Auditory processing disorder (APD) is a neurological impairment that hinders the way the brain receives and processes sounds. Children with APD have trouble distinguishing variations in sounds, especially when there’s background noise. Close to 5 percent of school-aged kids have APD. The condition is also called central auditory processing disorder (CAPD).
APD is often diagnosed around first or second grade, because this is the time when children’s learning environments become faster-paced and more dynamic. Children who seem to hear and communicate well at home or in small groups suddenly find that they can’t keep up at school or in larger groups.
There is no definitive checklist for APD. The only way to know if your child has it is to have an evaluation by an audiologist. Some common symptoms of APD include:
The earlier APD is diagnosed and treated, the greater the chance a child has of success. APD varies in severity, but therapy can build up listening skills and determine if your child needs special accommodations for education. Learning accommodations vary from simply seating the child at the front of the classroom to using assistive technology.
Exact causes of APD really aren’t known. Research suggests that premature birth, low birth weight, head trauma, and chronic ear infections may be contributing factors. However, many children experience those factors without developing APD, while others who never experience a contributing factor do develop APD.
Auditory processing disorder is often linked with dyslexia and ADHD (attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder). Many experts suspect that some children diagnosed with ADHD actually have APD. The conditions are quite different from one another, but both can cause a child to have trouble listening and paying attention.
Before beginning an evaluation for an auditory processing disorder, an audiologist will rule out the possibility of hearing loss due to inner ear damage. Next, a complete speech and language evaluation is performed in our office in The Woodlands, with a parent or guardian present for a portion of the assessment. Your input on your child’s behavior is essential to both the evaluation and any therapy that might follow.
Speech language testing for APD involves testing receptive language, listening comprehension and general cognitive skills. Evaluations are designed to evaluate all areas of language to address areas of need impacted by the APD diagnosis.