Auditory Processing Disorders and How They Affect Children

November 12, 2012

Auditory Processing Disorders and How They Affect Children

Auditory processing disorders have been made more publicly known in recent years. While this is a good thing, it has unfortunately led to the release of wrong information causing confusion and a lot of questions being asked in order to find out exactly what Auditory Processing Disorders or APD is, how it is diagnosed, and how it can be treated or managed. If talking about auditory processing disorders in its broadest possible sense, then it is linked to how to how the central nervous system processes auditory information. To speak in a more specific sense auditory processing disorder is exactly what the name suggests, an auditory deficit or dysfunction. A common mistake being made is to label other disorders (of which a lack of ability to understand auditory information is a symptom) with auditory processing disorders. These other conditions such as Attention Deficit/ Hyperactivity Disorder often cause individuals to be poor listeners or find it difficult to understand or remember information received verbally. Whilst these problems are similar to those associated with auditory processing disorders, as they are not directly caused by an auditory deficit, these individuals should not and cannot be diagnosed with having auditory processing disorders. Children from suffering from auditory process disorders may experience a number of problems. Some children find it hard to distinguish between similar sounding phonics, whilst others may find it hard to understand when there is a lot of background noise. Sometimes it may seem as though the child is suffering from a loss of hearing, for instance by asking for things to be repeated. Auditory processing disorders may present themselves in a school setting through a lack of understanding of the task they have been asked to do. Normally once they have grasped an understanding of what is expected them, they are able to complete the task independently. It is important to remember, however that not all learning difficulties or language problems are caused by auditory processing disorders and it is actually very difficult to diagnose the condition. Despite how many symptoms of APD may be present in the child, only through careful and accurate analysis of the child behaviour can determine the cause.

A diagnosis will only be made after a multidisciplinary team has assessed the behaviours of the child. For example the team will probably include an educational diagnostician, a psychologist, a speech therapist and so on, with a professional in the area of all aspect of the behaviour. These people may conclude that the child is exhibiting behaviours associated with an auditory processing disorder but still a diagnosis will not be given until a further set of tests have been administered by an audiologist in a special sound-treated room. Based on the results of these tests a diagnosis of APD can then finally be made.

Treatment of auditory processing disorders must be tailored according to the child, as no two cases are ever the same. Treatment usually focuses on three areas. These are environmental to improve access to auditory information such as electronic listening devices; recruitment of high-order skills to compensate for the disorder; and remediation of the auditory deficit itself.

The level to which treatment is effective varies from case to case. Sometimes the child can completely overcome their disorder or grow out of it whereas others will have some degree of auditory deficit throughout their whole lives. Whatever the ultimate physical results are, through therapy all children will learn how to cope with their disorder by actively participating in listening and learning experiences.

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