Around 5% of the total population of school-aged children is affected by a weakness in auditory processing. Auditory processing refers to how a person’s brain processes, or interprets, auditory information received from the environment, particularly speech sounds. Children with auditory processing disorder (APD) have difficulty discrimintating similar spoken sounds or words, following verbal directions (particularly those with more than one step), and often have trouble learning new material that is presented orally. APD, which is also sometimes referred to as central auditory processing disorder, can result in delayed language development, behavior problems due to the frustration caused by the inability to process information presented orally effectively, and poor academic performance. Auditory processing weaknesses most often affect performance in the areas of reading and spelling, where being able to interpret auditory information is crucial. Auditory processing disorder is commonly found among children with other learning disabilities and impairments such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, although it is not caused by those learning problems.
Auditory processing weaknesses are usually first noticed by parents, day care providers, or teachers. Parents who suspect that their child has a weakness with auditory processing should consult the family doctor, who can rule out any other causes for the child’s particular problem and make a referral for an audiologist’s evaluation if necessary. An audiologist will complete testing to screen for a problem with hearing. In many cases, children who are suspected of having an auditory processing disorder will work with a speech-language pathologist also to determine how well the child is using language.
Because auditory processing disorder manifests in children across a wide spectrum of intensity, there is not one specific course of treatment or series of accommodations that can be used. Treatment and educational strategies should be tailored to meet the individual needs of each student. Children with auditory processing disorder often have trouble when there is a great deal of noise in the background, so teachers should work to create an environment with as few auditory distractions as possible. Children with auditory processing disorder should be seated somewhere near where instruction is being delivered. Verbal directions should be simplified and clarified as needed and many students respond well to written instructions and other visual cues in conjunction with verbal directions. Asking a student to repeat or paraphrase the directions after they have been delivered is another way to ensure that the student has heard properly. For a more detailed and specific list of accommodations, see this page at Bridges 4 Kids.