What are auditory processing disorders:
The term auditory processing means ‘what you do with what you hear’. It is estimated that 5-10% school children and many adults have undue difficulty in understanding speech and/or follow instructions, even though their hearing ability is perfectly within normal range. This could be a result of what’s known as ‘auditory processing disorder’ or APD. Often, children with APD will struggle with their speech/language abilities and/or academic performance. At the same time, adults will suffer from issues in listening in noisy environment at home or work.
In its very broadest sense, APD refers to how the central nervous system (CNS) uses auditory information. However, the CNS is vast and also is responsible for functions such as memory, attention, and language, among others. To avoid confusing APD with other disorders that can affect a person’s ability to attend, understand, and remember, it is important to emphasize that APD is an auditory deficit that is not the result of other higher-order cognitive, language, or related disorder.
APD may coexist with some other problems such as ADHD, autistic spectrum disorder and dyslexia. For many children and adults with these disorders and others – including mental retardation and sensory integration dysfunction – the listening and comprehension difficulties we often see are due to the higher-order, more global or all-encompassing disorder and not to any specific deficit in the neural processing of auditory stimuli per se.
To diagnose APD, the audiologist will administer a series of tests. These tests require listeners to attend to a variety of signals and to respond to them via repetition, pushing a button, or in some other way. Other tests that measure the auditory system’s physiologic responses to sound may also be administered. Most of the tests of APD require that a child be at least 7 or 8 years of age because the variability in brain function is so marked in younger children that test interpretation may not be possible.
Check this link for further information on the type of tests used: http://www.audiologyplanet.com/auditory-processing-disorder/
It is important to understand that there is not one, sure-fire, cure-all method of treating APD. Notwithstanding anecdotal reports of “miracle cures” available in popular literature or on the internet, treatment of APD must be highly individualized and deficit-specific. No matter how successful a particular therapy approach may have been for another child, it does not mean that it will be effective for your child. Therefore, the key to appropriate treatment is accurate and careful diagnosis by an audiologist. Treatment of APD generally focuses on three primary areas:
- Changing the learning or communication environment,
- Recruiting higher-order skills to help compensate for the disorder, and
- Remediation of the auditory deficit itself.
Compensatory strategies usually consist of suggestions for assisting listeners in strengthening central resources (language, problem-solving, memory, attention, other cognitive skills) so that they can be used to help overcome the auditory disorder. In addition, many compensatory strategy approaches teach children with APD to take responsibility for their own listening success or failure and to be an active participant in daily listening activities through a variety of active listening and problem-solving techniques.
Finally, direct treatment of APD seeks to remediate the disorder, itself. There exist a wide variety of treatment activities to address specific auditory deficits. Some may be computer- assisted, others may include one-on-one training with a therapist. Sometimes home-based programs are appropriate whereas others may require children to attend therapy sessions in school or at a local clinic. Once again, it should be emphasized that there is no one treatment approach that is appropriate for all children with APD. The type, frequency, and intensity of therapy, like all aspects of APD intervention, should be highly individualized and programmed for the specific type of auditory disorder that is present. The degree to which an individual child’s auditory deficits will improve with therapy cannot be determined in advance. Whereas some children with APD experience complete amelioration of their difficulties or seem to “grow out of” their disorders, others may exhibit some residual degree of deficit forever. However, with appropriate intervention, all children with APD can learn to become active participants in their own listening, learning, and communication success rather than hapless (and helpless) victims of an insidious impairment. Thus, when the journey is navigated carefully, accurately, and appropriately, there can be light at the end of the tunnel for the millions of children afflicted with APD.
- APD is an auditory disorder that is not the result of higher-order, more global deficit such as autism, mental retardation, attention deficits, or similar impairments.
- Not all learning, language, and communication deficits are due to APD.
- No matter how many symptoms of APD a child has, only careful and accurate diagnosis can determine if APD is, indeed, present.
- Although a multidisciplinary team approach is important in fully understanding the cluster of problems associated with APD, the diagnosis of APD can only be made by an audiologist.
- Treatment of APD is highly individualized. There is no one treatment approach that is appropriate for all children with APD.
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