Central Auditory Processing Disorder (CAPD), also known as Auditory Processing Disorder (APD) is a learning difference where people have difficulty with listening to and processing spoken language. A person’s hearing may be fine, but they have difficulty making sense of what they hear. The brain misinterprets what is heard; therefore a child’s response may seem off target or not what their communication partner expected it to be. The term CAPD or APD refers to how the Central Nervous System processes auditory information. APD is not a result of a higher-order cognitive, language, or related disorder. For example, children diagnosed with autism may have receptive language difficulties due a higher order global disorder, rather than due to a central nervous system processing disorder. Those diagnosed with Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder may have trouble with comprehending and recalling verbalizations. This may be due to difficulty remaining focused and attending, rather than to a neural processing disorder.
CAPD may be suspected by a Speech/Language Specialist, but is diagnosed by a series of tests that are administered by an audiologist, no earlier than the age of 7. An audiologist will first determine if a child’s hearing acuity is within normal limits. The audiologist will evaluate a person’s ability to understand and recall speech in quiet as compared to the presence of background noise, and how each ear performs when it receives these messages. The ability to decode or understand sounds, combine sounds, listen for a pattern, and determine where a sound is coming from, is assessed.
If a diagnosis of CAPD is made, a Speech/Language Specialist will be helpful in not only providing therapy but also by affording in-class support to the teaching team. A whole class or personal FM system is often beneficial. FM systems allow the child to hear a teacher’s voice more clearly and loudly while making background noises less problematic. Rock Brook School uses both personal and whole-class FM systems when appropriate.
Strategies that can be employed both in the classroom and at home include the following:
- Have the child sit in the front row or close to the source of the sound.
- Reduce background noises when possible. For example turn off the TV or computer when giving directions to your child.
- Always get a child’s attention, “eyes on me” when speaking.
- Use visual aides to assist in understanding such as tangible items, gestures, pictures, or printed words.
- Speak slowly and in short phrases rather than using long complicated sentences.
- Have your child repeat the directions you have given. Keep them short and one-step, at least initially. For children that can read, write the directions on paper or use their iPad to record directions in pictures/words.
- Repeat and re-phrase information if the message is misunderstood.
- Teach your child to be a self-advocate!