Today’s educators face new challenges every day in their classroom and one of the most difficult to deal with is students who find it hard to learn because they have an Auditory Processing Disorder (APD).
What exactly is APD? According to the American Speech-Language Hearing Association (ASHA), APD is a student’s inability to clearly understand and successfully process the information that he/she hears. In most cases, a student with APD does not have a hearing impairment and can clearly hear what they’re being told; However, the problem lies in their ability to process information correctly in a way that makes sense to themselves and others.
More specifically, students with APD have a hard time hearing small sound differences in words. For example, if someone says, “Please raise your hand”, and the student may hear something like “Please haze your plan.” Or, if someone says “Look at the cows over there,” the student may hear instead, “Look at the clown on the chair.” APD isn’t hearing loss or a learning disorder, it means the student’s brain doesn’t always hear sounds the way that they are communicated. Children with Auditory Processing Disorder understand the meaning of words but their brains find it difficult to accurately differentiate words.
Here are 6 ways to indicate when your child/student is afflicted with APD
Look for the following “red flags”:
- The child may have a history of ear infections
- He/she are easily distracted or bothered by n noise
- Child has difficulty locating the source of sound
- Child has difficulty remembering simple directions or learning nursery rhymes
- Child has poor language and poor articulation expressions
- Other symptoms of APD include a student’s difficulty of understanding in a noisy environment and difficulty distinguishing between different sounds and words
Because audio testing cannot be performed on children under seven years of age it is important that the teachers or parents take note of these symptoms as soon as possible. The earlier that APD can be detected the better.
Even though the teacher/parent may notice the aforementioned symptoms in their child/student, a medical diagnosis of APD cannot be performed except by a professional audiologist.
APD often starts in childhood, however, people of all ages can also have this disorder. According to Shelley A. Borgia of the WebMD association, between 2% and 7% of kids have been diagnosed with APD. According to findings, boys have a higher chance of having APD than girls. APD is common if someone is already diagnosed with dyslexia or ADHD, and there is no cure, only treatment.
The medical profession does not know exactly what causes APD, but there are indications that it may be linked to illnesses such as chronic ear infections, meningitis, lead poisoning, multiple sclerosis, premature birth or low weight, or head injury or genes. There is also research that suggests that APD may also run in the family and can be passed from parent to child.
Although there is no known cure for APD, there are many ways to limit the negative outcomes of APD by making slight adjustments in the classroom and at home. Here are some effective strategies suggested by the Learning Disability Resources Foundation (LDRFA).
In the classroom:
- It helps for APD afflicted students to be given preferential seating, have access to a quiet study area free from distractions and for teachers to speak slowly, use visual models and get a child’s attention by touching his shoulder or saying his name.
- When teaching them, ask the questions that are specific in order to find out if they are cognitively grasping what you are saying
- The most widely recommended modification is a sound field FM amplification system, which provides uniform amplification throughout the classroom regardless of the position of the teacher or students.
- Other changes in the school environment and in teacher’s behavior can have beneficial impact as well. These include putting rubber tips or tennis balls on chair legs, keeping doors closed, using carpeting or rugs on floors and curtains or drapes on windows and installing acoustic tiles to soundproof ceilings and walls.
- Emphasize the use of more visual aids in classroom while teaching
In the home
Parents can effectively use the following methods to mitigate the effects of APD on the child as suggested by Caroline Miller, editorial director of the Child Mind Institute:
- Improve home acoustics by closing windows, shutting a door, or adding rugs to absorb sounds
- Eliminate other sources of sound from the immediate area
- Emphasizing clear speech, asking others to repeat themselves
- Using assistive devices like headphones
- Provide written instructions on paper
- Speak slow and clearly and repeat yourself as often as necessary
- Always face your child when talking to them and reassure them that they understand what you are saying.
- Parents should check to see if their child’s school will accommodate an IEP for auditory processing disorder which may include availability of a quiet workspace, increased testing time, reduced emphasis on correct spelling and students with this disorder should be given instructions in smaller steps than their peers.
Although there is no known cure for APD there is the possibility that some children may outgrow this disorder once they reach pre-teen age.
For those who seek additional Information on the Auditory Processing Disorder, check out the following organizations:
- American Speech-Language Hearing Association (ASHA). com
- Learning Disability Resources Foundation Action (LDRFA).com
- Learning Disabilities Association of Texas.com
- The ARC – San Antonio
- TSLAC – Guide to Resources on Learning Disabilities
- Learning Disabilities –www.learningrx.com