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Auditory Processing Disorders: Your FAQs Answered

auditory-processing-disorders-faqWe asked our Facebook community to ask us questions about auditory processing disorders, which can cause trouble with distinguishing the difference between similar sounds, among other difficulties. The following expert answers from Sheldon H. Horowitz, EdD will help you understand more about auditory processing disorders and understand if this difficulty could be behind your child’s struggles. How does auditory processing disorder relate to dyslexia? They seem to have similar components. The way it was explained to me seems like it's the equivalent of “hearing dyslexia”. Do people with auditory processing disorder have the same working memory issues as those with dyslexia?
Great question. Think about it this way: dyslexia the neighborhood and auditory processing is one of the utilities that helps residents function within the community. Dyslexia is a term that captures weaknesses in many specific skills and while many individuals with dyslexia may experience significant difficulties in auditory processing, some won’t. The term dyslexia is most commonly used to describe a pattern of learning difficulties characterized by problems with accuracy of fluent word recognition, problems with decoding, and poor spelling. Auditory processing points to the ways that we deal with information we receive through listening, for example: discrimination (noticing, comparing and distinguishing separate sounds in words), figure ground (picking out sounds/words from a noisy background), memory (sort and long term) and sequencing. I guess you could think of it as the “hearing part” of dyslexia, and sure, working memory is a critical component of both.

What reading intervention program do you find most successful for kids who have this?
There are many (too many to list!) programs that offer instruction, practice and support for students whose reading progress is compromised by auditory processing. Rather than point to specific resources, why don’t you become an “expert” about they specific skills that individual children need and then look carefully at already available programs to see if they can deliver the goods? The Florida Center for Reading Research offers some great resources by grade groupings, and if you need help creating a plan, the reading specialist or speech/language pathologist in your school district could be helpful. A call to your local or state chapter of the International Dyslexia Association could also get you in touch with professionals (and parents!) who can offer guidance.

What can we do to get schools to work with students who have central auditory processing disorder?
Not all students with central auditory processing disorder (CAPD) look alike, so it’s hard to answer this question without more detail. But let’s look at some low hanging fruit. Students who struggle with CAPD often have difficulty hearing the teacher and concentrating in noisy situations. They struggle to take notes when information is presented orally (and at a rapid pace). Many have difficulties following multi-step directions or shifting their attention to and from tasks that demand listening and organizing vs. reading and copying. And while so many kids do just fine with music in the background, this is precisely the kind of situation that poses barriers to learning for students with CAPD. Think first about simple solutions to these problems, share what you know works in other situations, and brainstorm with others. And don’t forget to ask the student!

If a student has a diagnosed auditory processing disorder, how can they be classified because there is no specific category for this disorder?
Having an auditory processing disorder does not in and of itself constitute a “disability” nor does it mean that special education or an elaborate program of services is needed. The “learning disability” category (and services/supports via an IEP) works fine to capture these students. In many situations, a 504 plan is just as good, if not better! And in many schools where RTI is being implemented, needed supports can often be incorporated into the student’s daily experience.

Are there alternative schools that specialize in helping kids with auditory processing disorders? Is a special education teacher in a public school really enough?
I don’t think that there are schools that “specialize” in auditory processing disorders, but there are many private schools that cater to students with dyslexia, ADHD, and other disorders (including Autism Spectrum Disorders) and are able to provide tailored instruction and support to address features of auditory processing disorders. That said, there is no reason to assume that public schools will not be able to address the needs of these students. The key is making sure that all school personnel (teachers, administrators, coaches, cafeteria staff, music teachers, everyone!) understand they types of challenges these students will face throughout the day, and that appropriate services and supports (perhaps special educators or speech/language providers) are provided and effectiveness is monitored over time. Learn more about finding a school for your child.

What are the symptoms of auditory processing disorders and can they co-occur with dysgraphia?
To read about the different characteristics of auditory processing disorders, see the Auditory Processing Disorders section of LD.org. Problems with auditory processing can certainly co-occur with dysgraphia or at least, individuals with auditory processing disorders can also experience difficulties in the area of written expression. There is no direct link between auditory processing disorders and the physical act of writing, but anyone who has trouble listening to and organizing information presented verbally is at risk for not being able to produce high quality written narrative. Learn more about dysgraphia and then do a side-by-side comparison with auditory processing disorder. You’re sure to notice points of intersection that could lead to decision-making about how to provide help.

What should the schools be doing to help my son? I can’t seem to get them to do anything. They don’t seem to know much about auditory processing disorder.
It sounds like you’re ready to take action, and that’s a very good thing! Become as informed as you can be about what your child needs to succeed. Don’t worry about the official, sometimes hard to understand or even pronounce terms, and focus on the specifics that you believe will make a difference. I spoke to a family whose child had an auditory processing disorder and learned that the top item on their wish list (and their child confirmed this to be true) was that classroom teachers would not talk while writing/facing the board, that they would slow down the rate of speaking (not teaching!) and, whenever there was a pause in instruction, the teacher would repeat the last thing they said before moving on. No, this is not the answer to your child’s problems, but small steps toward solutions, involving parents, students and teachers can get the train to success back on track. Learn more about advocating for your child in the Your Child’s Rights section of LD.org.
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