Many children and adults go through life, often undetected, with an auditory processing disorder. There is a wealth of good information out there, as well as many myths. We wanted to present some information on this topic for the public, and welcome your comments here.
CAUSES: APD refers to how our brain processes and uses various auditory input. Children and adults can have difficulty in processing auditory information. The cause of Auditory Processing Disorder is still being researched. In some cases, it is triggered by an event, such as a brain injury. In other cases, the behaviors that allow a diagnosis emerge as the child has increased academic and language demands in the school setting.
DIAGNOSIS: The general rule is that a child cannot be tested until about 7 years old. A child with a suspected auditory processing disorder should be evaluated by an audiologist accredited by the American Academy of Audiology. The child is given a comprehensive audiological evaluation. This is different from a simple hearing screening that is usually given at the pediatrician's office or at school.
The important thing to remember is that learning and language problems have various causes. The child needs to be tested for speech and language as well. Click here to make an appointment with our Brooklyn Speech Therapy office for a child suspected of having an auditory processing disorder. A comprehensive speech and language test is conducted by a Speech and Language Pathologist.
The audiologist will take all the information and decide if testing for APD is necessary at this point. The evaluation can take 3-4 hours, and should be done with an audiologist with training in auditory processing disorders.
WARNING SIGNS FOR AUDITORY PROCESSING DISORDER: There are many warning signs to look out for. The first thing is to review our list of typical speech and language milestones here. Other signs to look out for include:
- child frequently asks for repeated instructions
- child demonstrates difficulty with verbal instructions/information
- child demonstrates difficulty in following directions, or 2-step directions ("turn the TV off, and take out your homework")
- child has difficulty learning simple songs/rhymes
TREATMENT: The first step is to modify and improve he environmental setting of the individual with an auditory processing disorder. For a child, this usually means involving the school teacher and principal if necessary so that the required modifications are put to work immediately. A seat in the front of the classroom with very few distractions (i.e. not next to a window) is an example of a classroom modification. Ask the teacher to provide repeated instructions, as well as provide visual instructions when applicable. The child with an APD should be asked every so often if he understands the lesson/instructions.
Auditory devices, such as an FM unit, may also be required to improve the clarity of the teacher's voice.
Second, specific therapy activities are usually needed in order to address specific deficits in receptive language skills, expressive language skills, pragmatics, prosody, spelling, vocabulary, etc. Fast ForWord is a computer program developed by Dr. Michael Merzenich and Dr. Paula Tallal which is designed to improve language and auditory processing skills. The program is engaging and also targets improved receptive language skills. Before the program is used, a comprehensive speech and language evaluation must be conducted by a Speech and Language Pathologist in order to determine where the exact language deficits are.
Third, it is very important to obtain special related services (i.e. speech therapy, occupational therapy, physical therapy) so that the child receives help in the specific areas needed. There may be a sensory processing disorder or a movement disorder related to the APD that the child will need help with from a professional.
APD is just one component of an individual, and that is the most important thing to remember. Many children with auditory processing disorders lead productive and very successful lives. Early identification and treatment of auditory processing disorders is crucial because of the brain's natural plasticity early on.