Auditory processing disorder (also known as central auditory processing disorder or CAPD) is a condition that makes it hard for kids to recognize subtle differences between sounds in words. It affects their ability to process what other people are saying. Here are the signs of auditory processing disorder (APD) and suggestions for how you can help your child.
What is auditory processing disorder?
Your child passes a hearing test, but is diagnosed with auditory processing disorder (APD). How is it possible to have an auditory disorder when you don’t have a hearing impairment?
Children with APD typically have normal hearing. But they struggle to process and make meaning of sounds. This is especially true when there are background noises.
Researchers don’t fully understand where things break down between what the ear hears and what the brain processes. But the result is clear: Kids with APD can have trouble making sense of what other people say.
Typically the brain processes sounds seamlessly and almost instantly. Most people can quickly interpret what they hear. But with APD, some kind of glitch delays or “scrambles” that process. To a child with APD, “Tell me how the chair and the couch are alike” might sound like “Tell me how a cow and hair are like.”
Many conditions, including ADHD and autism, can affect a child’s ability to listen and understand what they hear. What makes APD different is that the problem lies with understanding the sounds of spoken language, not the meaning of what’s being said.
Some educators and other professionals question or doubt a diagnosis of APD. Not all professionals see it as a specific disorder. The medical profession didn’t start seriously studying APD in children until 1977. Three decades later, there’s still confusion about APD.
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How common is auditory processing disorder?
The number of children with APD is estimated to be 2 to 7 percent. Some experts estimate that boys are twice as likely as girls to have auditory processing disorder, but there’s no solid research to prove that.
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What causes auditory processing disorder?
The exact causes of APD are still unknown. Research suggests possible links to several factors. These include premature birth or low birth weight, head trauma, chronic ear infections and lead poisoning.
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