(Central Auditory Processing Disorder)?

by Becca Lynn; parent of ASD child, CAPD sufferer

* AUDITORY PROCESSING - is the ability to listen, comprehend, and   respond to information that we hear through our auditory channels. This includes the detection of sound by the external ear and the transmission of sound through the auditory pathways to the brain.

 It is important when trying to determine if a child/or adult has an Auditory Processing Disorder, to understand that there is a difference between the capacity to "hear sounds and speech," and the capacity to actually process what is heard. A CHILD CAN RECEIVE A PERFECTLY NORMAL SCORE ON A CONVENTIONAL HEARING TEST AND STILL HAVE A SEVERE AUDITORY PROCESSING DISORDER!

* Auditory Processing Disorders are an often-overlooked factor by Professionals. It is only very recently that it has started to become more widely known. I myself have only recently learned that I possessed Auditory Processing Disorders. I have had this disorder my entire life and assumed that other people were just more capable of handling the pain caused by noise. I also assumed it was a reflection on my cognitive skills that I couldn't understand what someone was saying. I have since learned that cognitive potential is quite separate from basic cognitive skills. But the problems still remains that if the information can't be processed how is one supposed to develop the cognitive skills that one possesses?

Professionals are beginning to take a closer look at Auditory Processing Disorders and their impact on a child's learning. Some children who don't have a problem in the home environment can have severe problems with learning in the Elementary School environment as much of the teaching is done through Auditory Channels. In more extreme cases, Auditory Processing Disorders can cause a child with perfectly normal cognitive skills to never be able to develop the capacity to speak. 


* Get an audiologists test to rule out any "conductive problem" (blockage to middle/outer ear) and sensorineural loss (nerve damage)

* After the audiologists test consult with a Speech Language Pathologist (SLP). Central Auditory Processing Disorder/Auditory Processing disorder can affect both children with completely normal hearing as well as those who have hearing loss. Children with hearing loss should also be checked for Auditory processing disorder, as untreated it will only serve to aggravate the hearing problems even further.


1. Retention deficit - the individual's processing of information decreases as the length of the stimulus increases. Length of the statement, rather than complexity of the sounds involved in each individual word is the key component here.

2. Information capacity deficit: This refers to the difficulty receiving and processing incoming messages simultaneously. The individual needs a time lag between when they receive the information and when it is processed. After that point they must then draw a meaning from the sounds and formulate what they think before they communicate.

3. Noise buildup: The individual does worse the more information that is given. At some point, the processing system goes into overload and shuts down. You can teach a child with this problem to signal when they lose track of what is being said. You can even teach a non-verbal child to signal when the speaker can stop and start a conversation.

4. Slow to tune in: This individual would consistently lose the first half of the statement, although he hears the second half. This kind of child would appear to have a clue to what was being communicated, but would not understand the whole picture. You can help this individual easily by using consistent cues that speech is about to start before you start speaking. And the brain is programmed to prepare to receive before the words actually begin.

5.Intermittant Auditory Perception: Child's Processing System fades in and out. This individual appears to be fading in and out. Teaching the child to shift even slightly in their chair or move one part of their body can help with this situation. ALSO MAKE AN APPOINTMENT WITH A NEUROLOGIST AS IT CAN ALSO INDICATE EPILEPSY OR SEIZURES (certain seizures can be barely noticeable to the observer, so incidents of short fade-out can be an indication)


1. Doesn't seem to hear or listen (this can be intermittent).

2. Needs to have the same information repeated over and over before they can begin to comprehend.

3. Child appears to have difficulty concentrating or becomes irritated in the presence of background noise.

4. Child may process all the parts of the message but get the information confused or out of sequence.

5. A child who is reacting negatively to noise that causes physical discomfort or pain may do some of the following: Scream and throw their self on the floor (drowns out the noise), hit/attack the person responsible for the noise (which could be the speaker's voice), attack objects that produce noise (TV's, CD players, telephone, etc...)and attempt to destroy them, place hand over ears (with or without screaming), or yell at you or react with hostility when you speak to them.



1. Get the child's visual attention first! Program LOOK - LISTEN - SPEAK into the conversation of all family members.

2. Minimize/Eliminate distractions! Background noises compete with what you are trying to communicate. It is difficult (if not impossible) to filter out what is important from competing noise patterns.

3. Stay physical close and do not move around when speaking. This changes the voice on a constant basis. A person with an Auditory challenge has an easier time if they don't have to compensate continually for changes in a voices volume, rhythm and even tone. Voices also stay more consistent if you stay sitting still.

4. Shorten the length and complexity of the statement. In the beginning stick to the subject and one descriptive word, like a verb. When the child has mastered processing two words consistently, move onto three.

5. Be willing to repeat, but be willing to wait before you do. The processing of the statement can take some time, but it becomes increasingly more difficult to do if the speaker keeps talking. Devise a
system by which the child is taught to cue the speaker when he wants the speech to start and stop.  Sometimes only one or two words are processed from the first sentence, so repetition needs to become a habit in order to communicate appropriately. A good rule of thumb is to say a statement, wait sixty seconds and if the child still looks confused repeat the statement again.

6. Study your child and watch to see if he or she understands some people better than others. Every person has their personal rhythm, tone, speed, and special inflections and modulations to their voice.  If the child has problems with one member of the family more than another an individual can learn to deliberately change their voice patterns to match what the child needs.

A problem understanding a particular individual, might not even be their voice. For example a child with visual perceptual difficulties could have trouble processing speech if the speaker moved their hands a great deal or even had a nervous twitch!

7. Increase Comprehension through non-auditory communication! Two examples of this would be the use of Pictures (PECs System) and the use of Sign Language paired with spoken words. 

8. Teach Phonics skills with the use of visual flashcards. One whole word, let alone an entire sentence may be far too much for a child to begin to process. If you begin with the smallest possible unit of sound and work your way up gradually, you can begin to program the brain to process speech. This method is also good for the child who can not learn sign language, due to an intense dislike of focusing on any movement. A child doesn't even have to look at the teacher involved in the process, as the card can be laid on a flat surface.


1. Seat the child in the front of the classroom. This will allow him/her to see the teacher better and have less visual distractions. This is not a good idea if it brings the child too close to another source of distraction, such as an open door!

2. Try to keep your face and mouth visible to the child as much as possible. Many people with Auditory Processing disorders learn to lip read in order to fill in the blanks! My own comprehension can go down by 50% just by having a person turn their face sideways.

3. Get the child's undivided attention before asking a question or giving an explanation.

4. Eliminate competing distractions. Those who suffer from Auditory processing disorders often suffer from a multitude of Sensory Processing Disorders, so take note of other possible distractions.  For example, the child should not be seated near and doorway or a window.

5. Simplify instructions or have them provided in writing as a regular practice following the verbal instructions. I was always very grateful to teachers who made this a regular practice.

6. Always have the child rephrase to make sure that he/she understands what you were trying to communicate.

7. Teach the child to listen selectively. If he/she can learn to zero in on keywords, instead of trying to process the whole sentence. I have trained my mind to grab hold of the noun and the key descriptive word in each sentence. This makes it possible to follow even a fast moving conversation.

8. For an older child, copying notes during the teacher's lectures can help to process speech. They might even find it helpful to tape record what the teacher is saying. That way they can check back over the tape later and stop it whenever they choose.

National Coalition on Auditory Processing Disorders, Inc.
(list of Audiologists who test for auditory processing disorders)

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1: July 4, 2002