What is Auditory Processing (AP)?
Auditory processing refers to how well we detect, discriminate and process auditory (verbal) information. It is often thought of as the brainwork of hearing, or in other terms “what we do with what we hear”. It follows that an Auditory Processing Disorder (APD) refers to an inability to make optimal use of what we hear. Children diagnosed with an APD typically have normal hearing and normal intelligence, however, have difficulties listening, particularly in the presence of background noise.
A brief explanation from our Director and Principal Audiologist Nicole Eglinton on Auditory Processing Disorders:
What behaviours are typical for that of a child with an Auditory Processing Disorder?
Behaviours typical for that of a child with an auditory processing disorder include:
- frequent misunderstandings
- difficulties remembering and following instructions
- difficulties listening in the presence of background noise (e.g. the classroom).
- poor organisational skills and rarely complete tasks
- respond slowly or inappropriately to questions
- generally perform well 1:1
- easily distracted
- unable to maintain their attention for appropriate amounts of time
- often exhausted and emotional at the end of a school day
A child with an auditory processing disorder (APD) is unable to take advantage of incidental learning and often requires information to be repeated. They may confuse similar sounding speech sounds, have difficulties with spelling and reading, and show slow progress at school.
As a result of the above behaviours some, but not all, children will have difficulties progressing academically. For example, a child with an APD may have not heard the complete instructions for a task and rather than spending time practicing the specific skill in the classroom they spend most of their time trying to work out what they are required to do.
How will my child’s auditory processing skills be assessed?
At Little Ears the assessment of your child’s auditory processing abilities is carried out over two appointments. The primary reason for this is to ensure it is appropriate to assess your child’s auditory processing abilities. Secondly, by splitting your child’s assessment into two appointments we aim to minimise the effects that poor attention and poor motivation may have on your child’s results.
Prior to your child’s first appointment you will be sent a Parent Questionnaire and Teacher Questionnaire to complete. These questionnaires provide valuable information regarding your child’s listening and other behaviours, assist in determining whether an auditory processing assessment is appropriate for your child, and if so what tests would be the most appropriate to administer. Occasionally it may be recommended that your child be assessed by another medical / allied health professional prior to continuing.
The assessment involves a number of auditory tests (listening games) that target different auditory processing skills. Your child may find some of the listening games challenging and small breaks may be required. There is no invasive testing involved in an auditory processing assessment. In fact some children find the listening games fun!
The initial appointment takes between 45 minutes to 1hour.
The second appointment takes between 1.5 hours to 2 hours depending on whether your child requires any breaks. Your child’s results are discussed in detail at this appointment. Following you will be provided with a comprehensive written report highlighting your child’s auditory strengths and weaknesses, along with management advice and recommendations.
What if my child is found to have an Auditory Processing Disorder (APD)?
An Auditory Processing assessment will highlight your child’s auditory strengths and areas for improvement. Management advice and recommendations made are highly dependent on your child’s results. Little Ears offers a number of management options in house, and will also refer to other allied health professionals for opinion and/or management as required. Little Ears is autonomous and not aligned with any particular health professional or educational specialist. This ensures the most appropriate referrals are made for your child.
For example, for children found to have poor spatial processing skills (one of the auditory skills often assessed) listening training using a computer based CD may be recommended along with the trial of a listening device for use in the classroom.
Does my child need a written referral to have an Auditory Processing Assessment?
Parents, medical professionals, allied health professionals and teachers may all refer a child for an Auditory Processing assessment where the child is
- at least 6 years of age (limited testing available at 6 years of age, more comprehensive testing available once a child turns 7 years of age)
- there are no known/suspected concerns regarding the child’s intelligence
By using a two stage appointment process any children found to be inappropriate to assess for an Auditory Processing disorder will be identified at their first appointment. Formal written referral is not necessary.
Little Ears welcomes any enquiries and would be delighted to provide information training / professional development workshops on request.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can children outgrow an Auditory Processing Disorder?
Listening skills develop as the auditory system matures. We expect the auditory system to mature at around 12 years of age. Therefore, as in all areas of development some children are slower than others to meet developmental milestones. A child is diagnosed with an Auditory Processing Disorder (APD) if their auditory processing skills are significantly behind those of their age peers on at least two of the tests administered. For some children their auditory processing skills will improve with age and for others they will never improve to what is considered a normal range. For this reason if your child has been found to have an APD, review of their auditory processing skills is generally recommended in 12 – 18 months.
Are there more children diagnosed with an Auditory Processing Disorder than there used to be?
Certainly there has been an increase in the number of children diagnosed with an Auditory Processing Disorder, however rather than this reflecting an increase in prevalence this may reflect:
- increased awareness of auditory processing and how difficulties can significantly affect a child’s ability to listen and learn in the classroom and progress academically
- greater availability of testing
- increased research in the assessment and management of auditory processing disorders
- a change in classroom environments (i.e. poor classroom acoustics (hard surfaces and flooring, open-plan classes of large numbers of children), creative seating where children may not always have good visual access to written information and change seat regularly etc.) No longer are classrooms “kids-on-grids”.
Who should diagnose a child with an Auditory Processing Disorder?
A qualified Audiologist is the recognised professional to diagnose a child with an Auditory Processing Disorder. An Audiologist has a University Master’s Degree in Audiology and is specifically trained to perform comprehensive hearing assessments and has an in depth understanding of one’s auditory system. A number of allied health professionals may screen a child for auditory processing difficulties and where concerns are identified will refer to an audiologist for definitive audiological assessment.