Central Auditory Processing Disorder or Auditory Processing Disorder (APD) affects the way individuals process information that they hear. This can make language and communication difficult.  A helpful explanation of APD is found at the Boston’s Children’s Hospital. As they explain it, “Auditory processing is the brain’s ability to accurately perceive speech in both quiet and noisy settings.  The brain can detect, analyze and discriminate small differences in pitch, loudness and duration.  However, some children with normal hearing have difficulty with this ability, leading to difficulty with discrimination of speech.  This is a (central) auditory processing disorder or (C)APD.  (C)APD can impact the listener’s ability to develop language, succeed academically and/or communicate effectively”.

The Nemours Foundation estimates that this disability affects approximately five percent of all school-aged children. Distinguishing APD from other disabilities can be tricky, but it can be identified when a few key symptoms are present.

The National Coalition of Auditory Processing Disorders identifies some of the indicators that a child is affected by APD.

They include:

  • Difficulty following auditory directions
  • Easily distracted by background noise
  • Poorly organizes verbal information
  • Difficulty remembering what they hear
  • Trouble repeating information or sequences
  • Issues with listening
  • Pronunciation problems
  • Delayed speech
  • Slow vocabulary growth
  • Confusing basic words
  • Difficulty rhyming words

Traditionally, treating APD involved using speakers and amplifiers to help children more clearly hear and focus on the information being presented and testing and treatment is typically handled by an audiologist. However, Debra Burnett and others who are part of the Enhancing Auditory Responses to Speech Stimuli (EARSS) program at Kansas State University have brought speech-language pathologists into the equation. Treatment focuses less on the problem with hearing in general and more on helping the brain understand and process phonemic sounds. Children involved with the program also complete activities designed to help them concentrate on sounds without being distracted by background noise.

The goal of the EARSS program and other treatment methods is not to help children hear better. It is to teach them to become well-tuned listeners. While some children may seem as if they have some hearing loss, most often times it is that they have trouble translating the information they hear.

Programs such as the Tomatis MethodThe Listening ProgramTherapeutic Listening and Fast ForWord all offer their own unique ways to improve how the brain processes information. Often students with APD will benefit from their teachers repeating the directions for assignments more than once, or offering  written instructions along with a verbal assignment.