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Auditory Processing Disorder: 10 Ways to Help Your Child

Auditory Processing Disorder: How can I help my child? - All About Learning Press

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 she 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. She can hear what you say; she 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.

Auditory Processing Disorder Quick Guide

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.
  • She may appear to be inattentive or she may be easily distracted.
  • She has difficulty following directions.
  • He may have noticeable speech delays.
  • She may seem to have heard you when she hasn’t.

APD and the Struggle to Read and Spell

Auditory Processing Disorder: How can I help my child? - All About Learning Press

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.

Auditory Processing Disorder: How can I help my child? - All About Learning Press

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.

  1. Speak slowly and enunciate clearly. Pausing as you give instructions can also help your child process what you’re saying.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. Optimize concentration and minimize “meltdowns” by holding lessons during your child’s best time of day.
  6. Make sure that your child can watch your mouth as you speak. This is especially important if she 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.
  7. As much as possible, show rather than tell.
  8. 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.
  9. 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.
  10. 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.
Auditory Processing Disorder: How can I help my child? - All About Learning Press

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? Please share in the comments below!

Photo credits: Pam at Everyday Snapshots and Jodi at JodiMcKenna.com.

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Salome

says:

This can help in my class

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

I’m glad this will be helpful, Salome.

Dede Boyd

says:

I have this I am also visually impaired and blind in right eye and struggle is processing this order Long story disorders send me exercises to go don’t make others soFrustrated with

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Thank you for sharing your struggles, Dede. Do you have any questions? I’d love to help.

Alice

says:

Self-righteousness? I asked for equality.

Internalized sexism is a real thing, and it isn’t benefitting anyone.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Thank you for your thoughts, AliceRose.

Kelly

says:

Why should you correct something that is not incorrect? People need to look beyond themselves and look at what you’re trying to do to help others. I get so sick of self-centredness! The world is in a mess because of it!

Thank you so much for such an insightful article. I’m pulling my hair out as my son isn’t learning and after three years in government school, despite several specialist reports with recommendations, the school has implemented none, my son cannot form words or read words. He is effectively unlearning due to them bombarding him with even harder stuff! He’s repeated his first year so I had no option but to pull him out to homeschool him. I signed up with an online learning which sends out syllabus but tonight I’ve discovered that it’s not a good fit for my son. I am now left completely unsure of what or how to school my son. I can’t even enroll him with homeschooling as I don’t have a syllabus and we’ll soon be done for truancy. Is there any chance you could give me more information on what you offer? We are in Australia so we spell words different and obviously our currency is deterrent so I’m not sure if any American syllabus would work for us. If you could point me in the right direction, I’d be ever so grateful. Clearly he has CAPD.

Ps. Back in the good old days, the gender pronoun of choice when depicting any child was “he”. That was back before people decided they were more important than others and judged and moaned and complained and reported and generally made life harder than it had to be. The school yard used to sort these people out.

PPS. I’ve had a really bad day!! Sorry to disrupt your post but I’m sick of the unnecessary politics in this world which is corroding away at life.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Kelly,
Thank you for your thoughts.

I have emailed with information about using our materials in Australia. Please let me know if you have additional questions.

Steph

says:

With APD, does a child have to have both reading and spelling difficulties or can it just be spelling? I have a child who reads very well but really struggles with spelling.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Steph,
It is possible for a child with any learning disability to do fine with reading but struggle with spelling. I’ve seen it with one of my own children.

Thankfully, All About Spelling works wonders for these sorts of children. You do not have to do All About Reading if your child does not need it.

Let me know if you have additional questions or need help with placement or anything else.

Baffint

says:

Any ideas for older kids? 12 and older? She’s been diagnosed with APD from a speech therapist and has been doing weekly sessions with this therapist for 6 months. They’re becoming discouraged with her progress because she seems disengaged with their methods. She’s very artistic and I feel like their methods are geared more towards a younger age group. What can I do at home for her or suggest to her therapist?

heba

says:

i have the same age daughter with same problem

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Baffint,
I recommend you first speak with your student’s therapist regarding your concerns.

Considering her age, a lot of what you do at home should be focused on helping her with her studies and school work. Is she struggling in reading and spelling? Other subjects?

