Central Auditory Processing Disorder (CAPD), also called Auditory Processing Disorder (APD) is one of those currently misunderstood diagnosis in children who may be struggling in school. CAPD is usually defined as a condition where a child is unable to understand spoken language in an understandable or meaningful way. It's not a problem with actual hearing because these children often pass hearing tests, but rather a comprehension problem with what's being said to them, especially if there's any kind of background noise.
It's estimated that many of these children are misdiagnosed as ADD or ADHD, or the two may coexist. A review of current research lists the following as symptoms of CAPD:
- Easily distracted
- frustrated in noisy environments
- behavior and performance tend to improve when it's quiet
- difficulty following directions
- speech-language difficulties
- disorganized and forgetful
- conversations are difficult to follow (tires easily to conversations)
- tends to hear words incorrectly
- slow at learning to read and spell
There appears to be many things that could have caused this disorder such as a history of chronic ear infections, lead poisoning, and the existence of other learning disabilities such as dyslexia, ADD or a brain lesion. A Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI), extremely high fevers, premature birth or past due birth, or a genetic history of CAPD may also lead to this disorder. A combination of causes could also be in play warranting individualized therapy.
Diagnosis and Treatment are usually done after a parent notices the symptoms and talks with their pediatrician. Generally the pediatrician will recommend a good audiologist to perform auditory processing testing. This is usually not possible until after the age of eight since many children normally show some of these symptoms before this age anyway. After diagnosis, the child will often be set-up with a speech pathologist and have annual follow-ups with the audiologist. The diagnosis can range from mild to severe.
The parent can help by encouraging the child to recite main ideas when listening to direction or reading a book. They can also reduce background noise especially when giving a directive or even listening to the child tell a story about his/her day. Look directly in the child's eyes with love when speaking. Speak simple and slowly, create routines, and teach organizational skills. Provide for a quiet study space, healthy eating, and adequate sleep.
If your child is diagnosed with CAPD, take heart that you are now on your way to attaining valuable resources that will help your child grow into a confident and capable adult. Maybe it shouldn't be referred to as a disorder, but simply another of the many ways in which children learn. We're all unique individuals.
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