Have you noticed your child not picking up on instructions properly? For instance, the teacher was dictating notes and your kid wrote ’70’ instead of ’17.’ Or, mixed up common sounding words like a ‘couch’ with a ‘cow.’
This may seem completely harmless, or a one-off instance. The teacher’s pronunciation, accent, volume, and size of the class may have been contributing factors towards your child hearing the words incorrectly.
However, this could also point towards another and more complex issue that goes by the name of auditory processing disorder.
If you think your child picks up words incorrectly and makes such mistakes too often, we’d recommend you read about the auditory processing definition, its symptoms, diagnosis, treatment and more.
What Is Auditory Processing Disorder (APD)?
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APD is related to a learning problem that affects about three to five per cent of school children. It’s when the brain understands the speech incorrectly despite the sounds being loud and clear.
Children with APD do not understand subtle differences in words because their brains and ears do not coordinate completely. So words like ’50’ and ’15,’ ’round’ and ‘found,’ become interchangeable in the head.
Do remember that children with APD struggle with processing sounds and speech right. However, it is by no means a measure of their intelligence.
They are as smart as other children and maybe sometimes even smarter. All they need is a little support from parents and educators to get by some of the smaller tasks in class and at home.
Auditory Processing Definition: 4 Types Of Skills
Children and adults struggle with four types of APD skills:
Auditory discrimination: This is when children are unable to notice, compare or distinguish between different sounds
Auditory memory: Children are unable to recall words they’ve heard immediately
Auditory figure-ground discrimination: Children with APD are unable to focus on the important sounds in a crowded environment
Auditory sequencing: Kids may not understand or recall the exact order of sounds, which makes understanding or interpreting a sentence difficult.
Children with APD have poor listening skills, which makes it difficult for them to pick up sounds in the classroom or the playground. However, they’ll do better when listening to sounds in a quiet environment.
Auditory Processing Disorder: Symptoms
Now that you’ve understood the auditory processing definition, here are some of the symptoms to watch out for:
Your child mishears sounds and words too often
A noisy environment may get overwhelming for your little one
Your kid struggles following instructions when given verbally
They constantly miswrite words or get the phonics wrong
Verbal math problems are too difficult for your child
Your child struggles to hear basic conversations in a crowded space
They struggle to identify where the speech is coming from
Auditory Processing Disorder: Causes
It’s unclear what causes APD. However, researchers suggest that head trauma, lead poisoning, seizure disorder or chronic ear infections could be contributing factors.
APD could also hint towards other problems in children. This includes:
Auditory Processing Disorder: Diagnosis
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If you’ve picked up signs of APD in your child, you may want to take them to a paediatrician first. The doctor will rule out hearing loss before checking the little one for other potential issues.
The paediatrician will then recommend you to an audiologist to check how kids respond to different sounds. In most cases, your child won’t be tested until the age of seven years as their skills are still developing.
To diagnose APD, audiologists use a specific group of listening tests. They look for the following issues when diagnosing a child:
Auditory figure-ground: This is when kids have trouble understanding speech when there is too much ambient noise. This is pretty common in a classroom, cafeteria or playground and can make things frustrating for the child.
Auditory closure: In case the speaker’s voice is different, too fast or muffled, it becomes hard for the child to understand the sounds or words.
Dichotic listening: The child cannot focus on one particular speech. This happens when there are multiple speakers in the same room.
Temporal processing: This is when kids are unable to process the temperament of the speech. They cannot identify if the spoken sentence is a question or s statement from the pitch and intonation. They may also find it difficult to understand humour, riddles and sarcasm.
Binaural interaction: When the child is not able to locate a sound in the room. Experts says this problem is more to do with brain trauma and seizure disorders.
Auditory Processing Disorder: Treatment
While APD affects children, it’s likely that the problem will eventually go away as the child gets older. The auditory system continues developing till about 14 years of age, and kids do develop better hearing skills as they turn older.
Until then, there’s no specific treatment to follow but parents and teachers can take measures to create a more cohesive environment for the child with APD.
Here’s what you can do to help children with APD:
Occupational therapy for sensory issues and auditory timing
Counselling for depression and anxiety
Art therapy to help build self-esteem
Audiologists may also recommend a remote microphone system. This is an assistive hearing device that accentuates the speaker’s voice over ambient sounds. This will require the speaker to wear the microphone, while the earphone is plugged into the child’s ear.
In schools, teachers can slow down their speech so that the child’s brain is able to catch up with the words. They can also speak clearly and use hand gestures to amplify what they are saying by adding visual cues. Do note, this is different from sign language.
You can also speak to the school authorities about using computer programs developed specifically for kids with APD. These programs help the child’s brain process sounds better in a noisy environment.
Steps You Can Take To Help Children With APD At Home
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Make the room as silent as possible when speaking
Give visual cues to your child when speaking, especially when giving instructions
Use more keywords when speaking so the child needs to process fewer words at large
Be loud and clear with your speech and slow down if you have to
Double-check with your kid if they’ve understood what you just said
Write notes or put a chart on the wall that uses symbols to instruct about household chores or instructions
Turn on subtitles when watching something on the screen
Encourage your child to communicate when they do not understand something even if it means doing so multiple times
Parents, stay in touch with their class teachers and peers to keep a tab on their progress and struggles outside of the house. APD can make even some of the simplest instructions feel daunting.
So, please be patient when your child gets things wrong. At the same time, work with your child to develop their self-esteem that may feel low due to the disorder. Kids will need the support of not just their parents and teachers but also that of siblings and friends.
Do remember to tell your little one, things will get better as they get older.