How to Recognize Auditory Processing Disorders in Children

boy taking hearing test

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:

  • Autism
  • 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.

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.


5 Common Myths About Auditory Processing Disorder

In recent years, researchers have made huge strides toward understanding auditory processing disorder (APD). More and more children are being diagnosed with APD and successfully treated. Yet many misconceptions about APD persist. Here are five common myths—and the truth about each

Close up of a young girl responding to her mother looking confused

Myth #1: Auditory processing disorder is the same thing as being hard of hearing.

Fact: Most people with APD have no hearing loss. Speaking loudly to them won’t help them understand what you’ve said. Scientists aren’t exactly sure what causes APD. Typically, the brain processes sounds seamlessly and almost instantaneously, so people can interpret what they hear. But for people with APD, an issue in the central nervous system delays or scrambles the process. As a result, they frequently confuse sounds and words. To them, “Do you want to sit in the chair?” might sound like “Do you want to sit in the hair?”

Teen girls talking in a busy school hallway between classes

Myth #2: Auditory processing disorder is extremely rare.

Fact: Although more research needs to be done to determine how common APD is, estimates range from as low as 2 percent of U.S. children to as high as 7 percent. Research also suggests that many kids with learning issues might have an undiagnosed auditory processing disorder. A 2009 study found that 43 percent of children with learning issues also had APD; 25 percent of those children also had dyslexia.

Close up of two boys sitting in class with one working on an assignment and the other watching

Myth #3: Kids with auditory processing disorder are less intelligent than their peers.

Fact: APD is not connected to a child’s intelligence. In fact, most kids with learning and attention issues have average to above-average intelligence. It’s true, though, that children with APD may score lower on verbal IQ tests than their peers do. They also can appear to be “slow”—taking longer to respond to questions and pick up new concepts. But this isn’t because they’re less intelligent. It’s because they have difficulty processing and interpreting new sounds.

Group of teens standing outside school yard talking

Myth #4: Auditory processing disorder isn’t real; it’s just a new name for ADHD.

Fact: People with APD and ADHD often show similar symptoms, including being easily distracted and inattentive. There’s believed to be a high rate of co-occurrence with ADHD, meaning many children identified with APD also are diagnosed with ADHD. But research shows that while kids with ADHD struggle with attention in all kinds of settings, children with APD are much more likely to have attention issues specifically in the auditory realm. They can have difficulty hearing when there’s background noise. They may struggle to follow oral instructions and have poor listening skills.

Close up of a young boy in class looking distracted and discouraged

Myth #5: Children with auditory processing disorder are lazy and rude.

Fact: Kids with APD have trouble processing auditory information. Because of this, they might appear to be ignoring others. They might give incorrect or unrelated answers to questions they mishear. And they may have trouble completing projects or chores, especially if the tasks were assigned orally and required multiple steps. These behaviors might seem like laziness or rudeness, but they’re most likely not



7 Things I Wish People Knew About Parenting a Child With Auditory Processing Disorder

When my son was in first grade, his teacher complained to me that he “didn’t pay attention” in class. She said he wasn’t listening. To her, this was an act of defiance.

I explained that my son has auditory processing disorder (APD). He’s usually a very well-behaved boy, but the classroom was too chaotic and noisy for him. With all the background sound, my son simply couldn’t make out what she was saying to him, no matter how hard he tried.

For people who don’t have APD, it can be a puzzling challenge. Even my husband, who tries to understand, often struggles to see the world from the perspective of my son.

I’ve learned a lot from parenting a child with APD. And because I have APD myself, I think I’m a good person to explain. Here are some things I wish people understood about me, my son and APD.

    1. He isn’t being defiant.

With APD, the brain doesn’t always process spoken words smoothly. So when my son doesn’t respond right away or doesn’t understand what you’re saying, he’s not doing it to be rude or defiant. He simply didn’t comprehend what you said.

