What is an auditory processing disorder?
The simplest way to explain what defines an auditory processing disorder (APD) is to realize the role of the central nervous system, or CNS, in APD. The CNS malfunctions and causes an uncoordinated relationship between the ears and the nervous system’s ability to fully process sounds and language.
APD causes issues with:
- Understanding language
- Remembering information
- Processing conversation
However, several other disorders share these hallmark symptoms. Similar disorders that might get mistaken for APD include:
- Attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
- Developmental disorders
To understand how to differentiate APD from other disorders, it helps to recognize that it does not stem from any other greater cognitive or language disorder. Although these other issues might exist in conjunction, many children with APD don’t experience any other disorders.
How is a child diagnosed with auditory processing disorder?
APD is a complex and nuanced disorder, so best practice requires performing an accurate and detailed assessment of any child presenting with the following symptoms:
- Difficulty discerning words in a noisy environment.
- Problems following directions.
- Issues differentiating between speech and other sounds.
- Problems spelling or reading.
- Understanding information in the classroom.
These symptoms in and of themselves don’t necessarily indicate APD, so perform a careful and in-depth evaluation of the entire spectrum of issues a child with suspected APD might potentially experience. A multidisciplinary team working together can most fully identify and explain APD’s symptoms. Professionals usually involved in diagnosing the condition include teachers, psychologists, speech-language pathologists and audiologists.
Effective treatment doesn’t always follow a clearly defined path and each child often responds quite differently. Some children seemingly recover fully, while others operate with some degree of difficulty due to APD for their entire lives.
Stella Fulman, AuD, CCC-A, is co-founder of Audiology Island, a private practice on Staten Island. She specializes in patient advocacy and education regarding hearing services. firstname.lastname@example.org
Zhanneta Shapiro, AuD, CCC-A, co-founder Audiology Island, also provides pediatric services at the NYU Langone Medical Center and serves as adjunct professor at the City University of New York Graduate Center at Brooklyn College. email@example.com