The tips and suggestions outlined in the blog post are very helpful for students of all ages that struggle with auditory processing disorder. Have you tried any of them? How has your student responded?

If I have more ideas of what her struggles and difficulties are, I could offer more specific suggestions. Let me know.

Jessica B

says:

I definitely needed to read this today. My almost 7 year old really struggles with sounds and blending. Recently two different doctors recommended an AP evaluation. We were using AAR but got hung up by lesson 3. I’m backing off and really concentrating on him mastering the basic letter sounds. He definitely does better with hands on activities. We will return to AAR soon. He gets almost scared or panicked when I introduce new concepts. It can be really overwhelming.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

I hope you find this article helpful, Jessica. In addition, please look over the Fun Ways to Develop Phonological Awareness blog post as well. Those skills are often the ones that students with auditory processing disorder struggle with the most, and those that struggle with them often have great difficulty with the first few lessons of All About Reading Level 1.

Please let me know if you have questions or need additional help or encouragement! Two of my children have auditory processing disorders, so I have personal experience with these difficulties. I’d love to help if you need it.

Fiona Simm

says:

My grandson is coming up 8 years old, we have had some concerns about his hearing for some time.
He has been seen by and audiologist and apparently he has perfect hearing.
His teacher has done the Tomatis listening test and both right and left ears are below the required level. She seems to feel he has trouble with his audio processing.
At home I have watched him as he has been instructed to do something and it is like he is a million miles away, as if he hasn’t heard us.
What can you suggest I do to help my little man.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

I’m sorry your grandson is struggling with this, Fiona. There are tips and suggestions in this blog post that can help.

In addition, it may be best to pursue testing for auditory processing disorder. The first step is to have his hearing evaluated, which you have already done. You can ask for his pediatrician or audiologist to refer him for further testing for auditory processing disorder.

Michael

says:

I’m 37 years old and I have Asperger’s . I’m trying to teach my self foreign languages but it seems I can not process the sound patterns or new vocabulary no matter how much i can remember . Does anybody know and special techniques or devices like whisper phones that help someone process new vocabulary from another language? Thank you and god bless

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

I’m sorry I’m not much help, Michael. Our materials are directed toward helping native English speakers learn to read and spell English. We don’t really have resources for learning the vocabulary and sounds of a foreign language.

You may consider learning the sounds of a language by working with someone fluent in that language. A person who can speak the language fluently will be able to help you discern if you are pronouncing sounds correctly and help you hear the sometimes subtle differences between sounds.

Learning vocabulary is much the same for any language, so you may be able to glean some ideas from our How to Build Your Child’s Vocabulary blog post. The key to learning vocabulary well is learning in context and not as something to be memorized. This may best be done by conversing in the language, even if your conversations are very simple at first. But again, this requires someone that speaks the language to work with you.

I’m sorry I’m not more help. Best of look in your students.

Kellie

says:

Hi my 3yo daughter was diagnosed with APD four months ago by a speech therapist that visited her at daycare we are still waiting on that referral, its frustrating because i want to help her but im not sure what do to. Daycare havent made any changes for her like they said they were going to, what simple changes can i do at home for her now? Thanks

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Kellie,
The “10 Ways to Help Your Child Learn” in this blog post apply to all those with APD regardless of age. With such a young child, focus mostly on speaking slowly and enunciating clearly, and showing what you want as much as possible. However, all ten tips will be helpful even with a 3-year-old.

When my son, who has APD, was that age, I found picture books that used photographs very helpful to encourage more language from him. I could point to a photograph of a ball and say, “Ball. See the ball? Say ball.” I also read baby picture books to him, the kind that has no more than one simple sentence per page.

I hope this helps a bit. You may consider forwarding this blog post to your child’s daycare as well.

Arlene Mancino

says:

I believe my 4 yo son has APD. He is moving up to a classroom with more kids. He gets very overwhelmed and runs to a corner of the classroom and holds his ears. What are some tips to help him in the classroom?

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Arlene,
First, I recommend speaking with your son’s doctor about this. She should be able to direct you to additional evaluation and resources to help.