My son wants to understand you—more than anything. People like my son and me sometimes give up on conversations, though, because we’re afraid of seeming rude. Sadly, it’s part of life for someone with APD.

    1. The link between APD and hearing can be confusing.

Having APD isn’t the same as being hard of hearing. My son’s hearing is actually very good. In fact, that can be part of the problem.

For example, my husband’s electric shaver makes a high-pitched, irritating sound when it’s charging. At least it does according to my son and me. No one else in our family seems to notice the sound we complain about.

It may seem counterintuitive. He notices sounds no one else does but still can’t seem to “hear” what someone else is saying. That’s because APD is an information processing issue, not a hearing issue.

    1. Competing sounds and noises make understanding harder.

When I’m talking to my child, my voice is competing with a thousand other noises. It could be the rush of air blowing out of the air conditioner. Or footsteps coming from down the hallway. Or the buzz of an overhead, fluorescent light. That’s why I try not to start a complex conversation with my son in a loud or chaotic environment.


If you have something important to share and it’s noisy, text or write down the message. Better yet, when you need to have a real conversation, talk to him in a quiet place. Speaking directly to him and making eye contact also helps.

    1. Telling him to “pay closer attention” or “listen harder” doesn’t help.

Some people confuse APD with ADHD, but they aren’t the same.

Yes, APD can include problems with attention. After all, it’s hard to focus if you can’t understand what’s being said around you.

But telling my son to “pay closer attention” or “listen harder” doesn’t help when his brain is scrambling the sounds coming in. That’d be like someone telling you to “listen harder” to a foreign language you barely speak.

    1. Rephrasing is more helpful than repeating.

When my son responds with “What?” to something I said, it’s tempting to repeat exactly what I just said and in a louder voice.

But what he really needs is for me to say what I said in a different way. That’s because certain phrases and sentences can be more difficult to process. The sounds may be too similar. The word combinations may be too complex.

Rephrasing—not repeating the same words louder—can really help. When struggling with my own APD, I’ve learned to say, “Can you please say what you said again, but with different words?”

    1. He wants to feel safe to ask you to say something as many times as he needs.

Most people don’t like to say the same thing over and over. I understand that. My son does, too. That’s why it’s hard for him to ask.

But if he knows you’re OK with repeating and rephrasing something a few times, he’ll be more comfortable asking. It’s wonderful when people are willing to do this for him—and for me. We appreciate it more than you can imagine.

    1. It’s OK to be frustrated, as long as you try to understand.

Even though I have APD, I get frustrated with my son sometimes. I lose my patience. So I know others might too.

My son’s first teacher never did come around to understanding his challenges. In the end, though, we were lucky that a new teacher replaced her. This new teacher was wonderful. The only difference between her and the first teacher was the willingness to try to understand APD.



Girl With Autism Sings A Stunning Rendition Of ‘Hallelujah’

“It’s not just good because she’s dealing with autism … It’s good because it’s good — really good.”


5 Things No One Tell You About Central Auditory Processing Disorders


When my oldest son was 6 years old, he was diagnosed with an Auditory Processing Disorder.

We’d taken him to see a specialist because we suspected he had trouble hearing. He’d suffered repeated ear infections as a toddler, which led to a speech delay that he’d already received Early Intervention Services for.


By first grade, his speech delay was mostly under control, but we were told that the Auditory Processing Disorder required treatment and that if I agreed to have him classified as Special Needs, he would become eligible for a host of services, therapies, extra time on school tests, and other accommodations.

I refused.

I didn’t make my decision lightly. My husband and I went back and forth on the pros and cons, weighing what we wanted for our son, not just as a student, but as a human being against the numerous experts who insisted they knew best. They listed a host of things that could still go wrong and insisted on multiple preventive measures “just in case.” At worst, they told us we should let them monitor him. Monitor him for what? Well, they couldn’t articulate that part exactly, but they would be able to spot potential problems much better than we could, so why don’t we just sit back and let them handle it?

