What is Auditory Processing Disorder (APD)?

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Auditory Processing Disorder (APD), also known as Central Auditory Processing Disorder (CAPD), occurs when a child is having significant difficulty processing auditory information. APD occurs in approximately 5% of the school-aged population, ranging from mild to severe, affecting each child differently. Many times APD is difficult to identify because it shares many behaviors, and can be confused with conditions such as ADHD and learning disabilities. Although, it is possible for a child to be diagnosed with both. A child with APD will often have difficulty in the following areas:

  • understanding speech in loud environments
  • following verbal directions,
  • following multi-step directions
  • easily distracted by sounds
  • difficulty comprehending in noisy environments
  • difficulty discriminating between similar speech sounds
  • asking for clarifications frequently
  • spelling and reading difficulties
  • difficulty understanding and/or memorizing information presented verbally.

Auditory Processing Disorder is not typically diagnosed until a child is approximately 7-8 years old. At this age, an Audiologist can properly assess a child using standardized measures. A child’s teacher, family, and speech therapist also play significant roles in determining a proper diagnosis of APD, often identifying difficulties in the classroom. Properly evaluating and diagnosing a younger child is almost impossible due to significant variability in brain function during the toddler and preschool years. That does not mean that a child cannot begin to be treated for a suspected diagnosis during the preschool years. Many times families and teachers report that they identify behaviors in their children starting during the toddler and preschool years.

The following behaviors could, but won’t always, indicate a later diagnosis of APD or CAPD in children:

  • Infants: These infants will either tune voices and sounds out or they will be hypersensitive to what they hear.
  • Toddlers: Parents of these children become concerned about the child’s hearing and about the child’s speech skills. These children will often have had recurrent ear infections and have listening problems at home and at school.
  • Preschoolers: These children need frequent repetitions of verbal directions, have difficulty sitting for story time, have difficulty learning words to familiar songs, don’t enjoy being read to, will be hypersensitive in noisy environments, and are often judged as being immature.

For more information on Auditory Processing Disorder you can visit the American Speech and Hearing Association website (ASHA) to find a licensed speech and language pathologist near you.