Consider all the possibilities for the cause of his acting that way. While it may be the more confusing noise a larger group of children can make, it also could be he is uncomfortable in a new situation with a larger group of children that has nothing to do with hearing. It also could be not the group of children, but the room itself. There are some rooms that have such poor acoustics that they are almost unbearable for many people. You can talk with your son, when he is calm and away from the situation, about why he acts that way and what is wrong. Even young children can often offer insights into their own actions.

If it is auditory processing disorder and the loudness and increased confusion of a larger group of children that is the cause, you may need to seek alternative options for education in the early years. It can take a while before a child that is overstimulated with sound to be able to tolerate such situations, and they may always hinder their best learning ability. A school that offers smaller classes, better acoustics, and so on may be necessary.

With a diagnosis of APD, you may be able to consider assistive technology for him as well, such as the teacher wearing a mic and your son wearing sound-canceling headphones that receive only what the teacher says.

I hope this helps some.

Lisa

says:

Thank you for the tips! My son has issues hearing some blends & a few single letter sounds, which affects spelling at times. I’ve asked his pediatrician 2-3 years in a row about his hearing, but says hearing is fine in a lousy in office “test.” He also makes the ‘f’ sound for “th” a lot and sometimes’s’ for thanks, says sanks instead. He has an appt the 24th with a new pediatric pa, maybe he can get us going in the right direction with these tips as well.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

How old is your son, Lisa? The /th/ sound is one of the last sounds children master in English and it is considered normal for children to have trouble with it until they are 7 or so.

However, if you have ongoing concerns about your son’s hearing, it is worthwhile to pursue further testing even if the in-office testing doesn’t show a problem. You may need to be persistent to get the referral.

Melissa Wellington

says:

Love the all about press resources!

Melanie

says:

So insightful and helpful. Thankful for this program that help my child

Alison Russell

says:

Good information given.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Thank you, Alison.

Carolyn

says:

Thanks for the info.

Supriya

says:

Great resource as we start out with Pre reading.

Hannah Bunch

says:

Great article! We haven’t been diagnosed yet but definitely looking into this.

Becca

says:

We have Severe Apraxia and APD. We waited. Until this year at age 8 and after Speech Therapy for 2 years, before we started formal instruction with AAR.

He had confusion with sounds for speech and sounds for reading. By waiting we allowed him to concentrate on sounds for speech use first. This has helped greatly to allow his speech to improve and build his confidence for reading. Not pushing both at once was a smart decision for us.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Thank you for sharing what helped your child, Becca!

Jonicka W

says:

I really appreciate this article as well as advice in the comments. I’ve never heard of APD. I have a 3 yr old with a definite speech delay but he comprehends well, follows directions, etc. My eldest was also a slow beginner. So I’ve never been too concerned until now since we’re coming up on his 4th birthday. His issue seems to be with completing a full word. You hear the beginning sound but he doesn’t finish it. I’ve been told (not by a professional) to get his hearing checked. Due to my eldest having similar traits and now flourishing, our pediatrician has never been too concerned especially since he “checks off” all the other boxes. However, I think I will look into a 2nd opinion. Thank you for this!

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

I agree with Angela, Jonicka. At minimum, it can give you peace of mind to know one way or the other regarding your child’s hearing. However, if he does have hearing loss, early invention is very important. Also, ruling out hearing loss is the first step toward diagnosing auditory processing disorder.

Angela

says:

As a parent of a kid who has a speech and language delay and is also hard of hearing with hearing aids, I urge you to also get your child a hearing test.

Angie

says:

This was very helpful going into pre reading this year. Thank you

Monica

says:

I’ve never heard of APD before this blog post but definitely something to look out for as my oldest struggles with letter sounds. I will say All About Reading-Pre reading has improved his speech immensely!

Evangeline L

says:

Thank you for this article. I’m pretty sure several of my children have APD. I’m also pretty sure that I do as well after reading some of the symptoms and the tips to help. I’m looking forward to using these to help our day go smoother.

Heather K

says:

My daughter was diagnosed with APD at the age of 13. For years we thought she had a hearing problem. One thing that really helps her as an older child is turning on the closed captioning when watching t.v. shows and movies.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Great suggestion, Heather. Thank you.