The pressure was intense. As a parent, you want to do what’s best for your child. But what about when your gut instinct differs from that of people who keep telling you they know better? The path of least resistance would have been to simply give in and let said experts take over. After all, what could it hurt? Even if the therapy ultimately proved unnecessary, so what? No harm done.

Ultimately, I decided there would, in fact, be harm done. I refused to have my son labeled Special Needs for the following reasons:

1. His Needs Didn’t Seem That Special
My son’s diagnosis wasn’t our first time at the Special Needs Rodeo. The Early Intervention therapy he’d received prior to starting school had culminated with the assigned therapist noticing that my son had a hard time sitting still for the duration of their half-hour long lesson. She recommended sensory therapy. Did I mention he was 3? A 3-year-old boy had trouble sitting still. Quick, bring in the therapists! She also thought he might need physical therapy … because he held a crayon in his fist rather than with the proper grip. When my son was 6, I conceded that he was not a good listener. (Though he could sit now. And hold a pencil correctly.) It was often necessary to repeat instructions to him, and he’d still get confused. But he was a 6-year-old boy. He certainly wasn’t the only one I could see with this problem — 6-year-old boys aren’t exactly known for their stellar executive function skills. He seemed like a perfectly normal boy to me.

2. Every Child Has Special Needs
My oldest son has trouble with oral instructions. Other kids have a hard time decoding text, or with handwriting, or when performing calculations. All human beings are stronger at some things and weaker at others. When did it become mandatory to level the playing field so that everyone performs the same on every task, whether academic or athletic? When did absent-mindedness or boredom or stubbornness or plain, old laziness become “conditions” to be excused and then accommodated? I didn’t want my son to be told that if he wasn’t good at something, that was okay, it wasn’t his fault, he couldn’t help it. I wanted him to be told to work harder.

3. I Wanted Him to Fail
Failure is awesome. Failure is how we learn. It builds character and resilience. At our house, we go around the dinner table and share one way in which we failed that day, and how we plan to do better next time. I wanted my son to fail. That’s why we sent him to the most rigorous school that would take him. One that gave instruction primarily orally. When my son complained, I told him it was better to develop techniques and coping strategies now rather than later when he was a set-in-his-ways adult. He cried. I sympathized. And then I told my son to go back into the classroom and apply himself even more.

4. I Wanted Him to Succeed
The rigorous private school my son attended from kindergarten through eighth grade was the same one his father had gone to. My son got in as a legacy. Considering how awful his test scores were at the age of 4, he never would have made it in any other way. Experts advised us he wouldn’t be able to cut it there. My son did make it. When it came to applying for high school, he sat for an exam that 40,000 students take and he scored in the top 3%, which qualified him for the city’s best public specialized school. He didn’t get in as a legacy. He didn’t get in because he was given extra time on a test or because the bar had been lowered due to his perceived disability. He got in because he studied like a fiend — he was self-directed and self-organized. (Oh, and about that pencil grip that required physical therapy? He was also accepted into the city’s top art school.)

5. The Real World Doesn’t Care if You Have Special Needs
All the way through college, a special needs diagnosis means extra time on tests, deadline extensions for term papers, truncated reading assignments, the use of a tape recorder instead of taking notes, and getting excused from classes otherwise necessary for graduation. But then what? If my heart stops beating during surgery, do I really want a doctor who requires twice the usual time to figure out what to do about it? Should my accountant be able to do higher-level math or is guessing what I owe on my taxes good enough? If lawyers bill by the hour, does that mean a special needs one is legally permitted to charge double? Can you tell your boss you’re not required to do as he says because, hey, Oppositional Defiance Disorder?!

For the rest of his life, my son will know that he achieved something difficult completely on his own. My hope is that when times get rough — and they will — he’ll remember what he’s already accomplished against the odds and persevere.



