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What is Auditory Processing Disorder?

What is Auditory Processing Disorder?


Auditory Processing Disorder (APD) is a very common learning disability and affects about 5% of school-age children. Research suggests that many children with learning difficulties might have an undiagnosed auditory processing disorder.

Auditory Processing Disorder can present itself with many different symptoms and behaviors. Often these behaviors resemble those seen with other learning challenges, like language difficulties, attention problems and dyslexia.

Most children with auditory processing difficulties show a few of the following behaviors.

  • Delayed speech.

  • Persistent articulation errors.

  • Abnormally soft, loud, flat, formal, or “pedantic” speaking voice.

  • Difficulty conducting casual conversations.

  • Difficulty reading or spelling due to problems discriminating word sounds.

  • Difficulty following oral directions.

  • Difficulty organizing behaviors.

  • A tendency to appear quiet, distracted, or off topic during group discussions or to interrupt or blurt out answers.

  • Long delays before responding to questions or instructions.

  • Preferences for nonverbal tasks or a markedly higher performance IQ than verbal IQ.

  • Difficulty taking notes.

  • Worsening performance in higher grades as oral instruction load and receptive language demands increase.

  • Difficulties with inference, abstraction, and figurative language.

  • Difficulty hearing in the presence of background noise.

  • Difficulty understanding what’s said.

  • A tendency to ask for restatement or clarification, or repeatedly saying “what?” or “huh?”

  • Marked difficulty understanding speakers with particularly high or low-pitched voices or with prominent accents.

Difficulties Learning to Read and Spell

Children with Auditory Processing Disorders have difficulties distinguishing the sounds or phonemes in spoken words, especially those in complex words and sentences. This is referred to as Auditory Discrimination Deficits.

If a child has difficulties discriminating sounds in language, then words will sound unclear or distorted as well as many will sound alike. This in turn will affect a child’s development of language skills. They may have trouble speaking and listening, because of problems learning basic grammar and word meanings.

Many vowel and consonant sounds may sound the same to them, especially when spoken quickly. As a result, not only will they have difficulty hearing the differences between words that sound alike (think, thing, sink, thin) they will also have difficulty understanding the connections between those words and the letters used to represent them.

This is why children with Auditory Processing Disorder often have trouble with reading and spelling. Since they cannot hear the sound distinctions between words, the rules linking sounds to letters and letter groups can be hard for them to master.

Difficulties with Background Noises

Most children with Auditory Processing Disorder have difficulty hearing in the presence of background noise. This is referred to as Auditory Figure-Ground Deficits.

Although the children often hear well enough at home or in quiet environments, they may appear hard of hearing or even functionally deaf in noisy environments such as school.

Difficulties with Focus and Attention

In the classroom, a child with Auditory Processing Deficits will have great difficulties staying focused on a listening task. This is referred to as Auditory Attention Deficits.

If a teacher is giving a lecture, for example, the student might listen in for a few minutes but then drift off and daydream missing out on significant amounts of information.

Difficulties with Memory

Students with Auditory Processing Challenges have great difficulties remembering information given. This is referred to as Auditory Memory Deficits.

If the teacher says, “Get a piece of paper and a pencil out of your desk and write down your spelling words,” the student may get confused because there are too many commands at once. Impairments in the auditory memory deficits can severely weaken not only long-term memory but also language development and comprehension.


What Can I do to Help my Student?



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