Central Auditory Processing Disorder – What is it?
Central Auditory Processing Disorder (CAPD) is a deficiency in the mental interpretation of auditory signals. Simply, if the ears and brain aren’t fully coordinated in the processing of information, then a “disorder” or “dysfunction” exists.
Learning requires us to collect auditory information through our sense of hearing and then process that information in a way that means something. Proper auditory processing means that the brain comprehends the sounds reaching the ear. A child may test “normal” on a hearing assessment, but have tremendous difficulty processing sounds in a meaningful way. CAPD means that something in the central nervous system is affecting the conversion of sound waves into the neural-electrical pulses processed by the brain. Of course, if something is blocking the brain’s ability to properly process sounds, learning difficulties are likely to surface.
Central Auditory Processing Disorder – The Causes and Symptoms
The causes of Central Auditory Processing Disorder are often unknown, or even controversial. They may include head trauma, tumors, degenerative disorders, childhood viruses, recurring ear infections, oxygen deprivation, lead poisoning, brain development issues, or none-of-the-above. In children, Central Auditory Processing Disorder may manifest itself alongside other difficulties, such as dyslexia or attention deficit disorder.
The symptoms of Central Auditory Processing Disorder are diverse and often masked by other behaviors. People with CAPD may be easily distracted, disorganized, or excessively upset by noise. They may have difficulty following verbal instructions or multi-step directions. They may wander during conversations or have problems developing a vocabulary. In general, reading, spelling, language, and comprehension are a tremendous struggle.
These difficulties with auditory processing may manifest in the following ways:
• Poor listening skills.
• Difficulty following oral instructions or classroom discussions.
• Frequently say, “huh?” or “what?”
• Difficulty with phonics or letter-sound correspondences, sound blending or segmentation.
• Difficulty decoding unfamiliar words.
• Poor spelling.
• Slow fluency of reading.
• Poor reading comprehension.
• Difficulty understanding in the presence of background noise.
• Poor attention, day dreaming, high distractibility (may seem like an attention disorder).
• Give slow or delayed responses to oral questions.
• May be prone to behavior problems due to frustration or boredom (inability to follow the class).
• Avoidance of reading or other difficult tasks.
CAPD is an often misunderstood problem because many of the behaviors noted above also can appear in other conditions like learning disabilities, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and even depression. Although CAPD is often confused with ADHD, it is possible to have both. It is also possible to have APD and specific language impairment or learning disabilities.
Audiologists such as those at Timpanogos Hearing & Balance can determine if a child has CAPD by administering a special testing regimen. Although speech-language pathologists can get an idea by interacting with the child, only audiologists can perform auditory processing testing and determine if there really is a problem.
Some of the skills a child needs to be evaluated for auditory processing disorder don’t develop until age 7 or 8. Younger kids’ brains just haven’t matured enough to accept and process a lot of information. So, many kids diagnosed with APD can develop better skills with time.
How Can I Help My Child?
Strategies applied at home and school can ease some of the problem behaviors associated with CAPD. Because it’s common for kids with CAPD to have difficulty following directions, for example, these tactics might help:
- Since most kids with CAPD have difficulty hearing amid noise, it’s very important to reduce the background noise at home and at school.
- Have your child look at you when you’re speaking.
- Use simple, expressive sentences.
- Speak at a slightly slower rate and at a mildly increased volume.
- Ask your child to repeat the directions back to you and to keep repeating them aloud (to you or to himself or herself) until the directions are completed.
- For directions that are to be completed at a later time, writing notes, wearing a watch, and maintaining a household routine also help. General organization and scheduling also can be beneficial.
It’s especially important to teach your child to notice noisy environments, for example, and move to quieter places when listening is necessary.
Other strategies that might help:
- Provide your child with a quiet study place (not the kitchen table).
- Maintain a peaceful, organized lifestyle.
- Encourage good eating and sleeping habits.
- Assign regular and realistic chores, including keeping a neat room and desk.
- Build your child’s self-esteem.
Be sure to keep in regular contact with school officials about your child’s progress. Kids with CAPD aren’t typically put in special education programs. Instead, teachers can make it easier by:
- altering seating plans so the child can sit in the front of the room or with his or her back to the window
- providing additional aids for study, like an assignment pad or a tape recorder
Many school districts have programs in place for helping children with CAPD to adapt to a classroom environment. If you have questions, contact your school district audiologist, or call our office at 801-770-0801