What is Auditory Processing Disorder (APD)?
Let us start by saying that this is rather a controversial subject. The nature of this disorder (if it is a disorder) has been hotly debated for sometime. To give it a simple explanation it describes a disorder where a person’s hearing is normal, but when they hear information, there is a breakdown at some point between hearing the information and understanding the information. However, there could be many reason’s why a child is not understanding verbal information e.g. a language disorder, poor working memory, delayed processing speed, difficulties with phonological awareness. It is most likely that difficulties with understanding verbal language are associated with these things. In fact, a review of much of the evidence about APD indicates that it is more likely to be an underlying learning, cognitive, language and/or attention problem, rather than some kind of specific auditory difficulty.
What does a test for APD entail?
These tests are generally carried out by audiologists. I have seen assessment reports for APD and a number of tests are carried out. However, it would appear to me that many of these tests focus on working memory, phonological awareness skills and verbal language. The only tests that appear to test auditory functioning are tests that focus on the child’s attention skills, their ability to understand language when their background noise or conflicting information being played into one ear, or to locate sound.
What can you do if your child has a diagnosis of APD?
You should treat this disorder in the same way that you would treat a child with a language delay or learning difficulty:
- Assess language and literacy skills, and carry out a Cognitive assessment if appropriate.
- Focus on language skills – building vocabulary, following instructions, learning concepts, and inferring information (teaching the child to read between the lines).
- Focus on literacy skills using a structured evidence based reading and spelling program
- Use strategies such as essay or story-writing planners, to facilitate written language
- For younger students focus on building attention skills, or if appropriate visit your doctor to investigate Attention Deficit Disorder
- As a teacher or parent, use strategies listed in the Receptive Language Difficulties section of the website
Should I get my child tested for APD?
If you have assessed language, literacy and cognitive skills and these all indicate that your child is functioning in the normal range, then maybe consider an APD assessment if you feel this is the issue. However, if you have not done any testing, I would recommend that your child has a language or cognitive assessment initially, as it is more likely to be a language or learning disorder that is causing your child to have difficulty following instructions.