Now I know why the Happy Birthday song makes my son cry

I write this as I sit here with my 7-year-old son, Holden, in the waiting room to have his hearing tested. This isn’t just any hearing test; Holden is about to be tested for Auditory Processing Disorder (APD).

You see, when Holden was a baby, around 10 weeks old, it was like a switch was flipped and he couldn’t handle his own environment. He became agitated anytime someone new entered the picture, and he was his happiest when it was just the two of us in our quiet home while my husband was at work.

As the months went by, a simple outing, like grocery shopping was too much for him. The ambient noise and curious strangers peeking into the stroller to see the cute baby was just too much. As Holden got older, birthday parties, (in particular people singing happy birthday), was torture for him.

childhood auditory processing disorder

Photo: Joanna Venditti

Holden never held back from letting me know he was unhappy. He wailed, and became almost animalistic, frantic with anxiety. This behavior wouldn’t stop until he was removed from the situation. We eventually learned that our best approach was to avoid potentially disastrous situations and ask to be given a heads-up when happy birthday was about to be sung.

As you can imagine, the amount of worry and constant isolation was hard on both me and my husband.

As Holden approached the age of 2, we decided it was time to explore what was causing Holden so much distress. One assessment turned into another, and another and another. We often got the same feedback: Holden has some really great qualities, but also displays some worrisome behavior.

As the months rolled by, and each assessment passed us onto the next, we decided to work with private speech therapists and occupational therapists. Holden was eventually diagnosed with Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD).

Sensory processing (sometimes called “sensory integration” or SI) is a term that refers to the way the nervous system receives messages from the senses and turns them into appropriate motor and behavioral responses.

Holden was officially diagnosed with some sensory issues and a universal language delay by a developmental paediatrician. He was not on the autism spectrum which was once suspected.

As Holden eventually learned to speak and he overcame his childhood apraxia he was able to articulate what situations were too overwhelming for him and what he needed and when. He was self-regulating. This, for my husband and me, was huge. As we watched our son begin to learn how to enjoy life, make friends and excel in school, we felt like we had won the lottery.

Which brings me to today.

central auditory processing disorder

Photo: Joanna Venditti

Holden just finished first grade. He’s been enjoying his summer vacation at day camp and spending his weekends swimming and playing. Although Holden is an advanced reader, the sweetest peace-keeper and an (almost) straight- A student, something still plagues him: his hearing.

It’s not that Holden can’t hear, its that when there is competing noise, he can’t always understand what you are saying. When there is competing noise, he can’t always get out a full sentence. When Holden is given two or three step instructions, he forgets what he is supposed to do next half way through. When Holden hears a dog bark, or tries to enjoy watching fireworks, something in his brain is telling him “you aren’t safe! Danger! Danger!” Which sends him into a panic attack.

Holden is at an age now where he can articulate to me how he is feeling and what he thinks could be wrong.

I am now the mother sitting alone in the waiting room, wondering if I’m about to hear what I have been suspecting for a while. That Holden has auditory processing disorder. The last piece of the puzzle.

Auditory Processing can be understood as the link between the ears and the brain. Both children and adults can be affected by difficulties understanding what is heard, despite normal hearing and normal intelligence. This difficulty impacts the ability of the child or adult to function in everyday life. Our ears detect sound; the brain gives these sounds meaning. An auditory processing disorder (APD) is a disruption of sound along the pathway from the ear to the brain, which interferes with understanding. The ears do not work alone to decipher incoming information- the brain has its own part to play. For example, the ability of the child or adult to understand the language, the information (cognitive ability), to pay attention, and to remember what was said are all aspects of the brain’s ability, and are very important when considering auditory processing deficits. – OSLA

We are ushered into a small room and sit down at a table with the therapist. Sure enough, Holden has APD. I learn about the areas of the test that Holden didn’t struggle with and the areas that he scored lower than one percent.

