Sunday, 15 October 2017

'Auditory processing disorder': a real condition or another middle class excuse for a child who isn't achieving?

What is Auditory Processing Disorder?

 I overheard an older teacher on the train last week say that they were 'fed up these days of hearing about these modern excuses for little Hector or Hermione' not being able to do their work well or achieve better in lessons. He suggested that the parents should spend more time on helping with their homework than researching these possible causes! He wasn't talking to me, he was talking to a younger man who was nodding knowingly but I couldn't just sit there. After I had gulped and reminded myself to be polite, I leaned forwards and managed to say, 'Really, I'm so surprised you say that as most teachers these days look for the reasons behind a child's difficulties so they can help'. 

I am a parent of two children with dyslexia and Auditory Processing Disorder, that's not an excuse but it is the reason they find school difficult and have to try harder.

      “APD is a deļ¬cit in neural processing that is not due to higher order language, cognitive or related factors” (ASHA 2005)
      However, APD may lead to difficulties with higher level language processing, learning and communicating
      “APD is characterised by poor perception of sounds, has its origins in impaired neural function, and impacts on everyday life
      primarily through a reduced ability to listen, and respond appropriately to sounds.”

What are the symptoms?
It can affect a child's ability to:

  • understand speech – particularly if there's background noise, more than one person speaking, the person is speaking quickly, or the sound quality is poor
  • distinguish similar sounds from one another – such as "shoulder versus soldier" or "cold versus called"
  • concentrate when there's background noise – this can lead to difficulty understanding and remembering instructions, as well as difficulty speaking clearly and problems with reading and spelling
  • enjoy music -Many people with APD find it becomes less of an issue over time as they develop the skills to deal with it.Although children may need extra help and support at school, they can be as successful as their classmates.
What can we do about it?

         Environmental Modifications:
Preferential seating in the classroom, as close as possible to the teacher, will make facial expressions clearly visible, and maximise the ratio of direct sound to reverberant sound. The seating position should also be away from noisy equipment, such as overhead fans, to maximise the signal-to-noise ratio.

         Teacher-Directed Strategies
A number of strategies may be implemented by the child’s schoolteacher to assist children with listening difficulties to extract as much information from the auditory signal as possible. These strategies include:
1.       speaking in short, simple sentences
2.      repeating a message if not comprehended
3.      slowing the speed of delivery 
4.      providing visual cues and hands-on demonstrations, as multi-modal cues add to the auditory information so that the whole message can be understood
5.      pre-teaching new information and vocabulary so that the child has a greater chance of inferring missed information from the context of the message
6.      gaining attention prior to speaking
7.      frequently checking for comprehension; using positive reinforcement generously
8.       planning regular listening/concentration breaks to avoid auditory fatigue

A personal FM system may help. This is a wireless system designed to help someone better identify and understand speech in noisy situations and over distances of up to 15 meters (50 feet). The person speaking wears or holds a transmitter microphone. This transmitter picks up important speech sounds and uses harmless radio waves to send these to a FM receiver, which a child wears behind the ear. This results in the speaker’s words going directly directly in their ears, without any distracting background noise.  Unfortunately, most teenagers wouldn't want to do that as they make it their life's mission to fit in and not be different!

It needs appropriate and thorough screening to make sure it is APD and there is not some other reason for the difficulties. Screening using assessments such as a Scan 3 and LISN-S and formal and informal tests of receptive and expressive language are essential.  

If you are concerned about your child, please get in touch, we'd love to help.

To book a screen please click here

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