What is central auditory processing disorder?

Central auditory processing disorder.

 - A critical but not well known learning difficulty.
 - FAQ on auditory processing disorder and your child.

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What is Auditory Processing Disorder?

Your Questions About CAPD Answered

Auditory processing disorder (or central auditory processing disorder/ CAPD) is responsible for a wide range of learning and reading issues and yet it is unfamiliar to most parents. Here is what you need to know about an auditory processing disorder diagnosis.

What is Auditory Processing Disorder? A definition.

CAPD is a deficiency in the mental interpretation of auditory signals. If the ears and brain aren't fully coordinated in the processing of information, then a disorder or dysfunction exists.

Auditory processing disorder definition

This is different to hearing loss. A child may test normally on a hearing assessment, but have tremendous difficulty processing sounds in a meaningful way. Since so much learning is auditory, auditory processing disorder tends to delay reading and other learning skills.

Defining auditory processing deficits is complicated because cognitive skills are integrated and hard to separate. Learn more about how auditory processing deficits here and about auditory processing categories and sub types here.

What causes Central Auditory Processing Disorder?

While causes of Central Auditory Processing Disorder include head trauma, tumors, degenerative disorders, childhood viruses, recurring ear infections, oxygen deprivation and brain development issues, the most common cause is "none of the above."

In most cases, children simply struggle to develop the processing skill required for language and/or reading. Language requires lightning fast processing -- 40 sounds a second. In most cases, the child simply is not able to develop this level of processing skill naturally, leading to an auditory processing disorder diagnosis.

Why is Auditory Processing Disorder so common?

Auditory processing disorder affects 17-20% of the population, most often going undiagnosed as the cause of a reading or learning disability. Processing language at natural language speed is an extremely demanding skill. Most CAPD children do eventually learn to process accurately, but not efficiently, as is required for successful learning.

What are the symptoms of Auditory Processing Disorder?

The symptoms of central auditory processing disorder are diverse and often masked by other behaviors.
Signs of auditory processing disorder

What kinds of treatment exist?

There are three primary strategies: changing the learning or communication environment, compensating for the disorder, and direct treatment.

  • Environmental Change. Electronic devices that assist listening and/or moving children to the front of the class or out of situations where there is a lot of background noise are examples of strategies that alter the learning environment.

  • Compensatory Strategies. Active listening and reading strategies, such as extra phonics training, are compensatory strategies that help students work around their auditory processing difficulty.

  • Direct Treatment. This approach remediates the disorder itself, taking advantage of the brain's ability to adapt and change. Different strategies include computer-assisted auditory processing programs, listening programs and one-on-one therapies.
    Gemm Learning's auditory processing disorder treatment

Is auditory processing hard-wired or can it be improved?

The brain is plastic -- all cognitive skills can be strengthened if exercised appropriately. Of all cognitive skills, auditory processing may in fact be the easiest to improve, since it is possible to exercise processing using an auditory signal. Fast ForWord uses this approach.
How Fast ForWord software helps APD

Can APD cause dyslexia?

Yes. While sensory integration issues, attention deficits and sometimes visual processing difficulties are sometimes associated with dyslexia, by far the most common cause of dyslexia is an inability to process language with the accuracy and comfort required for reading.
APD and dyslexia

Quick Key Facts on Auditory Processing Disorder

Auditory processing disorder is thought of as a spoken language disorder only. But because inefficient processing occupies so much mind space, its impact on learning is far more serious. Here are some things you may not have known:

  • Auditory processing disorders are often referred to as central auditory processing disorders
  • Like all learning disabilities, auditory processing disorders can be a lifelong challenge if left untreated
  • Auditory processing disorders may run in families
  • Auditory processing disorders can affect a person's ability to interact socially

Auditory Processing Disorder & the School Day

What is auditory processing disorder

Enthusiasm for learning is inextricably tied to the daily educational experience. Auditory processing disorder can make for a miserable school day, it can erode confidence and undermine the love of learning we are all born with. Consider these classic CAPD symptoms:

  • If teacher is talking faster than your child can process, a lot is missed and trying to keep up is exhausting and frustrating. APD children will habitually miss huge chunks of information, misunderstand or simply tune out.

  • It may be hard to gather directions for homework assignments.

  • Nuances of peer conversation and jokes may be hard to pick up, creating social discomfort.

  • Reading is almost always affected by auditory processing difficulties, because it undermines development of phonological awareness required for fluent decoding, creating anxiety at reading time, reading math problems, etc.

These symptoms cause homework frustration and/or disappointing grades. In addition, auditory processing is the most fundamental of all skills. Language is our learning operating system. We think in English. Auditory processing disorder impacts dexterity and fluidity with language -- it slows down or creates noise in how we think.
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