Starting school can be a daunting experience for most children, but for some, it can become altogether stressful. Auditory Processing Disorder (APD) is often an undiagnosed difficulty for children who struggle with understanding in class. More specifically, despite not having any hearing loss, children with APD struggle to make their brain process the sounds it is hearing. Because of this, they may lose focus and have trouble learning. But with an early diagnosis, a lot can be done to help these children have a normal and fulfilled life in class and at home.
Some of the main symptoms of APD relate to the noise levels around children and how they react to them. Children can hear clearly enough but find they struggle to understand when in noisy environments. This can include a noisy classroom, the playground, a restaurant or at parties. Most of the time it is diagnosed in children starting school because the change of environment is where the symptoms first become apparent. Children find that they aren’t performing as well as their classmates and don’t understand why. They can get very fatigued trying to make sense of what is being said, eventually becoming frustrated or withdrawn.
If your child is showing these signs of struggle, it may be worth looking out for other APD symptoms. Is your child easily distracted or bothered by loud noises? Do they get upset in noisy environments and behave and perform better in quieter locations? Do they have trouble following directions or conversations? Do they show speech-language difficulties, such as mixing up words often? While there is no exact reason for APD to develop, some causes can include head trauma, ear infections and lead poisoning. It is also most common in children with a history of otitis media (glue ear).
Early diagnosis is key to helping children with APD, so if you think your child may be showing symptoms, contact an audiologist. Through a series of tests, an audiologist will be able to determine whether there is an APD. These will include memory tests, comparing similar words and sounds, or checking their capacity to make lists.
If the diagnostic is positive for APD, your audiologist will look at several solutions with you. While there is no cure for APD, some easy changes to their surroundings can go a long way to help. Speak to their teachers so they are aware of the situation. They may need to change a seating plan so your child is sitting at the front. When studying at home, ensure they have a quiet study area free from distracting noises. When speaking to them, as much as possible, try to face the child so they can interpret words better. Your audiologist may also recommend programmes which help re-teach the brain to process sound.
Auditory Processing Disorder can affect about 5% of children. Through easy daily life changes can become less prominent. If your child is exhibiting the symptoms, it is important to check early to offer them the best support possible. So if you think your child may need to have an Auditory Processing check, please call your local Falls of Sound clinic at 3378 5999 for Indooroopilly or 5443 8993 for Maroochydore.