Holden’s biggest area of difficulty is when more than one person is talking, or talking to him at the same volume level. For example if he’s watching T.V. and I ask him a question, there’s a good chance he won’t process it properly. Or if Holden and his sisters are all asking for a snack at the same time, he has a hard time getting a sentence out.

This can cause Holden a lot of stress, anxiety, him to have difficulty making a decision and forgetfulness.

Also, Holden’s right ear can hear better than his left, most likely because Holden is so left-brained.

So, what can we do for him?

First, purchase noise cancelling headphones and let him tune the world out occasionally while using his iPad. This will be especially useful after school to unwind, when his sisters are being loud or are upset, or in crowded and loud situations when he’s starting to feel overwhelmed.

We’ll talk into Holden’s right ear when we’re in a loud environment, and have him repeat what we said back to us.

We’ll also request that Holden’s school provide a small microphone for his teacher to wear, with speakers in the classroom. This will make her voice louder than the noise from the classroom.

These tips are just the start, and Holden might grow out of his APD by the time he’s a teenager. But, at this point, the emotion Holden and I are mostly feeling is relief. He’s feeling relieved that we’ve identified why he struggles with his hearing and I feel relieved to know the last piece of the puzzle.

Update: It’s been a few days since Holden’s appointment. We purchased noise cancelling headphones the next day and have been communicating with him in an entirely different way. Holden has been happier than I have seen him in a long time. Anytime he is about to spiral into anxiety, he has been able to regulate himself and we each know exactly what could be triggering his anxiety.



18 best Strategies for auditory processing disorders treatment

When the brain doesn’t interpret words or sounds correctly, but there is not a problem with an individual’s hearing. There is a reduced ability to discriminate, recognize, or comprehend auditory information with CAPD.


Treatment Options/Strategies

1)   Speech Therapy (Oral Reading and Comprehension, Working Memory Skills, Main Idea Skills, Idioms/Figures of Speech)

2)   Listening Systems (Fast Forward, Integrative Listening Systems, CogMed,  PACE (Processing and Cognitive Enhancement)

Aimed at establishing stronger neurological pathway connections,

Developing cognitive skills in areas of auditory and visual processing, working memory, processing speed, attention, logic and reasoning, and phonemic awareness.

3)   Visualization skills

-Vocabulary pictures

-Use internet to visualize vocabulary

-Drawing out in frames what you read

4)   Repetition in every day situation; Always ask the question “Do you know what that means?”  Give them time to think and answer, give clues to help before giving the entire explanation.

5)   Eating at the table increases vocabulary

6)   Writing things down increases memory skills

7)   Silly strategies that help with working memory (Trenton, NJ, acute and obtuse angles)

8)   Eye contact so that they can read lips as they listen as well (teacher and parent must face the child when talking to them)

9)   Test break down into one instruction per page format

10)  Recall games – “I went on a trip and I took ____ , _______, ______with me”

11)  Reading out loud (by themselves, with the family, etc.)

12)  Idioms (Visuals, Discuss and demonstrate, “put yourself in Dad’s  shoes” etc.)… and

13)   Show vs. Explain

14)   Manipulatives

15)    Vary pitch and tone of voice

16)    Ask question (specific) while teaching

17)   Have Students Verbalize Concepts

18)   Child should not be required to listen and write at the same time.



Children with Learning Problems Face Difficulty in Switching Listening Attention-Auditory Processing Disorders

A study conducted by the University of Sydney states that children who have learning problems in school are unable to switch their listening attention to another speaker, hence, they tend to lose track of the conversation.


The objective of the research was to find the reason why some students lag in studies despite having normal hearing, said co- author of the study, associate professor Simon Carlile.

Thirty-six participants were divided in three groups; 12 adults, 12 children with no learning problems and 12 kids with listening difficulties in noisy environments, but no diagnosis of a hearing disorder or other attention disorder.

“A wide battery of clinical tests indicated that children who complained of listening difficulties had otherwise normal hearing sensitivity and auditory processing skills,” Professor Simon said.

