What is Auditory Processing Disorder?
Auditory processing disorder, also referred to as language processing disorder, is a condition that affects roughly 5% of the population of school-aged children. Auditory processing disorder symptoms are characterized by a child’s inability to comprehend what they hear the same way other children do, because their ears and brain are not fully coordinated.
There’s an interference with the way the brain interprets and recognizes sounds and/or spoken language. When auditory processing disorder symptoms are treated with the correct therapy children can be successful in school and later on in life. When it comes to this disorder early diagnosis is very important. The earlier the child is diagnosed, the earlier he or she can receive treatment, which means the greater success they will have in school at an early age. However, treatment can begin at any age, whenever this condition is recognized as interfering with a child’s ability to communicate and learn. An auditory processing disorder may be confused with a central auditory processing disorder (a condition that can’t be clearly diagnosed until a child is 6 years old) or attention deficit disorders.
Children with auditory processing disorder symptoms can hear in a relatively normal way, but they may have difficulty understanding the meaning of spoken language as well as difficulty recognizing slight differences between sounds in words, even when the sound is clearly audible. Since this problem is most prevalent when there is background noise it often leads to difficulties in social situations. Kids with auditory processing disorder often have the greatest difficulties understanding what’s being said when they are in noisy surroundings, such as a playground, a sporting event, the school cafeteria, or at friends’ parties.
Auditory Processing Disorder Symptoms Explained
Auditory processing disorder symptoms can range from mild to severe, and can present themselves in many different forms. If you believe your child has this condition read the following points below and see how many of them are true for your child:
- Your child is unusually bothered or distracted by loud or sudden noises
- Your child is easily upset by noisy environments
- Your child’s ability to process speech improves when they are in quieter settings
- Your child has difficulty following verbal directions no matter how simple or complicated they may be
- Your child has difficulty with completing verbal math problems
- Your child has difficulty following along with conversations
If you can relate to a majority of those statements above, your child may be exhibiting auditory processing disorder symptoms, which means it’s a good idea to seek a professional diagnosis. The exact cause of auditory processing disorder is not yet known, but it has been associated with head trauma, lead poisoning, and chronic ear infections, as well as delays in early communication and other developmental milestones.
How can you help?
If your child ends up being diagnosed with auditory processing disorder symptoms there are a number of ways you can help him. Since a child’s auditory system is not fully developed until they reach the age of 15, there is plenty of time for them to develop better auditory skills as they grow older. Speech language therapy and assistive listening devices can help make it easier for your child to interpret sounds and develop better communication skills.
As a parent there are ways you can improve the home life of a child with auditory processing disorder. When these strategies are applied at home they can help ease some of the problematic behavior associated with this condition. Here are our recommendations:
- Keep background noise to a minimum whenever possible
- Stay in your child’s line of vision when speaking to him or her
- Slow down and give your child time to understand the meaning of what you are saying. It may take longer than you think, but that’s OK
- Use facial expressions and gestures to emphasize what you are communicating to your child
- Exaggerated gestures to reinforce what you are communicating-show what you mean (e.g., When giving your child a choice of things to play with, you make the choices clear by extending different toys with one hand and then the other)
- Explain to your child why noisy environments are troublesome for them and find strategies that help him/her attend to relevant auditory information
For more information about auditory processing disorder we invite you to study our resources on speech-language communication.