Is Your Child Affected by Auditory Processing Disorder?

Auditory processing disorder (APD), also known as central auditory processing disorder (CAPD), has received an increased amount of public attention over the last few years. Any time awareness about a relatively unknown condition increases, misconceptions abound. So, what exactly is APD and could it be affecting your child?

What Is Auditory Processing Disorder?

APD is a hearing impairment located in the central nervous system. We are used to thinking about hearing impairments in terms of hearing loss. However, people with APD can hear just fine. Their hearing system breaks down when it comes to picking out and transporting the sounds and tone of what someone has said from other, unimportant background noises. Auditory messages can be incomplete, jumbled, mashed together and ultimately frustrating.

Jack Katz, M.D., an expert in the field of auditory processing disorder, breaks down APD into three overlapping, though sometimes separate, conditions:

Language processing problems.

Perhaps the most impairing aspect of APD is the effect it can have on a person’s ability to process the spoken word in conversation. A child may be hesitant to participate in class or talk with peers. These activities require too much effort to try and process what is being said and generate a reply.

Auditory memory problems.

Verbal instructions are a particular challenge to process, hold onto and execute. Children struggling with auditory memory will have a difficult time learning math facts, phone numbers and addresses.

Sound discrimination problems.

It is confusing to try and listen when words run together or the ends of words are dropped. Often times, children who have this particular problem end up using similar sounding words instead of the exact word far longer than age appropriate. For example, saying “free” instead of “three” or “berry” instead of “very.”

Although auditory processing disorder cannot be diagnosed through a series of checklists, it is helpful to recognize the signs of APD. An audiologist who specializes in auditory processing is the best person to make the diagnosis.

Some Signs of Auditory Processing Disorder

  • Forgets basic math facts
  • Often needs things repeated
  • Talks or likes the TV louder than others
  • Develops speech late
  • Confuses similar sounding words
  • May appear to ignore people when engaged in something
  • Isn’t interested in books
  • Struggles to pay attention in conversations
  • Drops the ending syllable of words
  • Struggles learning to read
  • Mishears often
  • Forgets names
  • Struggles working in groups because of the noise level
  • Is highly sensitive to sounds

As you read through this list, other processing or attention related disorders may come to mind. Auditory processing disorder is often mistaken as attention deficit disorder (ADD) and can mimic some of the characteristics of autism. It can be especially tricky to differentiate when the disorders are occurring at the same time. The difference with ADD is that the auditory processing relationship to the central nervous system is functioning normally. It is the attention challenge that is affecting a person’s ability to accurately process auditory input. In the case of autism, Dr. Teri James Bellis, author of the wonderful resource, When The Brain Can’t Hear, refers to it as a higher order global deficit that causes difficulty in processing spoken language.

Getting a proper diagnosis plays an important role in determining the best course of treatment for helping a child (or adult) to achieve more of what they want in life and school.


If you have been around learning challenges for long, you know there are no sure-bet cures that work for everyone. It seems the best course of treatment is a conglomeration of many different therapies or techniques, and the more school and home can partner together and consistently use them, the better. Auditory processing disorder treatment is no different. In addition to therapies recommended by the audiologist, there are things that can be done both at school and at home to boost deficit skill acquisition, compensation skills, and general environmental changes.


Individual teachers can help by seating a student closer to the speaker, making sure unnecessary sounds are eliminated, and allowing a child to work with headphones. Even adding rugs to an echoing room can make a difference.

Some schools, such as Pathway, have programs that will help children with auditory processing specifically. Fast ForWord is a computer-based program that works on sound discrimination, auditory memory, and overall language processing.


Be sure to face your child and speak slowly when trying to communicate something important. It is important to ensure that you have your child’s full attention by turning off the TV, dishwasher or air conditioner if those or other appliances are running in the background. Encourage your child to ask you to repeat something he or she did not understand. Helping your children to take ownership of their listening and understanding of oral communication may be the biggest help you can offer.

If you would like an audiologist referral please contact us or visit


Bellis, Teri James. “Auditory Processing Disorders (APD) in Children.” American Speech Language Hearing Association. N.p., n.d. Web. 30 May 2015.

Patton, Judith W. “Living and Working with a Central Auditory Processing Disorder (CAPD).” LDonline. N.p., n.d. Web. 30 May 2015.

Scherer, Priscilla. “Is It ADHD or Auditory Processing Disorder?” ADDitude Magazine. N.p., n.d. Web. 30 May 2015.

“What Is APD?” Ncapd. National Coalition of Auditory Processing Disorders, n.d. Web. 30 May 2015.

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