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Could APD Be Behind Your Child’s Low Self-Esteem?

Geoff Nixon

By Geoff Nixon

Auditory Processing Disorder and Low Self-Esteem

All children are prone to a lack of confidence from time to time, but those with low self-esteem are unhappy or not satisfied with themselves much of the time.  A common source of low self-esteem is undiagnosed learning difficulties, with auditory processing delays being the most common of those.

Low self-esteem is showing up in a growing portion of our young population as the strains and stresses of school life escalate.  While there is no quick fix, there are concrete steps a parent can take to help their child get to a better place.

Symptoms of Low Self-Esteem

The hallmark symptoms of low-self-esteem are fear and anxiety–fear that they will make embarrassing mistakes and anxiety around not measuring up.

Many children with low self-esteem are hyper-sensitive–they assume others see the lack of adequacy they feel, and so are on the lookout for signs of this and so will often over-react.

Children with low self-esteem are also prone to bouts of depression and panic attacks, where their fears temporarily become over-whelming.

Consequences of Low Self-Esteem

Children with low self-esteem tend to develop compensatory behaviors that can create a negative cycle, tending to prolong or intensify the self-esteem issue:

  1. Poor Social Skills.  A lack of self-esteem can come across as shyness or aloofness–children will avoid social interaction where a wrong word is perceived as disaster.
  2. Lack of Risk Taking In Learning. Low expectations of good outcomes and fear of making a fool of oneself, will often lead to an unwillingness to take a chance.  Every new skill in school is considered a new way to fail.
  3. Extremes in Over or Under-Achievement.  At one end a fear of failure or rejection can lead to a lack of effort. Alternatively, some children with low self-esteem will go all out, proving to themselves that they worthy.

A child with low self-esteem may not believe that they deserve to be treated well. This can lead to poor choices in peer relationships. In addition, they may not stand up for themselves or ask for help if they are being bullied. Children with low self-esteem may develop depression, anger, or anxiety due to repeated failures. They may engage in negative behaviors or give in to peer-pressure.  PsychCentral reports that children with learning difficulties often internalize the negative experiences associated with their learning difficulties.

Causes of Low Self-Esteem

There are any number of factors that can cause low self-esteem that really are beyond the control of you or your child.  These include medical issues or ongoing life stress from financial difficulties or relationship breakdowns.

And then there is the poor reactions to their behavior in the world around them.  Many children, particularly girls, with learning issues feel they are flawed, dumb, or broken.  It is also not uncommon for the defensive behaviors that stem from low self-esteem to be read by others as laziness or a lack of caring.  These children receive numerous negative or corrective comments from parents, teachers, and others. When a child is talked down to or put down on a regular basis, this can lead to low self-esteem, says PsychCentral.

Another common source of low self-esteem is a diagnosed learning difficulty, such as APD, dyslexia or ADHD.  The positive news here is that you’ve discovered the a source of difficulty, which you can address.  If you are able to resolve the underlying difficulty or even reduce the symptoms, there is every possibility the low self-esteem can be helped.

Low Self-Esteem and Undiagnosed APD

Most troublesome of all for parent and child with low self-esteem is the undiagnosed learning difficulty.  This occurs when a smart child–bright, inquisitive, energetic–enters the school system and gradually loses traction.  The child feels the weight of expectation from parents, teachers and peers but finds it hard to deliver.

Because they perceive their child as smart and capable, parents can see the behaviors associated with low self-esteem as unwarranted and seek to correct them, often adding to the problem.  From the child’s perspective, knowing her parents’ expectations, she feels the extra anxiety of knowing deep-down that she is not going to be able to deliver.

Far and away the most under-recognized and undiagnosed learning difficulty is auditory processing disorder (APD).  The delay is often mild, but an auditory processing delay nevertheless.  The reason that APD is such a widely undiagnosed learning difficulty is that it is an exacting skill (language requires processing at  40 sounds a second) and language is at the center of all learning–reading, listening in class, and comprehension of all kinds.

APD, this inability to makes sense of what is being heard, weakens phonemic awareness which makes reading a chore and makes listening in class–particularly a noisy class–exhausting.  Sometimes this is diagnosed as inattentive ADD (ADHD-PI), but most of the time it is not diagnosed at all.

One of the most common symptoms of APD is poor, somewhat unexplained, performance in school due to the listening and reading inefficiencies it causes.  While everything appears normal on the outside, the extra concentration required to hear the sounds inside words for reading–and to make sense of the teacher’s ever more complex lessons–eventually takes its toll. As the grades roll by, the learning inefficiencies caused by APD get harder and harder to counteract.  Feelings of doubt emerge and a low self-esteem cycle takes hold.

Helping Your APD Child Build Self-Esteem

If the above scenario resonates–smart child, falling short a little at school, suffering bouts of low self-esteem–there are two steps you can take to help them develop confidence and self-assurance:

  1. Validate their feelings
  2. Work on the underling learning difficulty

#1. Don’t Educate, Validate

Children with APD often hear lots of negative feedback from teachers, parents, and peers. Because they struggle to hear things in class, they are often called out for not paying attention.  In time, children with APD internalize these messages. If they have grown accustomed to hearing these things, they tend to believe them.

This is the crux of the problem: the child feels inadequate, but the parents see it as an attitude issue they can correct with a bit of good old positive reinforcement.  In the process, parents often run rough-shod over their child’s feelings.

As described best by Dr. Dan Siegel in the book Parenting From The Inside Out it is important to let your child own these feelings.  To make a true connection with your child, listen to what a child has to say, respect his experience and avoiding “educating” or even worse, telling him directly or indirectly that what he thinks and feels is not valid.

By developing a true connection, you can help your child see things more accurately.  Again, not by telling him how it is, but by listening and providing validation that gives him the confidence to keep working through his fears and anxieties.

Needless to say, it is also important to show understanding.  Low self-esteem is not voluntary–it’s the out-growth of a combination of external and internal factors in your child’s make-up.  Negative feedback, such as criticizing your child’s behavior or yelling at them, often won’t change their behavior.

Similarly, falsely positive feel-good platitudes are not helpful either. If you are going to praise, consider the old “1 Minute Manager” technique–catch your child doing something good each day and praise her for the positive choice or action and explain why it is positive.

#2. Tackle the APD Or Learning Difficulty

For most children, school is the most important thing in their lives. It’s what occupies most of their day and it is a huge focus of their parents’ attention.  As we have discussed, a lot of self-esteem issues stem from poor academic performance, and very often, this is due to diagnosed or undiagnosed learning issues with APD being the most common.

If the underlying learning issues can be resolved, self-esteem can be improved.

There are a number of programs that address learning issues by tackling the root cause.  For anything related to auditory processing skills however, there is no program more effective than Fast ForWord.

While the program aims to remove impediments to learning as a way to help turn around a child’s academic career, the program builds progress in small, adaptive steps that children at all levels can manage.  The success from navigating these steps is in itself confidence-building.

Taking these steps can help nurture your child’s self-worth and give them the confidence needed to successfully cope with learning difficulties related to auditory processing delays.  To see if Fast ForWord, a treatment for APD is right for your child, call us anytime at 1-877-914-4366.


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