Auditory Processing Disorder: 10 Ways to Help Your Child
If you have a child who is struggling with an auditory processing disorder (APD), you probably have many questions.
And the biggest question of all is, “What can I do to help?” I have heard it again and again from concerned parents.
It can be so frustrating. You know your child can hear, but sometimes it seems like he can’t.
That’s what can happen in a child with auditory processing disorder (APD), or central auditory processing disorder (CAPD), as it is also called.
What Is Auditory Processing Disorder?
In a child with APD, the brain doesn’t recognize and interpret sounds correctly—especially the sounds that make up speech. Your child may appear to have an auditory deficit, but in most cases, hearing is not the problem. It’s like there’s a disconnect somewhere between the ears and the brain. He can hear what you say; he just can’t always process it.
A learner with APD is like an old computer with a fast, new processor. Neither the old computer nor the child with APD can keep up. The data goes in, but once it’s in, it can’t be processed quickly enough or efficiently enough. And in both cases the result is major frustration.
The Signs of Auditory Processing Disorder
The symptoms of auditory processing disorder can range from mild to severe and may look different from child to child. APD is diagnosed by an audiologist, but the child who has APD may display many of the following characteristics.
- He may struggle to hear in crowded, noisy places.
- He may frequently ask you to repeat yourself.
- He may appear to be inattentive or he may be easily distracted.
- He has difficulty following directions.
- He may have noticeable speech delays.
- He may seem to have heard you when he hasn’t.
APD and the Struggle to Read and Spell
From the earliest stages of pre-reading instruction, when the development of phonemic awareness is so important, APD can make reading and spelling difficult. Because of the subtleties of similar-sounding phonemes, APD hampers a child’s ability to match letter names and sounds. This struggle continues to complicate the vital process of learning and using phonograms to build words. How can a child learn to use and manipulate the most basic building blocks of language if he can’t “hear” them to begin with? Just imagine the difficulty of attempting to complete blending and segmenting exercises when you already struggle to hear and process isolated phonemes.
Down the reading road, students with APD may have difficulty recalling what they’ve read or putting their thoughts into words. And because APD learners struggle to hear the individual sounds in words, they may also struggle with rhyming, observing spelling patterns, learning new vocabulary, reading comprehension, oral and written expression, and so much more. In addition to all of that, many APD learners also struggle with long-term memory issues that affect their ability to retain language-based knowledge. It’s not hard to understand why children with APD have such a difficult time with reading and spelling, is it?
Can All About Reading and All About Spelling Help My Child?
Although your APD child will face many academic challenges, you can help him learn to read and spell. All About Reading and All About Spelling offer an instructional approach that is well-suited to the needs of children with APD.
- The programs are multisensory, meaning they approach learning through sight, sound, and touch. Because auditory instruction can be so difficult for children with APD, teaching through the visual and kinesthetic pathways is extremely important. This actually helps strengthen the weaker auditory pathway while still allowing learning to occur.
- AAR and AAS use specially color-coded letter tiles. When your child has auditory processing issues, “wordy” explanations can create unnecessary frustration for both of you. It is much more effective to demonstrate a reading or spelling concept with the letter tiles. Using the letter tiles can make all the difference for a child struggling to understand a concept.
- The programs are scripted in a clear and concise way without excess verbiage. Scripted lessons allow you to concentrate on your child rather than on trying to figure out how to teach a skill.
- AAR and AAS have built-in review in every lesson. Children with auditory processing difficulties generally need lots of review in order to retain concepts. You can’t assume that everything that has been taught has been learned. The review boxes in AAR and AAS lessons allow you to customize your child’s review, concentrating only on the skills and concepts that need additional review. Your APD learner likely has a short attention span, so you want every minute of your lesson to count.
- Both AAR and AAS are logical and incremental. Children with auditory struggles need structure and clear guidance, and these programs provide the organization they need to learn.
10 Ways to Help Your Child Learn
These tips may help you make your lesson times more productive and more enjoyable for both you and your child.
- Speak slowly and enunciate clearly. Pausing as you give instructions can also help your child process what you’re saying.
- Allow for “lag time” while your child processes what you have said. Let your words sink in for a few seconds before expecting a response or before moving on.
- Be concise and direct—don’t attempt long oral explanations. Give simple instructions, one step at a time. Instructing your child to “clean up your room, put on your pajamas, and brush your teeth” may be more than your child can handle.
- Work in a quiet room with as few distractions as possible. Listening and processing is hard enough for an APD child; distractions make it nearly impossible.
- Optimize concentration and minimize “meltdowns” by holding lessons during your child’s best time of day.
- Make sure that your child can watch your mouth as you speak. This is especially important if he easily confuses similar-sounding words. In APD learners, the ears and brain don’t work well together, so watching your mouth will help bring everything into synch. The sounds get “crisper” when the brain has visual cues to go along with the auditory cues.
- As much as possible, show rather than tell.
- Visual demonstrations are much more effective than oral explanations. If your APD child is struggling to learn a new concept or skill, try to teach the concept with a visual demonstration.
- Don’t overwhelm your child. Children with auditory processing issues can become disruptive or argumentative when they don’t understand something. If your child becomes frustrated and you sense a meltdown coming, back up in the lesson to a point where your child is more comfortable. Try presenting the new information again when your child seems ready to tackle it.
- Consistent and constant review encourages success, especially for APD learners. To ensure steady progress, be sure to include review in your lessons every single day.
Your child will face many challenges as an APD learner, but there is hope. By applying some of the tips above during your instruction times, you can help your child overcome these challenges. Just take it one day at a time, and over time you will see progress—and a much happier child.
And remember you’re not alone. If you have questions about your child’s APD and how it affects reading and spelling instruction, please feel free to call or email us.
Does your child struggle with APD? What has helped? I would love to hear about it in the comments below!
Photo credits: Pam at Everyday Snapshots and Jodi at JodiMcKenna.com.