Angie S

says:

Thanks for the tips, Marie! Dianne Craft’s Brain Integration Therapy has been a game changer for us!

Christina A

says:

This is a wonderful post! Three of my boys have struggled with APD, and have been tremendously helped by Audio Integration Therapy (AIT), which is a twice-a-day for ten days program, and Processing and Cognitive Enhancement (PACE), which is a 4-5 times per week for at least 60 total sessions program. One of my sons still needs to do a second round of AIT, but the other two were brought up to age-level auditory processing after one round of each therapy. Interestingly, all three have visual processing that is years beyond their age level, and all three can sing well alone but struggle to stay on pitch in a choir, though they have all experienced much improvement since their therapy. I hope that your program’s approach will help many APD learners, but if their APD is extreme, they might consider these therapies. :)

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Thank you for sharing your boys’ story, Christina, and what worked for them. I’m sure this will be helpful to many.

Sara H

says:

Hi! Our eldest has APD. We did something similar with the integrated listening system. It was a lifesaver! I also recommend parents read bright kids who can’t keep up as our son struggled with slow processing speed.

Angie S

says:

Thanks for mentioning SPS also. Could you share what integrated listening system you used for your eldest? Did it help with SPS also?

Christina A

says:

Yes, these therapies have been the game-changer in my boys’ education. All 3 are hard workers, but until they had the auditory pathways opened up, it was like they were pushing hard against a brick wall and not making progress in many subjects.

Melody Lowman

says:

Hello,
As a Behavioral and Educational Consultant I frequently observe signs of CAPD. I appreciate and agree with everything you have written but I think parents should also consider an evaluation by an audiologist. I strongly prefer one who has additional training in identifying and treating CAPD. The hearing SCREENING that pediatricians can do isn’t sufficient, a specialist is needed. When the diagnosis is clear and specific the SLP can target treatment.
I think your blog is a gift to the special needs community.
My highest regards for your gift,
Melody

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Yes, we agree, Melody. When asked, we recommend speaking with a child’s pediatrician about being referred to an audiologist. Thank you for making this clear though.

Kimberly Williams

says:

We just had both our girls evaluated by an audiologist and their recommendations made a huge difference.

Melissa Phillips

says:

May I ask what their recommendations were? Mine were kind of vague… like work with one sound source at a time, Neurofeedback Consultation.. which I am a bit skeptical on, taking piano lessons to strengthen interhemisheric transfer and timing which my son has no interest in (he does like guitar though so hopefully that will help in some capacity), use visual aids when teaching and to have a repeat test in a year…

Karen B

says:

This can be cured with the help of a neurodevelopmentalist. We have gone to one for 8 months and my son is being helped in so many ways. My son has had trouble with reading, writing and math. His work recognition, and reading comprehension have gone up 2 grade levels in 8 months. All of his learning challenges are being helped. You can find information at Brainsprints.com, and on the homepage you can find a link to Jan Bedell’s YouTube channel called Brain Coach tips. You can learn more about the neurodevelopment method there. Brain Sprints is located in Denton, TX, so I hope this information will get to the one person who said they lived in Denton in the comments. I know Jan also travels to other parts of the country to do evaluations, or she could refer you to other neurodevelopmentalists in other parts of the country. This really has been an answer to prayer for our family. I went through 2 other “Brain” programs for my son, and they were a joke compared to how we have received help through Brain Sprints. Jan will evaluate every developmental milestone that your child should have hit from birth to age 7. She can figure out what is going on based on that. She also looks to see if they have retained primitive reflexes. Our family does the at home program, and we are extremely pleased with this program. Brain Sprints has my highest recommendation.

Melissa

says:

Thank you for this article. My 9 year old son just got diagnosed with APD and the audiologist suggested neurofeedback therapy.. I am really on the fence on this one.. it seems there is no real research to document if it does in fact help or not. and it is rather expensive… do you have any thoughts on this?
He is working on an OG program but it is oh soo difficult for him and involves multiple meltdowns. It breaks my heart how difficult things are for him.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

I’m sorry, Melissa, but I’m just not knowledgeable on neurofeedback therapy for Auditory Processing Disorder. I’ve not seen research on it that isn’t directly connected to an organization that provides the therapy, and this does make me concerned.