hand to ear
I don’t understand you

In my November 1, 2019, article, Help For The Learning Disabled Child, [article] I promised to discuss in more detail each of the 7 most common learning disabilities.  We begin with the Auditory Processing Disorder.

Auditory Processing Disorder (APD) is also known as Central Auditory Processing Disorder (CAPD). This disorder is a learning disorder affecting about 5% of school-age children. See the Handbook of Central Auditory Processing Disorders in Children, by Jack A. Willeford & Joan M Burleigh. Children with this form of reading disability do not process what they hear the same way as other people because their ears and brain don’t properly co-ordinate with each other. Instead, the brain has difficulty in interpreting the sounds the ear hears, especially speech.

According to Teri James Bellis, Phd., in her article in LD Online, Understanding Auditory Processing Disorders in Children, The Educator’s Guide to Learning Disabilities and ADHD,  it involves understanding the following basic salient aspects of APD:

a. APD is an auditory deficit that is not the result of other higher-order cognitive, language, or related disorders.
b. The terms “language processing” and “auditory processing” are not the same thing. Language processing refers to the way humans use words to communicate ideas and feelings, and how such communications are processed and understood. Whereas, auditory processing refers to how the brain recognizes and interprets the sounds around you.
c. Children with APD may exhibit a variety of listening and related complaints. Not all language and learning problems are due to APD, and all cases of APD do not lead to language and learning problems. APD cannot be diagnosed from a simple symptom checklist.

group people at table
Multidiscipline group evaluating possible auditory processing disorder

d. It takes a multidisciplinary team approach to assess the cluster of problems of children with APD. Your doctor can use a hearing test to see if your child’s issues are caused by hearing loss, but only a hearing specialist, called an audiologist, can diagnose auditory processing disorder as the nature of this type of disorder can be determined only after an audiologist diagnosis is made.

e. Treatment for APD is based on the individual needs of the child. It is necessary to determine the type of auditory deficit of the individual child in order to develop individualized management and treatment activities.
f. There is no single method for treating APD. What worked for one child may not work for another. The most effective plan is specific to the child and can be done in a home setting or in a therapist’s office.
g. Treatment generally focuses on 3 primary areas: 1) changing the learning or communication environment; 2) recruiting higher-order skills to help compensate for the disorder; and 3) remediation of the auditory deficit itself.
h. Given appropriate intervention, all children can learn to become active participants in listening, learning, and communicating, although APD is not curable.

Dr. Bellis has written a book on APD that readers have found informative and beneficial.   Click here to see book.

Here are some of the more common symptoms of APD. As made clear by Teri Bellis in his article, APD is a difficult disability to recognize by observation alone without adequate testing because APD shares many symptoms common to other reading and learning disabilities. Because many symptoms of Auditory Processing Disorder overlap with other disorders, it is possible that your child was previously misdiagnosed with ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder), ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder), PDD (Pervasive Developmental Delay), or a receptive language disorder. That being said, some common symptoms that are normally observed in a child suffering from APD would be:

boy with hands to ears
Boy holds hands to ears to shut out noise

1) Loud or sudden noises easily distract or unusually bother your child.

2) Your child is not comfortable and easily upset in noisy environments.
3) Being in a quieter setting improves your child’s behavior and performance.
4) Your child exhibits signs of auditory processing disorder.
5) Your child struggles in reading and spelling.
6) Your child with APD has normal hearing but simply can’t process what is heard.
7) Due to changes in the acoustic environment or to increased academic demands, symptoms of APD may only first become apparent in the early school years or at a later academic stage of your child’s life.
8) Children with APD may exhibit secondary characteristics of language, reading and spelling disorders, as well as inattention and distractibility.

Doctors don’t really know what causes APD. Some of the more accepted potential causes of APD are:

1. Bad prenatal conditions, premature birth, and low birth weight.
2. Brain damage. Some form of brain injury, head damage, meningitis, or neurotoxin exposure.
3. A cerebrovascular disorder, such as a stroke.
4. A metabolic disorder, such as deafness.
5. Epilepsy.
6. Other forms of learning disabilities.
7. Genes (APD may run in families).

