Difficulty at school may be a sign of an Auditory Processing Disorder

Auditory processing disorders (APDs), which affect roughly 5 percent of school-aged children, make it difficult for the brain to recognize, interpret and process information that is heard.

Often diagnosed at a young age, children with APDs have difficulty listening and paying attention, remembering oral direction, successfully performing in school, behavioral problems and inability to process information quickly.


There are four types of APDs: decoding, memory, integration and organization.


Auditory decoding deficits are the most common, causing information to be processed incorrectly and slowly. Children with this type of APD may mis-hear or confuse certain words and sounds.


Auditory memory deficits make it difficult to recall what was heard, whether it is short-term or long-term.


Children who have auditory integration deficits have difficulty extracting information that is obtained from multiple types of media. For example, they struggle to do an activity when someone tells them how to do it instead of showing them.


Finally, organizational deficits make it hard to process information that requires multiple steps or directions. Children are able to gather all the information, but they can’t organize it in a way that makes sense.


“To determine the type of APD a child may have, audiologists perform several tests, beginning with a comprehensive hearing evaluation,” says Elena Ballezzi, Au.D., clinical director of the Hearing Center at Somers Point. “From there, we can perform several different tests, including random gap detection to look for temporal resolution; dichotic digits to look for binaural integration; sentence tests for viral separation; pitch pattern sequences to test temporal patterning; phonemic synthesis for phonemic coding; and/or staggered dynamic word tests.”


Each of these tests determines what part of the brain is having the most trouble and helps audiologists diagnose the type of APD. Once the problem causing the APD is identified, audiologists work with patients to teach ways to cope with the disorder.


“We don’t necessarily provide therapy to patients with APDs. Instead, we help them develop coping methods, giving them the tools to succeed while they work on growing out of it,” says Dr. Ballezzi. “Each patient responds differently to suggested coping methods, so there are a lot of them! It can be anything from preferential seating in the classroom, pre-teaching new information, encouraging self-advocacy, using the buddy system or requesting instructional transitions. We even have iPad apps that can help them work on their processing of information.”


For those with organizational deficits, coping methods include tools to help patients stay organized, such as using outlines, color-coding, periodic checks for long-term projects and providing written instruction.


“We work with schools to implement the patient’s individualized treatments and coping methods into their classroom,” says Dr. Ballezzi. “The goal is to help the child learn the best way to cope with the disorder and improve classroom performance and behavior.”


To learn more about APD or to schedule an appointment at the Hearing Center, please call 609-601-8590.


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