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 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.

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.
  • 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

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 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.
  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? I would love to hear about it in the comments below!

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

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I do not have a child that struggles with APD, buy my son is struggling to learn to read. He is 8 and entering 3rd grade and is still working on CVC words. Often, by the time he is done sounding out each letter he forgets the first sounds and just guesses. We are currently using AAR 2 & AAS 2. Thank you for these wonderful programs!



I have a son with APD and we started using All About Reading last year. He has completed levels 1 and (just recently) 2. He was excited to receive Level 3 and start on it. He has struggled with every reading program until I found this one. He now has much more confidence and we will be starting All About Spelling this year also. Thank you for such a wonderful program!



I work with children that display APD and distraction is a big hindrance to their ability to stay focused. The smallest distraction will slow the learning process down consideraby. Working one on one helps. Frequent short and consise lessons are key. Build in time motivational goals to help your child force his attention on the task being learned. For example, say to him, when you are finished reading these 5 sentences, you may play with your Lego (or whatever he likes to do most) for 15 minutes.

Holly Brown


I think my son struggles with APD but has not been diagnosed yet. So many people tell you things are normal and then others tell you he’s got a disorder; it makes trusting them a bit hard. I struggle with constantly repeating myself and having the patience to slow down – that’s on me though, not him.

Julie B.


I do not have a child with APD but I do have a child with CP which presents a very different set of challenges that I’m hoping AAR/AAS will help with.
Thanks for such great products!

Jessica P.


I don’t have a child with APD but I do have a son that is dyslexic. All About Reading is how we got him to read! So thankful for these programs!



I do not have a child that has an auditory processing disorder but the struggle with homeschool continues. She says everything is boring and she doesn’t want to read, though she enjoys the All About Reading activities. Last year was our first year. She was 5. We will see how this year progresses.



Even though I don’t have a child that struggles with this, I have friends that do and will pass this along to them!

Valerie Williams


My child doesn’t not have APD, I believe, but we are in the process of getting him evaluated for other issues such as speech delay. Your site has been such a big help for us!



I do not have any children with APD but one area we have challenges in for our homeschooling is fitting a wide range of ages and learning styles (I have 8 children close in age). I feel as if I’m often juggling to include as many learning styles as I can so that the lesson speaks to each child in the language they learn best.



My son does not have a diagnosed auditory processing disorder but it’s greatly suspected. And I try to approach him as if he does. I have AAR pre-reading and LOVE the program. I’d love to add Level 1 to his routine this year!



My son does not have APD but a SLD. AAS helps him learn to spell when no other progrsm can.



Thankfully none of my children deal withAPD. One struggle however is dyslexia. But AAR is the one thing that has made a difference!

Angela C


I believe my 3yo daughter has sensory processing issues but we are just starting the diagnosis process. She is very bright and seems ready to learn to read but I have struggled in my attempts to teach her.

Jennifer Roach


My children do not have APD however spelling was a struggle for them. Once we began using the the key cards, phonogram cards, and sound cards their spelling really began to improve. Having them break the word down into syllables I think was the most helpful.

kristi thomas


My sons evaluation has just returned. While he doesn’t have APD he foes have a SLD. AAS has worked for him when many programs don’t. He just can’t memorize a list each week and having him pick the right word from 3 choices is pointless as he can do that far to easily. I want him to LEARN to spell, and AAS has been the way to go, now if I could just afford the full program.

Monica Street


My child does not have APD, but I love that this program addresses the needs of those who do. Right now we are struggling with ways to pay attention during discussion times even if the lesson is only 5-10 minutes (pretty typical of a 4.5 year old). I have found giving my son something to color or presenting the lesson during meal/snack time helps him to stay focused, and I get more enthusiasm out of him. :)



I do not believe my child has ADP. This article is interesting and informative.



We used AAS Level 1 with my son who has APD. Moving the tokens to show that he could hear the distinct sounds to separate them was an amazing tool. He had never been able to hear c – a – t (for example) until he had the hands-on tools of tokens to move. Good stuff!

Carole Barr


Thank you for this opportunity to learn more and reach more children.



I don’t think my son has APD, but suspect dyslexia with him. I’m hoping AAS will help him.



My daughter does not have APD. But she seems to be slightly dyslectic, often trying to sound out words backwards. She is also very active and has a hard time doing straight seat work. I am looking forward to using AAR this year and seeing how she progresses.

Stephanie B


This article was very informative. I don’t think my children have APD, but my daughter does have a bit of a speech delay. She has problems pronouncing certain sounds. We’ve been using A AAR1. She is almost on the 3rd book and I have seen such an improvement, not only in her reading, but her ability to pronounce sounds she could not before. I would love to try AAR2 and AAS1 next.



My son and daughter, 6 and 4 years old, both have communication disorders. Neither are autistic but my son did not speak until he was five and neither my son nor daughter truly understand or can really verbalize conversation in step with their peers. In spite of this, I am teaching both of them to read. They both know their ABC’s, numbers, colors and shapes, and my son is learning to see, spell and create sight words with letter magnets.
The biggest help in our house are visual cues: American sign language, books in movie form that are reinforced by reading them separately, books that have a small amount of text per page and lots of gorgeous, high-quality pictures and — most importantly — time. Let them learn at their own pace. Push them, but don’t frustrate them. Give them challenges to rise to, but don’t make things so difficult that they melt down or stop loving to learn. They have amazed us with their ability to adapt and learn. In one year my son went from making only vowel sounds to speaking in complete sentences.
Patience, time, love, consistent education and a fun approach have been the best motivators and teachers for us so far. Thanks for drawing attention to this!



I had never heard about ASD until today, but my middle child is getting evaluated for some speech delays and slight behavior ‘abnormalities’ so I am going to be looking into that more. My eldest really struggles with spelling, but is a fantastic reader.

Laura L


This sounds like my son! While in OT this past year, we noticed he had a hard time recalling facts, which made sense with our recent homeschooling struggles. Thank you so much for this post.



My daughter has dysgraphia. AAR works perfectly for her!!



While none of our children have APD our youngest son did need to have tubes put in his ears. After repeated winters with multiple ear infections and fluid build-up in his ears he is finally hearing well. We used AAS from the beginning and I think that the focus on letter sounds has helped him in his reading and spelling in-spite of the ear problems.

Edina Coe


Thanks for your encouraging words. My daughter has struggled with learning for as long as I can think. Sometimes the frustration that I experience in teaching her are almost unbearable. I often felt as if something was wrong and that I was failing her. Using your reading and spelling programs has been great. She is progressing beautifully and I feel encouraged as a parent and teacher.



Hi Edina,

It’s definitely HARD WORK teaching a child who has learning struggles. You are not failing her though, and are obviously a very caring mom. It sounds like your hard work is paying off in reading and spelling, as well as hers. Hang in there!



I’m not sure if any of my children have APD, I will have to look into it, but there are some learning disabilities. Learning to read and spell has been a struggle with all my children. This year we began using AAS and we all love it! I would really like to try AAR as well.

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