Talking about Auditory Processing Disorder (APD).
This morning I went live in my Facebook group: 'Katie's Classroom - Honest Parent Chat' talking about auditory processing disorder, which our eldest son was diagnosed with when he was diagnosed with dyslexia.
I am realising more and more that often when your child is diagnosed with one learning difficulty like dyslexia, autism or ADHD for example, they are also often diagnosed with another co-occuring learning difficulty and this is the case for Bass.
What is auditory processing disorder?
Auditory Processing Disorder (APD) is a developmental difficulty that affects how the brain processes speech.
A child with APD has a problem processing the sounds they hear, how they can access these sounds and how they can process them.
So APD is less to do with your child's ears and more to do with their brain!
In fact many parents quite rightly take their children to have a hearing test mistaking APD for a hearing problem but then come back confused when the child has got full marks in the test with no red flags.
Your child with APD can hear sounds but struggles to process the sounds that they can hear. Hope this is making sense!
Auditory processing skills are supposed to be like this...
So it's useful to know what goes on when we hear sounds and when someone talks to us to really appreciate the difficulty children who have APD have.
So this is how our auditory skills are supposed to work:
“Pretend I have said to you out loud ‘b’ and ‘d’ - I've said the phonetic sounds ‘b’ for bed and ‘d’ for dad.”
Stage 1: Awareness - You are aware I have said something. If you can't hear what I have said, then you might have hearing loss and should go for a hearing test. A child with APD can hear - there is nothing physically wrong with the mechanics of their ears.
Stage 2: Discrimination You can hear the two sounds I have made and can recognise the difference. ‘b’ sound is different to the ‘d’ sound. Some children with APD struggle at this stage. They struggle to discriminate between different sounds so unsurprisingly they find reading, spelling and eventually writing difficult! In fact an APD child will struggle with learning.
Stage 3: Identification You can hear the difference and know that ‘b’ is the letter b and ‘d’ is the letter d. Your child with APD might struggle to identify sounds.
Stage 4: Comprehension You understand what you have heard. You need stages 1, 2 and 3 to get to stage 4.
A child with APD has difficulties anywhere in this continuum of auditory processing. POOR THEM!!
And don't forget, they're not learning a foreign language, this is all happening IN THEIR OWN LANGUAGE.
First concerns you might have...
Often APD is not diagnosed until your child is learning at school where their difficulties become more apparent.
However, there were indications when our son, Bass, was a toddler that knowing what we know now, we might have suspected his APD sooner.
Your child might find sounds uncomfortable and painful.
Your child might cover their ears a lot.
Your child might not enjoy the hoover being on or the tele being loud.
Your child might not like going to loud birthday parties or balloons.
Once your child is at school their APD might become more apparent.
Struggle to concentrate and focus.
Struggle to follow instructions and particularly multi-step instructions.
Struggle to concentrate when there is a background noise.
Struggle to read, spell and write.
Struggle to answer questions.
Struggle to understand what you are saying.
A child with APD can hear you but not understand you. Bass often says: “What did you say?” Bass will often forget what we have said to him too.
Your child's brain will struggle to filter out what is important and what is not important and it makes them confused about what they should pay attention to. Your child is not getting accurate or meaningful information and therefore struggles to learn.
If you can imagine it is like they are constantly being sat at the back of the room and they can't quite hear what you're saying at the front. If this was the case for us we would get out our phones and think about what we're having for supper. It's the same for a child with APD - they might lose focus in class. Wriggle, fidget, annoy their friend next to them. Well, you would if you're missing what is being said.
How does a child with APD feel?
APD can be extremely frustrating, confusing, isolating and overwhelming for your child, which in turn can make them feel really anxious.
I want to say this again, for them it is similar to us trying to learn a foreign language but they are having these difficulties in their own language!
The most heart-breaking thing...
But the most heart-breaking thing for an APD child is that it can really affect their social skills and this is what we have noticed with our Bass in particularly.
Often APD children, because they can't process what you are saying quickly enough, find it very hard to socialise with friends and keep up socially. They are often one step behind their friends.
Children love to chitter chatter but an APD child needs time to think, process and understand what you have said so is often quite literally a step behind the conversation.
Excruciatingly having APD does not affect your child's intelligence or academic ability. Your child might be as bright as a button but have this frustrating barrier.
So it is often easier for them to play alone rather than in a group.
How can we help a child with APD?
So how can we help them?
1. Give your child time.
Give your child time. Their brain needs extra time to process what you are saying. So give them time to listen, think, understand, speak, register and answer. Time really is key here. *If you don't do anything else with your child with an auditory processing disorder just do this.
2. Repeat things as many times as they would like you to.
Repeat things as many times as your child needs, likes and/or wants you to. Get your child to repeat back to you what they have heard and/or what you have said. Do NOT get frustrated but remain patient and kind. Believe me they'll have enough frustration for everyone involved!.
3. No background noise if it can be helped.
Do not have background noise, like your TV and radio on. Reduce any noise as much as possible.
4. Look at them.
When you are talking to your child look them directly in the face so that they can fill in the gaps with your social cues. Do not cover your mouth but keep your sentences short. Nothing too convoluted! Don't speak too fast but not too slowly either.
5. Pictures and text really help.
A visual timetable is perfect for this. Showing while telling is really beneficial for your child with an auditory processing disorder.
6. Assistive Listening FM device.
Investigate getting an Assistive Listening FM device. These are wireless devices that receive distant auditory input, amplify and transmit the signal to the ear of the listener.
7. APD-friendly teachers are important.
The way they speak and teach matters: repetition, re-phrasing of the message, using additional visual or other cues, keeping the message short, showing something rather than describing it, and frequently checking for understanding is all SO helpful.
There we go! That's my auditory processing disorder chat for you. I hope it was useful. I would love to hear from you. Does your child have an auditory processing disorder? What do they struggle with? What do you struggle with the most? Please reply to this email and chat to me. I would absolutely love to hear from you!