The Answer Might Surprise You
For struggling learners of all stripes, the most common question is ADD or ADHD. The better question is ADD or APD, ADD or auditory processing disorder.
ADD is really just a description of behavior — an inability to focus for sustained periods or a tendency to be easily distracted.
Parents should be thinking about the cause of this behavior, hence the question ADD or APD, where ADD is unexplained inattentiveness and APD is a cognitive source of difficulty that can be treated.
You may think of ADD as a disease because there is any number of drugs you can take, and most of the time those drugs are actually pretty effective. Just like Adderall is effective in helping perfectly normal students hyper-perform to ace a test.
While ADHD or ADHD-PH (Predominantly Hyperactive) is more complex and actually has multiple causes, ADD, or better said, Inattentive ADD or ADHD-PI (Predominantly Inattentive) has these classic symptoms:
- Drifting off in class
- Cannot attend to reading, homework or tests for extended periods
- Struggling with multiple-step directions
In all of these cases, a parent should be thinking ADD vs APD. These symptoms are common to both. That’s because actually in most cases it is not ADD or APD, it’s ADD and APD — most children diagnosed with APD have symptoms of inattentive ADD.
Why It Could be Auditory Processing Disorder
While many children with these ADD symptoms end up on medication, most often there is an underlying learning difficulty that is causing these symptoms. And that cause is delayed development of auditory processing skills or APD. Children with APD are unable to process language efficiently. Words sound muddy or unclear. And so listening requires extra effort, all the time, but most especially in noisy places like classrooms. After a while, a child will tune out, which a teacher or parent may misinterpret as ADD.
Muddy listening also impacts phonological awareness, sounding out words while reading. Many children with auditory processing difficulties are able to manage reading, but the effort required is taxing, and so they have no reading stamina … just like with ADD.
APD Can Be Treated
Here’s the good news. In many cases, a one-time APD treatment that exercises auditory processing skills – -to make them more accurate and more efficient – can remove the source of attention deficit symptoms once and for all.
Improved processing efficiency makes listening in class easier and more interesting (as more is heard and understood) and less exhausting, so children will not tune out. To be fair, this is partly a learned behavioral skill, and so sometimes, even with much better processing skills in place, it takes a while for new habits, like listening attentively, to form!
Improved processing also helps thinking. We think in language, and so if language is muddy, thinking is compromised. Better thinking skills help test scores, homework habits and self confidence.
Improved phonological awareness makes reading more automatic or effortless. This makes reading more natural. It frees up the brain for reading comprehension, making the text more interesting. The end result is better reading, and more reading stamina.
The Earlier The Better
Don’t think of ADD as something you hope your child will grow out of that has to be medicated for the time being. Instead, think of it as a symptom, a clue, that your child has some kind of learning difficulty that in most cases can be targeted and helped.
And in most cases, because all learning in the end comes down to language — listening, reading, writing and thinking — a learning difficulty is related to how your child processes language. And in most cases, that is a difficulty that, with intense practice, can be dramatically improved.
Gemm Learning uses Fast ForWord software to strengthen auditory processing skills to help inattentive ADD, reading and learning. If you think your child has an auditory processing disorder, call for a free consult.