The study showed that these children were significantly slower to switch their attention compared to other students of their age.

“A deficit in the ability to switch attention across multiple talkers now provides the basis for this otherwise hidden listening disability, especially in noisy environments involving multiple talkers, such as classrooms. What we have done is provide a tool to diagnose a particular symptom that indicates an underlying problem that has been undiagnosed to date,” informed Professor Simon.

According to co-author, Dr Mridula Sharma, a senior lecturer and audiologist at Macquarie University, the research had answered a very puzzling problem.

“Children had been brought to audiologists by either their parents or teachers, who had done a whole heap of tests on them, only to not be able to diagnose the problem.”

She said before the study was conducted, only a third of the children presented at the audiology clinic at the university underwent diagnosis with Auditory Processing Disorder (APD).

“But two thirds of these children were being sent back home without a diagnosis on what the problem was. We knew there was something there; we just hadn’t worked out the right question to ask. We now have a real handle on what the problem is.”

However, associate professor Carlile said that although some attention disorders like ADHD can be cured with medications, it’s not clear whether the same technique can be used for the children with learning problems.

“We are now working on developing a simple clinical test to diagnose this differential hearing condition, and aim to make it available to audiologists,” he added.



Supreme Court to decide: What level of education do public schools legally owe to students with disabilities?

The U.S. Supreme Court is scheduled to hear arguments Wednesday in a dispute over the level of education that public schools must provide to millions of children with disabilities, a case that advocates describe as
the most significant special-education issue to reach the high court in three decades.

The question is whether public schools owe disabled children “some” educational benefit — which courts have determined to mean just-above-trivial progress — or whether students legally deserve something more: a substantial, “meaningful” benefit.

To advocates for children with disabilities, this should not be a difficult decision. Although the Supreme Court upheld the lower standard in 1982, Congress has since amended the federal Individuals With Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). The law — which outlines what states must do in return for receiving federal special-education funds — is meant not just to open the schoolhouse door to disabled children, they argue, but also to make sure that those children get an education that gives them a shot at equal opportunity, independent life and full participation in society.

That means schools must be required to provide students with a real, meaningful education, they argue. “I can’t even believe that this is really a question for the court to wrestle with,” said Gary Mayerson, a civil rights lawyer and board member of Autism Speaks, an advocacy organization.

The case to be heard Wednesday is Endrew F. v. Douglas County School District, brought by the family of a boy diagnosed with autism and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder. His conditions complicated his efforts to communicate and socialize, and that left him struggling with phobias and compulsive behaviors.

Endrew F., who goes by Drew, started attending schools in Douglas County — south of Denver — in preschool and began showing an increase in behavioral problems in the second grade, according to court records. He was yelling, crying and dropping to the floor. By fourth grade, the problems had become more frequent and severe; he was kicking walls, banging his head and bolting from the classroom. He went to the bathroom on the floor of a “calming room,” and he was able to escape from the school building and run into the street.

His parents said their son made almost no academic or social progress over that period, and they didn’t see a commitment from the district to find a solution. The goals in his Individualized Education Program (IEP) — a legally binding blueprint that laid out the services he would receive and the progress he was expected to make — hardly changed from year to year, according to court records, and there was little written evidence that he was making gains.

Drew’s parents withdrew him from public school at the end of fourth grade, in 2010, and placed him in a private school that specialized in educating children with autism. He made progress immediately, they said, achieving IEP goals in months that he had been working on for years.

It was a relief.

Drew, now 17, continues to attend the private school, his parents said, where he is learning vocational skills and preparing for life after high school.

Under federal law, Drew’s parents were entitled to seek reimbursement for the private school tuition, which approached $70,000 per year. But they had to prove that their son had been denied the “free appropriate public education” to which he had a right under federal special-education law. And to do so, they had to prove that he hadn’t been making adequate progress.

But the Douglas County School District disagreed, arguing that while Drew was not learning as quickly as his parents would have liked, he was making some progress — enough to satisfy the law.

