Understanding Auditory Processing Disorder in Children: A Guide for Parents

Auditory Processing Disorder (APD) is a condition where the brain struggles to interpret sounds, posing challenges for children in understanding and processing auditory information. This guide has been designed to assist parents in understanding APD, its symptoms, diagnosis, and strategies to support their child.

What is Auditory Processing Disorder?

APD, also known as Central Auditory Processing Disorder (CAPD), is where the brain has difficulty understanding speech and accurately interpreting and processing the auditory information in the presence of other sounds in the environment. It is not a hearing impairment, as children with auditory processing difficulties typically have normal hearing abilities. Instead, the challenge lies in how the brain interprets and makes sense of the sounds it hears.

Symptoms of Auditory Processing Disorder

Children with auditory processing difficulties most commonly report difficulty listening in noisy environments; however, it is more often learning delays or difficulties in the classroom that can trigger a referral for an auditory processing assessment. Some other areas of difficulties may include:

  • Delayed language development
  • Easily distracted by background noise
  • Following verbal instructions
  • Interpreting the tone and pitch of speech
  • Trouble distinguishing between similar sounds or words
  • Struggling with reading, spelling, and language comprehension
  • Participating in conversations with peers
  • More fatigued than usual after school
  • Difficulty remembering auditory information

Diagnosing Auditory Processing Disorder:

Diagnosing APD can be challenging as its symptoms may overlap with other learning or attention disorders such as autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and/or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). A comprehensive evaluation by an audiologist is essential. The assessment may include:

  • Audiological evaluation: This assesses hearing sensitivity to rule out hearing loss.
  • Screening assessments of attention skills, auditory memory and working memory
  • Auditory processing battery: These tests evaluate how the brain processes auditory information, focusing on skills like auditory discrimination, auditory sequencing, and spatial processing.
  • Observation: Information from parents, teachers, and other caregivers about the child’s behaviors and difficulties in different environments is valuable.

Support Strategies for Children with Auditory Processing difficulties:

  • Environmental modifications: Reduce background noise in the child’s environment to improve focus and comprehension.
  • Visual aids: Supplement auditory information with visual cues such as written instructions, diagrams, or gestures.
  • Use of technology: Utilise assistive listening devices or remote microphone (RM) systems to amplify and clarify speech.
  • Multisensory learning: Engage the child in activities that involve multiple senses to reinforce learning and understanding.
  • Speech and language assessment and therapy: Assess language skills, including receptive and expressive language abilities. Assist with improving language skills that can impact on auditory processing skills, language comprehension, and communication abilities.
  • Assessment with other allied health professionals:
    • Occupational therapists (OTs): While OTs do not directly treat APD, they can provide interventions and strategies to address related functional difficulties that impact a child’s ability to participate in school activities effectively.
    • Psychologists: conduct thorough evaluations to assess and differentiate auditory processing difficulties from other developmental or learning disorders. They provide coping strategies, emotional support, and guidance to help children navigate the challenges associated with APD, such as frustration, low self-esteem, and social difficulties. Collaborate with teachers, special educators, speech-language pathologists, and other school personnel to develop a coordinated approach to supporting children with APD in the school setting.
    • Behavioural Optometrist: provide comprehensive vision assessments and address visual factors that may contribute to or exacerbate auditory processing difficulties.
  • Educational accommodations: Collaborate with teachers to implement accommodations such as preferential seating, extended time for tasks, or modified assignments.
  • Parental support: Offer patience, understanding, and encouragement to your child. Educate yourself about the specific areas of auditory processing in which your child is experiencing difficulties; you are the best advocate for your child’s needs.

APD or experiencing difficulties with auditory processing can present significant challenges for children, but with early detection and appropriate support, academic improvement and social growth are achievable. By understanding auditory processing, advocating for appropriate assessments and interventions, and providing a supportive environment at home and school, parents can effectively help their child navigate the complexities of auditory processing difficulties.

To learn more about APD, reach out to the team at Victorian Hearing, your local, independent, and Australian owned and operated audiology practice. With ten clinics across Melbourne, you are sure to find a friendly smile and support from the Victorian Hearing team. Call (03) 9558 8842 or book online.