tests but still has difficulty with tasks such as following instructions, pronouncing words, reading, spelling, maintaining focus and interpreting instructions, he may have auditory processing disorder (APD).

How Auditory Processing Disorder Is Identified

Once hearing tests have been done to make sure that the ears are properly receiving sound, a professional can conduct tests to assess how the brain interprets those sounds. There are tests for abilities such as paying attention through background noise, remembering information given orally, distinguishing between similar sounding words, and maintaining attention to auditory input.

How Auditory Processing Disorder Affects Learning

When you consider the amount of oral instruction your child receives at school, whether it be for reading, math or any other subject that needs explaining, you begin to see the numerous opportunities for misunderstandings. Even with visual aids, there can still be comprehension gaps, difficulties with focus through background noise and even social struggles resulting from communication problems with peers. The child with auditory processing disorder is off-task, disconnected and confused, and responds inappropriately to countless situations. In fact, the child with APD may fare worse than a child with a hearing impairment because the former is inundated with a disorienting cacophony of audio input, all at full volume.

How Parents Can Help a Child with Auditory Processing Issues

Parents and teachers can work together as a team to help the child with auditory processing disorder by making accommodations for the child’s audio comprehension deficit and by offering extra support in learning.

Audiologist Testing: Have your child tested by an audiologist and share the results with the teacher. For example, testing can assess dichotic listening, or how both ears process sound together, so that a child whose brain prefers one ear can be seated with the more-active ear facing the teacher.

Assistive Technology: With a formal diagnosis, your child may qualify for in-class use of an FM System. This microphone worn by the teacher transmits to headphones worn by the student with APD. Not only does this increase the volume of the teacher’s voice, it also reduces the interference of background noise.

Lecture Style: Ask your child’s teacher if she can speak more slowly with shorter sentences, repeat key concepts and alert your child right before she makes an important point.

IEP Accommodations: Ensure that your child’s Individualized Education Program (IEP) includes accommodations for his APD, such as availability of a quiet workspace, increased testing time and reduced emphasis on correct spelling. Students with this disorder should be given instructions in smaller steps than their peers. Ensure that the school staff who work with your child understand the importance of visual tools, imagery and gestures to assist with learning. Ask if your child can be paired with a student buddy who can share class notes or help with following instructions.

Communications Log: Establish a daily communication method with your child’s teacher that enables you to stay on top of his progress. Examples of content might include teacher notes about a concept your child struggled with that you may be able to try teaching at home or new material that hasn’t been taught yet to give your child more time.

Auditory processing disorder can have a negative impact on your child’s school experience if left undiagnosed and unsupported. However, with a combined effort from parents and teachers, strategies can be employed that reduce the challenges faced by your child and increase his chances of success.

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