Kids with auditory processing disorder (APD) can struggle to recognize subtle differences in the sounds of words. This can create challenges, like mishearing directions in class or being easily distracted by background noise. But assistive technology (AT) can be a big help.
There are lots of AT tools that can help kids with APD deal with everyday challenges. Some tools can amplify important sounds, like the teacher’s voice. Others can minimize background noise to help kids follow what’s being said.
If you’re looking for AT for your child, it can be hard to know where to start. Here’s a guide to AT tools for auditory processing disorder, and where to find them.
Types of Assistive Technology Tools for Auditory Processing Disorder
Here are some of the most helpful AT tools for auditory processing disorder.
- Personal listening devices (PLD) can help kids hear a teacher’s voice more clearly. With a PLD, the teacher wears a clip-on wireless microphone. The mic transmits her voice directly to a student’s personal speaker or earpiece. Some PLDs are called frequency modulation (FM) listening systems because they rely on the same FM frequencies radio stations use. Some newer PLDs use Wi-Fi or Bluetooth to transmit a voice.
- Sound field systems are specialized speaker systems for classrooms, which often have sound issues. There may be areas where sound echoes or is muffled. A sound field system broadcasts the teacher’s voice to speakers placed in certain locations in the room. This helps to distribute the teacher’s voice evenly throughout the classroom, so all students can hear it well. Some systems include a pass-around microphone for kids to use during class discussions.
- Noise-canceling headphones can help block out background noise for kids who are sensitive to sound. Kids may find it helpful to connect their headphones to a white noise app that plays sounds like rain or static. If kids need to listen to audio, they can listen through the headphones to help filter out distracting background noises.
- Audio recorders allow kids to record classroom lectures or discussions. This way they can listen to a lecture several times if they didn’t comprehend it well enough the first time. It also may help to be able to pause the recording or play it at a slower speed to improve understanding. Some note-taking apps or devices allow kids to synchronize their handwritten or typed notes to an audio recording. This can make it easier to navigate an audio recording.
- Captioning allows kids to read text that matches what’s being said. This can make it easier for kids with APD to understand spoken language. A classic example is closed captioning on television. Movies and some Internet videos, like those on YouTube, also offer captioning. Keep in mind that captioning may not be helpful if your child has reading issues.
- Text-to-speech (TTS) software lets kids see text and hear it read aloud at the same time. Kids click on or highlight words, and the words are read by a computer-generated voice. This may help kids with APD who also struggle with reading skills, such as decoding. Some kids may have trouble understanding certain TTS voices. If this happens, experiment with different voices and reading speeds to see which ones work best. Another option is audiobooks, which use human voices for narration.
Where to Get Assistive Technology for Auditory Processing Disorder
Some of the AT tools mentioned above are individual items that are easy to find. For instance, you can buy audio recorders and headphones at an electronics store.
Many AT tools are also available on various computer platforms for assistive technology. Some may be built in to your child’s device. For example, she can use built-in TTS on her mobile device, desktop, laptop or Chromebook.
However, you may need to contact a specialized company for devices like a sound field system or a personal listening device. You can also ask about whether your child’s school will provide these tools.
Note-taking apps and devices can be downloaded or purchased online. Explore Tech Finder to find age-specific apps for your child.
Captioning is an AT tool that’s available on most TV programs. The same is true for most websites that have videos.
If you don’t know where to start, read what an expert has to say about the first AT your child should try. Explore free online AT tools, and find out where to find free audiobooks. Learn more about assistive technology for reading.