Auditory Processing Disorder
People with Auditory Processing Disorder (APD) experience issues with the way their brain uses and interprets sound. It can affect their ability to focus, understand or recall information and is most common in children under 15 years of age. Unlike other issues that can affect focus or comprehension, APD is not caused by higher-order intellectual disorders. It may, however, co-exist with certain issues, such as Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). In this article we will review the diagnosis process a child will experience if he or she is suspected to have APD, as well as looking at the steps involved with treatment.
Diagnosis of APD
Formal diagnosis of Auditory Processing Disorder is carried out primarily by Audiologists. A Speech-Language Therapist’s involvement at this stage is only to test an individual’s phonological awareness, and screen their language and cognitive skills to ensure these will be at a level sufficient for them to complete the range of audiology tests. Audiology tests are carried out in a sound-proofed room, which may be a new experience for some people.
A Speech-Language Therapist, Audiologist or GP can refer a child for APD testing, or parents may request it themselves if they notice any of the following hearing-related concerns:
- Difficulty listening to speech when background noise is present.
- Trouble following instructions.
- Difficulty differentiating between similar speech sounds, such as “p” and “b”.
- Frequently asking for people to repeat themselves.
- Having a monotone-type quality of voice and unable to vary their pitch or understand pitch changes in other people’s voices, for example when expressing sarcasm.
- Literacy issues, i.e. trouble with reading and spelling.
Treatment of Auditory Processing Disorder
In the short term, treatment often involves changing the individual’s learning environment. For example, remote-microphone hearing aids may be used in conjunction with teacher-orientated strategies. They would work together to improve the amount of auditory information the individual can use. Over time, it is ideal for the individual’s auditory and language processing skills to be built up to a point where they no longer need additional support. The long term element of treatment will also often focus on training their problem solving, memory, attention and other cognitive skills.
Speech-Language Therapy as Part of APD Treatment
At all stages of treatment, speech-language therapy is useful – and in some cases, essential. Speech-language therapy does not directly work on the hearing issues themselves in people with APD; once hearing problems have been addressed by an Audiologist, it is used to remedy the affect those hearing problems have had on language, language processing and speech clarity. Areas a Speech Therapist will focus on for a child with APD include:
- Phonological awareness deficiencies, which are vital to develop strong skills for literacy.
- Language and vocabulary.
- Correcting speech sound errors.
Often, a Speech Language Therapist will form part of a multi-disciplinary team that will work with your child from the first stages of the Auditory Processing Disorder assessment process, and onward through treatment. If you would like to start the assessment process for yourself or a family member, please feel free to contact us – we will do our best to connect you with the right professionals in addition to providing our own input.