Auditory Processing Disorder – Is Your Child Affected?
As a parent there is nothing that can make you feel more helpless than realising that your child is struggling but you cannot pinpoint the cause or intervene.
Certain perceived learning disabilities and behaviour problems can often be very non-specific, making it difficult even for a seasoned medical professional to give a definitive reason why things aren’t right. A possible cause for certain learning and behavioural issues is Auditory Processing Disorder, or “APD.”
Auditory Processing Disorder Checklist
Do Any of these things apply to your Child?
• A sense of disconnect or need for solitude
• An inability to multitask or follow more than one direction at a time
• A lack of understanding of schoolwork and educational concepts
• Frequent tantrums and acting out
• Exhibiting inappropriate behaviours at random times
• Nervousness, stress and anxiety at levels uncommon to the child’s age group
• Sleep disorders and frequent stints of unexplained irritability
• Getting lost or distracted in conversations
• Abnormal sensitivity to auditory stimuli (loud or sudden noises)
• “Tuning out” other people and sounds when focused on a specific task
• Misjudging the source of various sounds
• Frequent mispronunciation or poor word choices
• An unusually bad memory
• A sense of disorganisation
• Trouble paying attention to auditory cues
While it is important to realise that these things do not necessarily mean your child has APD, if he or she presents with one or more of the items above, it is worth exploring the possibility.
What is APD?
A simple definition of APD is that it presents with symptoms similar to dyslexia except that it affects hearing. Normally, when someone hears a sound, particularly speech, the sound vibrates off the inner ear and sends messages to the part of the brain that processes language. Someone with APD cannot always process the information properly. The issue is not necessarily with hearing; a person with APD can have exceptional hearing but still be unable to correctly process language. Think of it as having a faulty internal translating device – the signals get through but are not properly interpreted.
Why is Diagnosing APD So Difficult?
One of the main reasons why APD is often overlooked is because it shares symptoms with a number of other disorders including autism, ADHD, ADD and even dyslexia. Certain mental and physical illnesses can also camouflage APD and elude medical professionals. It is also common to have APD in tandem with other conditions, making it even more difficult to recognise, diagnose or treat.
Complicating matters further is the fact that most physicians lack the necessary qualifications to make an APD diagnosis. Quite often, it takes the intervention of an auditory specialist to recognise it and diagnose it. This fact alone can make it next to impossible for parents or doctors to uncover its presence in the first place.
But if all this weren’t enough, children with APD almost never under-perform on standardised hearing tests. This is because these tests only gauge the child’s ability to hear sound, not process speech. In a controlled environment, a hearing problem is often ruled out and neither parents or doctors often even know to look at APD as a likely cause of the child’s issues.
What is the Cause of APD?
The precise cause of APD is unknown. It has been speculated that some of these things might be contributing factors:
Frequent childhood ear infections
Trauma or stress
Complications during childbirth or premature delivery
Excessive build-up of ear wax
Allergies affecting the ears, nose or throat
Known or unknown cranial injury
The first steps toward intervention include identifying any contributing medical problem and treating it. Oftentimes, the proper treatment of these conditions can result in a drastic reduction of the effects of APD. If there are no medical issues and no reduction in symptoms is observed, there are a number of options for addressing APD. The two that are most widely implemented are auditory therapy via licensed speech therapists and audio-based therapies, particularly TOMATIS®.
Speech therapy teaches the child strategies and techniques that help him or her deal with and counter disruptions that hinder the processing of information. Once the areas of greatest difficulty are identified, the child is taught how to perform cognitive exercises and is given exercises to correct speech and increase focus. This kind of therapy teaches the child how to manage the condition but does not promise to cure it.
TOMATIS® is designed to address the problem at the level of the child’s auditory system. By utilising the latest sound technologies and research, TOMATIS® employs the use of devices that are designed specifically to stimulate brain activity and help it to progressively analyse auditory information.
What is TOMATIS® and How Effective is it?
TOMATIS® is considered the Gold Standard of auditory therapy with over 50 years of proven effectiveness to its credit. Does it work? Yes. It works exceptionally well and here is why:
As infants, we start processing speech and sound very early on. These sounds find their way into our brains and we learn to start forming our own words sounds based on that. TOMATIS® facilitates relearning of sounds that the affected person’s brain can then use to repair the broken connections.
Through the use of a specially-designed headset, scientifically-developed music is transmitted through the ear canal. It employs random contrasts of intensity and timbre. At the same time tiny vibrations are relayed through the headset in a process called “bone conduction.” The tiny bones in the inner ear are stimulated and the sounds are transmitted directly into the inner ear. This actually enhances the child’s natural born ability to process the auditory information. Best of all, TOMATIS® can be used in tandem with other activities. Children’s audio processing is repaired while they engage in games or play with toys.
Your Next Move
If you believe your child may be suffering from APD, call me for a consultation. Trust your intuition. If you think something is wrong, you are probably right. Seeking help is a logical next step. Remember that it is quite common for a child to show great proficiency in many areas of learning and still struggle with auditory processing in others.