The family lost its case before an administrative law judge in 2012. They lost again in a suit in U.S. District Court and a third time at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit.

“This is without question a close case,” Judge Timothy Tym­kovich wrote in his opinion for the 10th Circuit. It is clear, he continued, that Drew is thriving at the private school. “But it is not the District’s burden to pay for his placement there when Drew was making some progress under its tutelage. That is all that is required.”

The court’s endorsement of that low bar was a blow to Drew’s parents. “What is the point of the law, if it doesn’t help the child?” said his mother, Jennifer.

In their briefs to the Supreme Court, Drew and his family argued that schools should be obligated to provide children with disabilities with “substantially equal opportunities to achieve academic success, attain self-sufficiency and contribute to society.” They won the support of the Obama administration, whose Justice Department submitted an amicus brief calling on the high court to find a requirement that children have an opportunity to make “significant educational progress.”

More than 100 members of Congress also support Drew and his parents, arguing in an amicus brief that the just-above-trivial standard is “vanishingly low” and runs contrary to Congress’s intent in IDEA.

The Douglas County School District disagrees, arguing that the Supreme Court’s decision in a 1982 case, Board of Education v. Rowley, should stand. In that case, the court rejected the argument that schools owed disabled children an opportunity to maximize their potential. The justices ruled that Congress intended to ensure “some educational benefit” for children with disabilities, the standard that has been explicitly adopted by five Circuit Courts of Appeals.

“This Court answered the question presented 34 years ago,” lawyers for the school district wrote in a brief last month. “That decision was correct.”

(In Rowley, the justice also said that Congress intended to make “access meaningful” for students with disabilities, giving rise to the “meaningful” educational benefit standard that has been adopted by two circuits.)

The district’s supporters include the National School Boards Association and AASA, an association of district superintendents, which both argued that raising expectations of schools could encourage more litigation.

William E. Trachman, the district’s legal counsel, declined through a spokeswoman to discuss the facts of the case given the pending litigation.

“The District complies with every facet of federal law in making sure that students with special needs are not only provided services, but that educational experts and the student’s parents are maximally involved in the process, and that every Individualized Education Plan is personalized, holistic and ambitious,” Trachman said in a statement.



Auditory Processing Disorders;The Importance of Phonological Awareness for Reading Comprehension

Auditory processing disorder, often connected to weak language skills, also undermines phonological awareness, a critical reading fluency and comprehension skill. This is sometimes called phonological processing disorder.


, the ability to hear the individual sounds (phonemes) in words, is at the heart of reading, for fluency and for decoding efficiency that allows for sound reading comprehension skills.

Deciphering distinct phonemes, particularly blends such as |sp|, requires processing of up to 40 sounds a second. This is more demanding than the processing required for spoken language, where words are heard as whole sounds, and is beyond many children.

Phonological processing for reading requires:

  • Auditory discrimination: the ability to recognize differences in phonemes (sounds). This includes identifying words and sounds that are similar and those which are different.
  • Auditory memory: the ability to store and recall information which was given verbally.
  • Auditory sequencing: the ability to remember or reconstruct the order of items in a list or the order of sounds in a word or syllable.
  • Auditory blending: the process of putting together phonemes to form words. For example, the individual phonemes “c”, “a”, and “t” are blended to form the word “cat”.

While reading is a challenge for children with auditory processing disorder symptoms of auditory processing disorder, in reality, auditory processing delays in varying degrees are responsible for most reading difficulties.

These are cognitive delays best treated with brain training exercises, not word lists or extra instruction.

Our Reading Program

Many students struggle with reading from the start. Others run into problems only in later grades — they master decoding by 4th or 5th grade, but phonological processing delays necessitate an inefficient reading method that requires too much concentration, undermining reading comprehension.

Our program treats auditory processing and then methodically builds reading fluency and comprehension, step by step.