APD affects listening, communicating, academic success, and psychosocial wellness of a child. The overall goal of intervention is to provide your child with the ability to communicate more effectively at home, in the classroom, at work, and in the community. This involves such techniques as:

a. Signal enhancement strategies, to improve signal to noise ratio, i.e., minimizing background noise or using frequency modulated systems.
b. Auditory training, using computerized commercial programs which can be applied at home or school along with

sound board
Use of sound board to create hearing modality

simple games and vowel/consonant training, found in books from Earobics Cognitive Concepts, Inc., The Sounds of Hope, 1997.
c. Linguistic and cognitive strategies to increase use of compensatory strategies.
d. Auditory stimulation which is the use of focused sounds to produce an effect on the nervous system. For people with hearing impairments or auditory processing disorders, auditory
e. Any management program should address behavioral, educational, and communicative sequelae so that maximum functional benefit may be achieved.
f. There is no one approach to management. Each child’s underlying auditory deficit and how that deficit affects that child will be determinative of the management approach.
A more detailed discussion of the types of treatment goals can be found in Central Auditory Processing Disorder, in the American Speech-Hearing Association article.

One beneficial characteristic of the human brain is its capacity to change, or its neuroplasticity. Because of this capacity, a child can ‘grow out’ of anything, including APD. With the right stimulation and training, a child with APD can grow out of this condition. The act of listening itself improves auditory processing. Some steps that a parent or teacher can take are:

sound wave picture
image blue sound wave

1. Move the child to the front of a classroom to allow the child to get the best auditory input.
2. Talk to the child (of all ages) in a quiet environment, especially before age 5.
3. Start reading to the child at the earliest opportunity to start developing auditory processing.
4. If these techniques are not enough, consider direct training.
5. Direct intervention improves processing. Neuroscientists have developed programs to improve auditory processing skills.

With what we already understand about APD, it is clear that with the right treatment, a child with this disorder can successfully improve his/her learning and behavioral situation and to fully integrate into life, both at home and in school.

Whether you are the parent of a child with APD or a child suffering from APD, learning how to cope with APD is not intuitive.  It takes educating yourself to APD and the recognized techniques to deal with it’s complexities.  In this article I have provided links some tools for that process, many of which are affiliate products.  These products are offered as potential tools to accomplish this goal but without any personal guarantee.  You will have to try them to see if they work for you, or look for other ones you find more appropriate for you or your child.

One last thing.

If you have read through this entire post and reached this point, I am going to assume that you have a strong interest in the topic. Maybe you have a child with this specific reading impairment, or you suffer from this impairment yourself.  I would appreciate you leaving me a comment about this article or your experience with this reading impairment, in the comment section below. Thanks.

Amazon Disclosure. weteachchildrentoread.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.


  • Thanks for this interesting post. I have never heard of APD before. You bring up good points on the matter. This is information the all educators and educator administrators need to know.

    Thanks for sharing.

    • Interesting and a well written article, highly educational too.
      There seem to be so many conditions existing out there that one is not aware of such as Auditory processing disorder. By reading the article the disorder sounds complex as you’ve outlined that the symptoms overlaps other disorders. Nevertheless, although the condition is incurable but atleast it’s manageable. It takes a lot of support structure to help the person with the condtion to cope, ranging from home school and the community. More awareness and uducational programs need to be created to trigger this kind of support. Thank you so much for this informative article. Looking forward to reading more of your posts.

      • Thank you Maggie for your comment on my post. I am glad to learn that the content is so well received. And “yes”, there are many learning and reading impairments afflicting more children and adults than we realize. These conditions affect the ability of a great many people to have successful lives. I believe that these forms of impairments are part of the problem of lowering rates of reading abilities around the world. Check out my on-going blog teaching news around the world on my website. I hope you visit from time to time.

  • My son suffers from APD and it is a very real and frustrating problem for him.
    Fortunately it was picked up quite early here in New Zealand and he has a very good job and career.

    I’m not sure all countries are even aware of these type of problems – but I do believe more and more of them are becoming aware of them and training teachers to look out for the symptoms.

    You don’t know what you don’t know and that can at times be hard to understand.

    Thanks for a great post – hopefully the right parents will read this and find a solution to a potentially life damaging problem.

    All the best.

    • Lawrence. You are certainly correct in pointing to a lack of awareness of these types of learning impairments. Educating as to these problems is important. I hope that websites like mine and the Internet are important for educating tools.

  • I worked in a school for chid=dren with special educational needs and had a student with this medical diagnosis. We used PECS – The Picture Exchange Communication System and found it very effective. I would highly recommend this to anybody in a similar situation. Involving the parents in the process is key to the successfulness of the child.

    All the very best and thank you for sharing.

  • Hi, I love this post. All the information about the topic is really helpful for all the teachers and parents of the children who want to know about the topic. The references are making it more reliable. I have never read any post like this. It is comprehensive and very useful. Thank you for sharing.

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