If your child is having trouble focusing in class and making out words that an instructor speaks, you may want to investigate the possibility of auditory processing disorder, also known as APD. This is a disorder in which children (and some adults) find that they can't process what they are hearing because of a disconnection between their auditory system and their brain. Here are some basic things to know about APD before you speak to your child's paediatrician about what to do next.
It Scrambles the Ability To Understand Sounds -- Children with APD don't have trouble hearing, but what happens is that the way their brains process those words scrambles their meaning. So for example, a teacher may say to a student, "Clean up your desk," but the child processes those words as "Seen up your whisk," which makes no sense, but is how the child's brain processed the original words. So although APD is an auditory disorder, it is not one in which sufferers can't hear properly.
There Are Several Symptoms -- Typically, a child with APD will show several signs of the disorder, including the inability to make out sounds when there is background noise, the inability to remember words that were just spoken, the inability to remember or repeat words in sequence, the inability to follow directions and a struggle with reading and spelling. All of these symptoms are associated with the disconnect between the hearing of the words, and the way in which the brain processes those words. Children who have APD often can't communicate in clear sentences, and their speech may be difficult to understand.
It Is Properly Diagnosed By An Audiologist -- Although you will first take your child to a paediatrician when you notice the symptoms of APD, a true diagnosis can only be made by an audiologist with a specialty in APD. An audiologist is a healthcare professional who is trained to diagnose disorders related to hearing and balance. They are often called upon to analyse patients for devices such as hearing aids, but they can also identify common disorders such as APD and tinnitus (ringing in the ear), and more serious disorders that may require cochlear implants to restore hearing. Audiologists detect APD through a combination of hearing tests, neurological tests, behavioural tests and speech tests. Audiologists may also consult with speech-language pathologists to administer listening comprehension tests to help diagnose APD.