Auditory Processing Disorder occurs when a child hears normally but they cannot digest that information, or they do it in a way different from most children their age.
“APD has nothing to do with intelligence. It has to do with an auditory system that is not maturing at the same rate as their peers,” says Jennifer Gagesch, Au.D., an audiologist at Sertoma Speech& Hearing Center.
Signs of APD include short-term auditory memory and if a child struggles to process information when there is a lot of background noise, like that found in an active elementary school classroom. Academic difficulty is often a sign of APD, especially when a child is not reading well or understanding what they are reading.
The only way to identify APD is to do testing with an audiologist.
While many children are diagnosed with APD around third grade, it is not uncommon for older kids to be diagnosed.
“If it is more severe, we often catch them younger, but it’s not unusual that they can compensate,” says Gagesch. “At some point, though, it becomes too difficult for them to take it all in, learn more material and keep up with their class.”
Addressing APD can be key to a student’s success, Gagesch says. “It can result in a child who is struggling, tired and failing. We don’t want them to hate school before their system matures.”
Modifications in the classroom and at home can allow children to focus on the person speaking, and training with a speech pathologist can help the auditory processing system mature faster.
APD often occurs along with ADHD or ADD, as well as dyslexia.
There has been some controversy over APD, but Gagesch says it is becoming more accepted both by audiologists and school officials. With treatment, kids do get better.
“APD is not permanent,” Gagesch says. “Patients often come back two years later having made great strides.”