woman in red shirt wearing black mask

What are the signs of auditory processing disorder (APD)?

Auditory processing is how the brain understands and makes sense of the information that comes through the ears.

When the brain doesn't process sound fast enough, it misses a lot of information, especially what someone might be saying to you.

It's not a hearing problem as it is not related to volume.

But because it interferes with how a child acquires language, it can affect how the brain gets wired for language, learning and communication.

An auditory processing disorder is likely to exist if there is difficulty beyond the relevant age milestones for:

  • following instructions
  • speech
  • spelling
  • learning new words
  • reading fluency
  • reading comprehension
  • repeating an order of events in the correct order
  • executive function (self-management)
  • finishing tasks on time
  • being organised
  • mixes speech sounds and says "hop si tal" instead of hospital for example

Auditory processing can exist on its own but can also be part of the neurodiverse spectrum:

  • dyslexia
  • autism spectrum
  • attention deficit
  • DCD/dyspraxia
  • developmental language disorder
  • dyscalculia (difficulty reading numbers)
  • dysgraphia (difficulty with handwriting)

Other indicators of an auditory processing disorder are:

  • challenged with learning and/or reading, even without a diagnosis
  • avoids reading
  • may be able to read, but has difficulty with spelling and/or comprehension
  • suffered stress or trauma during pregnancy and/or early childhood
  • had ear infections, glue ear or had grommets in early childhood
  • had delayed speech or a stutter in early childhood
  • trouble focusing in noisy environments, like classrooms
  • complain that they are "dumb" or "stupid"
  • doesn't quite get the rhythm or timing in jokes, poetry and social banter
  • symptoms worsen with stress
  • "masking" behaviours such as pretending to make or keep eye contact, or developing 'rehearsed' social interactions
  • was not spoken to or read to enough as a baby
  • seems immature or lacking in self control and organisation
  • can find listening on the phone difficult (especially when acquiring speech ages 1-4)
  • may start school on par with peers but fall behind as academic demands increase
  • decreasing confidence academically and/or socially
  • changes in behaviour such as becoming quieter, acting out, becoming depressed or anxious
  • avoids homework and/or school
  • struggling socially, is being bullied, teased or excluded
  • learning in English as a second language
  • passed a hearing test, but you still feel they don't hear well
  • frequently asks "what?" or "huh?"
  • needs constant reminding
  • parents/family also struggled with school and/or reading, but managed to "get by"

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