The term, auditory processing disorder is used to describe a student’s learning difficulties that are believed to be due to a weakness in the ability to process verbal and written language. It is related to a weakness in the brain's ability to fully process what the child hears (auditory information).

Children with learning problems due to an auditory processing disorder often do not recognize subtle differences between sounds in words, and struggle to understand or remember spoken language even though the sounds themselves are loud and clear.

The child will have even more difficulty understanding what is said when there is noise or other activity in the background.

How to Identify an Auditory Processing Disorder

If the child is hyperactive and does not attend, remember, a lack of focus and attention are not limited to the child with attention deficit or ADHD. Problems with attention and focus are also exhibited by children with auditory processing disorders. They fail to pay attention because they cannot attend to information that has been distorted on the way to the brain. The brain can interpret only what it receives in the way of information. Distorted information results in a distorted response.

An easy way to identify an auditory processing disorder is to stand behind the child and talk to him. Begin with sentences and then progress to a list of words. At the end of the sentence or list of words, ask the child to repeat what he heard you say. If the child does not respond well when he cannot use visual clues to interpret what was said, the problem may well be more of an auditory problem than lack of attention. If the child garbles sentences, changes sounds within words, drops word endings, or says completely different words, this too suggests poor auditory processing.

What to Do If You Suspect an Auditory Processing Disorder

If you have determined that your child might have an problem with auditory processing you should bring it to the attention of the classroom teacher and ask that a referral for formal assessment be made.

Remember that all assessments provided by your local school district are at no charge to parents. Also, you don't have to wait until your child is old enough to start school. Special education services begin as early as three years of age. Just go to your local elementary school and ask for an evaluation. The local school will provide you with the location of special preschool services.

Information from the assessment will be used to determine what classroom modifications are needed to accommodate any special needs, or whether special education may be appropriate.

If your child has not yet started school, services will be provided to assist with special activities to encourage normal development or to begin any special services needed to assist with speech and language development.

Parents should keep in mind that when determining eligibility for special education the school does not determine why an auditory problem exists. The school's only concerns are, does the problem exist, and what classroom modifications will be needed if an individualized special education becomes necessary?

All other concerns and responsibilities for the child are delegated, by law, to the parent. Even if the child is eligible for special education, parents need to investigate the child's out of school environment to find causes and remedies for the problem or to prevent one from occurring.

Preventing Auditory Processing Problems

Becoming a parent is an experience that many people look forward to, yet many are unprepared for the multiple challenges of rearing a developing child. Our culture is just now beginning to understand how the environment impacts a child's development. The developing auditory system begins in infancy, and auditory experiences during the ensuing years has a great deal of impact upon the development of a healthy auditory system.

Preferable Auditory Stimulus for Language Development

During the first three years of life the preferable auditory stimulus is the human voice. Lullabies and bedtime stores and talking to the infant child stimulate the auditory receptors in the brain and help with their development. The auditory receptors in the brain develop in direct proportion to the amount of stimuli received. The more lullabies and bedtime stores, the better the development of the auditory receptors in the brain.

Ear Infections

A history of ear infections during the first three years of life is often a contributing factor to auditory processing disorders. With ear infections, fluid may build up in the middle-ear space, and if it is present over a period of time during the developmental years it may prevent auditory stimuli from reaching the brain.

If the brain does not receive the stimulus, the area of the brain which interprets auditory stimuli may fail to develop.

In older children the build up of wax in the ears, or water from swimming, may be responsible for auditory stimuli not reaching the brain. Any form of obstruction that distorts the sound wave on the way to the brain will diminish the child’s ability to interpret auditory information.

Food Allergies

Food allergies can be a big factor in auditory processing, brain function and performance. A body's reaction to an allergen can occur in various ways, such as fluid in the middle ear, hyper behavior, depressed behavior, mood swings, lethargy, or congestion. Allergies can also affect the brain by hindering it from receiving auditory stimuli or preventing it from functioning optimally.

Initially, there is no need for expensive tests and interventions when you suspect a food allergy. The major food allergens are dairy, corn, wheat and sugar. Sugar is always the most likely food allergen in children. Begin by removing sugar from the diet. At first, just the breakfast cereals that are 50% sugar. Substitute eggs scrambled with sausage seasoned with salsa in a taco shell, or chopped boiled eggs topped with salsa with corn chips. Remember, wheat is an allergen, so we avoid toasted white bread. If corn is suspect, try rice crackers.

Next, read food labels and avoid high fructose corn syrup. High fructose corn syrup is pure sugar, used as a substitute to fool those parents who are wise to the consequences of granulated sugar. Substitute honey or agave, an organic sweetener made from cactus juice. If your child is allergic to sugar, you should begin to see a difference in his behavior in just a few days. If not, eliminate one of the other foods listed above.

Give each food about two weeks. Sometimes you will see a change in just a few days. Keep making careful observations until you get a change in behavior, the wheezing is gone, or the circles under the eyes have been eliminated. Or he is beginning to show some evidence that he is processing auditory information when you talk to him. Then eliminate the suspected food permanently. This can be an interesting process that will give meaning and purpose to preparing breakfast. Other factors in the environment that impede normal child development can also be easily identified at home. Motivated parents have proven repeatedly what good nutrition, sound sleep, and good parenting will do to improve the development of the central nervous system. And, it is never too late to begin to make a difference.

The steps in this process are outlined in our LD Reference Book. The process is simple and the steps are carefully outlined so that you don't make mistakes that will keep you from getting the desired results.

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