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Auditory Processing Disorders in Children Difficult to Diagnose

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If a student has difficulty understanding spoken directions or other forms of speech, even when the spoken words are communicated under optimal circumstances, he or she may be experiencing auditory processing disorder (APD) also known as central auditory processing disorder (CAPD.)

A child with APD is unable to recognize different word sounds, because ears and brain are not working together correctly. As a result, an APD kid has difficulty understanding, recognizing and interpreting sounds, especially sounds in spoken words.

According to American-Speech-Language-Hearing Association, APD is difficult and complicated to diagnose due to several factors. First, these kids don’t suffer any hearing loss but rather they experience an abnormal processing of information, which requires special testing to detect.

Often the behaviors in APD children mimic the hallmark indicators of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), leading to a misdiagnosis. Also, this disorder can range in severity and manifest itself in ways as unique as each child.

Of course, it is important to identify this speech and language problem early. Delays in a child’s speech and language development can lead to serious academic concerns.

While it is important to consult a speech and language pathologist and audiologist for a proper diagnosis, there are key signs of APD that parents can look for. These behaviors include easily ignoring voices, especially when engrossed; difficulty following a set of verbal directions; confusing similar sounds in words and poor spelling; difficulty or inability to sound out unknown or unfamiliar words.

Socially, an APD child can misinterpret or miss overall the message that goes along with someone’s tone of voice. For a complete checklist, consult http://www.judithpaton.com/checklist.html/

Since there is not cure for APD, students are taught specific coping skills and encouraged to take an active part in their own academic success. Often, these children benefit when encouraged to find a quiet place for learning and homework.

A teacher with an APD student may find that seating in the front of the classroom, near the teacher, will help with understanding and following directions.

A child with APD is truly unable to understand and follow directions to a T. Thoughtful, positive, and constructive meetings between families, classroom teachers, school administrators, and speech-language teachers will empower the APD child to be as successful as the other students in the classroom.


American Speech-Language Hearing Association. APD in Children. Web. 13, Feb. 2012.

Judith W. Paton. CAPD Symptoms and Subtypes Checklist. Web. 13, Feb. 2012. http://www.judithpaton.com/checklist.html

Reviewed February 14, 2012
by Michele Blacksberg RN
Edited by Jody Smith

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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.



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