My son as you all know, and for those of you that just started following me, has an autism diagnosis. He also has a sensory integration disorder diagnosis, but to add to the gambit, he was diagnosed with Auditory Processing Disorder last year. Most people do not understand what this means. Most educators do not understand that when children like my son are easily distracted it could be a number of things, but for my boy, he was diagnosed with APD. So let me break this down for you. My son has a sense of hearing that does not filter background noise. He cannot filter the very sounds that you and I drown out. A next-door neighbor’s child jumping up and down on a bed, a door slamming up a hallway, a teacher raising his or her voice to get a class to quiet down, he hears all of those things to include the train that may be on the tracks ten miles away from our house. His sense of hearing though keen and sometimes wonderful, also hinders him in the classroom.
Auditory Processing Disorder, for this post APD, is also referred to as Central Auditory Processing Disorder, or CAPD. It is a problem that affects 5% of school aged children and can not be tested for or diagnosed until the age of 7 or 8 and can range from mild to severe. Children with this disorder can not process the information that they are hearing because their brain and ears are not coordinating what they are experiencing. Some how, something gets in the way of their ability to recognize and interpret the sounds that they hear. Kids with APD do not hear the minor differences between the sounds in a word and this is even when the sound is loud enough and strong enough for them to hear. Many of these children have language delays and academic problems.
So most people think that these children are hearing impaired, they are quite the opposite, their hearing is normal, the problem that they have occurs in the noise in the background of the child’s normal environment. They do not have a loss of hearing, but they have sensitivity to the sound around them. If APD is not detected and managed early, these children fall through the cracks and can be misdiagnosed. It is very misunderstood and the behavior issues and problems often mimic those that appear in learning disabilities, ADD/ADHD, and even depression. My son’s teachers often ask me if he has been tested for ADD/ADHD because of my diagnosis and my daughter’s diagnosis’. Basically, there is not a school yea that has gone by that I have not had to get ADD/ADHD screenings for him.
If you think that your child has the symptoms of APD, you can get them in with an audiologist. This was difficult for my child because of his primary diagnosis of Autism. I did however fight and work to find an audiologist in Charlotte, North Carolina that was willing to do the initial part of the test, which was a two-part test. She told me the first meeting that “…if it is just Autism, I will not ask you back for the second portion.” After the first two hours with her, she scheduled his second appointment.