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Category: Reading

Demystifying Auditory Processing Disorders

Auditory Processing Disorders, or APD, is not new to Speech-Language Pathologists. However, it has only been in the past 5-8 years that some professionals have embraced this disorder and have incorporated APD language goals into their therapy. I had the privilege of working with a Speech-Language Pathologist, who was also certified in Audiology, early in my career. Like me, she also had an interest in APD. She was one of the few audiologists, at that time, who administered the Central Auditory Processing Battery. We would together interpret the results and develop a plan of treatment. This was 25 years ago when not many in the field of Speech-Language Pathology were really acknowledging the impact that this disorder has on language and academics or, as I refer to it as language learning.

Since that time, my interest in APD has grown professionally resulting in more reading and questioning and, personally, as my younger son exhibited characteristics of APD. So what does APD look like and what can be done. The following is a summary of the disorder and what, as parents, you can do to advocate for your child.

Language is processed from the phonemic level. The phoneme is the smallest unit of meaning. It is the speech sound that we associate with the letter. For instance, the word ‘cat’ has three phonemes; the /c/ sound, the /a/ sound and the /t/ sound. If the /c/ was changed to a /p/, the entire meaning of the word would be changed. That is why it is considered the smallest unit of meaning. In order for us to process language, we must first discriminate the speech sound, (Was that a /p/ or a /c/?), hold on to the sound, (retain), sequence the sounds, (c-a-t), blend the sounds then identify the word and create a linguistic image, (animal with fur that meows!). This happens in tens of milliseconds. Yes, tens of milliseconds! And, it must happen for every word of every sentence. It has been found that if children have difficulty with processing, it can take up to 400-800 milliseconds to process. Add background noise to this and you can see why some children cannot pay attention in class, cannot keep up with the work, and/ or “looks around” to get extra visual cues.

Some signs of APD are:

  • Late walkers
  • Difficulty with pre reading skills, ( letter to sound identification; rhyming)
  • Decreased interest in early reading, (site words, letter identification)
  • Difficulty following 2 step directions
  • Difficulty producing words that have three syllables or more. They may reduce the word
  • Articulation errors
  • Unable to re tell the events of the day and, if they do attempt, many details are missing.
  • Word finding difficulties
  • Difficulty attending in school

Standardized language testing may not blatantly identify an APD. However, most times, there are patterns in the scoring or, great deficits between scores obtained on certain subtests, that warrant investigated work to identify the problem. Past medical history, speech and language developmental history as well as motor development can all help in solving the APD puzzle. We, at Communication Associates, pride ourselves in detecting if an auditory processing disorder is evident and help you, as parents, navigate the sometimes murky waters, with beneficial treatment plans with implemented by our proficient Speech-Language Pathologists and Occupational Therapists. If you feel your child may be exhibiting some of the characteristics that are related to an APD, call our office for further assistance. We will be happy to help you navigate those uncertain waters that can lead to bright horizons!

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