A few weeks ago, Koko was diagnosed with Auditory Processing Disorder, also known as APD. I took him for a hearing test because our main concern was that he kept telling us he didn’t hear what we said to him if he wasn’t looking us or got distracted.
The audiologist did a fantastic job in working out what the problem is and allaying my concerns. Koko’s hearing is the best she has ever seen in all her years of working, so his ears aren’t the problem. The problem comes in when there are a myriad of sounds and when we speak to him, the signal from his ears doesn’t make it to the brain. He struggles to distinguish between sounds. For instance, if he is watching TV and we are speaking, he turns it up louder and louder and drown out any other sounds.
Koko went from being my child who “doesn’t listen and follow instructions”, to the child I have always known he is. We have learned what we need to do in order to get him to hear us. Getting all of us to understand that he has to make eye contact with us, was a challenge in the beginning.
Our audiologist has said that homeschooling is the best environment for him as there are less distractions and we can tailor the environment to suit his needs. Had he been in the school system, she said that hearing aids, to help him distinguish sounds, would have been the only option. Thankfully he doesn’t need that at this stage, but should it become more of a problem, it will be our next course of action. So we will continue to monitor him at home and in other environments to see how he is coping.
I have found that implementing some of the suggestions below have helped me communicate better with him (and Papa Steve, who has the same problems, so it’s definitely genetic in this case, as per the audiologist).
What can we do to help?
There are a number of strategies that can help people with APD.
Auditory training involves using special activities to help train your brain to analyse sound better. You can do this on your own, with the help of an audiologist, or by using a computer programme or CD.
It involves a range of tasks, such as identifying sounds and guessing where they’re coming from, or trying to focus on specific sounds when there’s some slight background noise.
The tasks can be adapted for people of different ages, with children often learning through games or by reading with their parents.
Changes at home or school
Be aware of room acoustics and how it can affect your ability to hear. Rooms with hard surfaces will cause echoes, so rooms with carpets and soft furnishings are best.
Switch off any radios or televisions and move away from any noisy devices, such as fans.
If your child has problems hearing, talk to school staff about changes that may help them, such as sitting near the teacher, using visual aids and reducing background noise.
Your child may also benefit from wearing a radio receiver or having a speaker on their desk at school, which is connected wirelessly to a small microphone worn by their teacher.
Alternatively, a speaker system in the class that’s connected to the teacher’s microphone may help your child hear their teacher over any background noise.
Help from others
It may be useful to tell other people about your hearing problems and let them know what they can do to help you hear more clearly.
Ask them to:
* get your attention and face you before they talk
* speak clearly and at a normal pace (not too fast or too slow)
* emphasise their speech to highlight the key points of the message
* repeat or rephrase the message if necessary
Other strategies that might be particularly useful when talking to children with APD include:
* not covering your mouth when talking to them
* not using long sentences when you talk
* using pictures to help them understand what you mean
So what is Auditory Processing Disorder?
Auditory processing disorder (APD), also known as central auditory processing disorder (CAPD), is a hearing problem that affects about 5% of school-aged children.
APD can affect people in many different ways. A child with APD may appear to have a hearing impairment, but this isn’t usually the case and testing often shows their hearing is normal.
It can affect your ability to:
*understand speech – particularly if there’s background noise, more than one person speaking, the person is speaking quickly, or the sound quality is poor
*distinguish similar sounds from one another – such as “shoulder versus soldier” or “cold versus called”
*concentrate when there’s background noise – this can lead to difficulty understanding and remembering instructions, as well as difficulty speaking clearly and problems with reading and spelling
Many people with APD find it becomes less of an issue over time as they develop the skills to deal with it.
Although children may need extra help and support at school, they can be as successful as their classmates.
What are the symptoms?
Is your child easily distracted or unusually bothered by loud or sudden noises?
Are noisy environments upsetting to your child?
Does your child’s behavior and performance improve in quieter settings?
Does your child have difficulty following directions, whether simple or complicated?
Does your child have reading, spelling, writing, or other speech-language difficulties?
Are verbal (word) math problems difficult for your child?
Is your child disorganized and forgetful?
Are conversations hard for your child to follow?
APD is often misunderstood because many of the behaviors noted above also can accompany other problems, like learning disabilities, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and even depression.