What is APD?

Auditory Processing Disorder (APD) sometimes called Central Auditory Processing Disorder (CAPD) is a complex disorder which effects many areas of a child’s development, including learning, communication and social development.

There are five skills children require to effectively listen and interpret information. These are:

Attention: How a child pays attention to speech and sounds in their environment. We have to ‘tune’ out back ground noise in order to listen to the important information. Children with APD may have difficulty blocking out other sounds around them and concentrating on the sounds they need to be listening to.

Discrimination: This is a brain’s ability to ‘hear’ the differences between different speech sounds e.g. hearing the difference between ‘f’ and ‘th’ or ‘p’ and ‘k’ . These sounds are very similar and telling them apart can be tricky for a child with APD.

Associative skills: These are a brain’s ability to link incoming sound with information stored in the brain. Difficulty hear means that the child may not be able to understand that a letter ‘c’ sometimes makes a ‘k’ sound or a ‘s’ sound, or they may be work out that the speech sounds d-o-g relates to ‘a fluffy animal that says ‘woof’’.

Integration skills: This is a child’s ability to hear groups of sounds and put them together with other information to make sense of a message. This skill focuses on looking at the ‘whole picture’ of the language and allows them to process information quickly.

Output or organization skills: These are about how well a child is able to put together, sequence, organise and recall what they have heard.

We need to have good skills in all these five areas in order to be able to communicate with others, to learn new information and to carry out tasks in our daily lives.

A child with APD has difficulty in the five areas needed to process, integrate and organise what we hear and may show the following:

• Difficulty understanding speech in noisy situations

• Trouble hearing in groups

• Difficulty listening

• A short attention span

• Becomes anxious or stressed when required to listen

• Is easily distracted

• Has difficulty following instructions

• Seems to hear but not understand what people are saying

• Has trouble remembering what was said

• Has poor speech or language skills

• Has poor reading, phonics or spelling skills

• Has impulsive behaviour

• Is disorganised

• Has poor self-esteem

Remember: Having any or all of these characteristics does not automatically mean your child has APD. Many other disorders and difficulties have similar characteristics. Because of this special tests must be undertaken to determine if a child has APD or something different. This is done by an audiologist. Please talk to your speech pathologist about referring for a diagnosis and about therapy options.

You can download more information about APD and strategies for how to help a child with listening difficulties from our website.

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