Pediatric Speech Therapy Services

Auditory Processing Disorder

Auditory processing disorder (APD) is a condition that affects the way the brain processes verbal or audio information and background noise.

Children may present with auditory processing difficulties, which is not an issue with physically hearing information but processing information they hear. A central auditory processing disorder can present like many other things, including difficulties with following directions without visuals, recalling verbal information, and understanding and hearing words correctly.

Auditory processing disorder is not the same as autism spectrum disorder or normal hearing loss. A child may present with mild hearing impairments and auditory processing. However, it becomes more difficult to have an auditory processing disorder diagnosed when hearing impairment is more severe! We recommend having updated hearing testing to rule out hearing difficulties before we recommend any auditory processing skill testing.

Different components of Auditory Processing

  • Auditory Discrimination: A child's ability to identify differences in sounds and words. (Ex. Cat, bat. Are they the same or different?)
  • Auditory memory: A child's ability to mentally store information that is spoken or heard.
  • Auditory sequencing: A child's ability to identify the order in which auditory information is presented.

How Do You Treat Auditory Processing Disorders?

In our clinic, speech therapy is used to address auditory processing difficulties with a variety of activities to improve a child's auditory memory skills, increase retention of auditory information, build phonological awareness skills that affect reading, and provide compensatory strategies for improving daily behaviors to increase processing success. We may also recommend some environmental changes that set a child up for success! Coping strategies may include providing techniques for children who have difficulty in a regular classroom (i.e., directing attention, sitting closer to the front, using assistive technology, etc.).

How is it diagnosed?

A central auditory processing disorder can be diagnosed by an audiologist. Our clinic provides screening to determine if a client has deficits in components of auditory processing. If our tests reveal weaknesses, therapy can be started to address difficulties to increase a client's success with auditory processing! If the client prefers a full diagnosis, the clinician will refer them to an audiologist.

What is the next step if my child is identified as having deficits in auditory processing?

The therapist may recommend speech therapy to address auditory processing difficulties and weaknesses. A referral may also be made for complete auditory processing testing with an audiologist who can test for and give a full diagnosis. Despite being unable to diagnose auditory processing disorders, speech therapists are able to provide treatment.

Why is it important to be tested by a speech therapist for an auditory processing disorder (APD) if they cannot diagnose it?

Speech therapists can treat issues related to auditory processing disorder even though they cannot diagnose it. Audiologists are the only professionals who can diagnose auditory processing disorder (APD). However, they are not the only professionals who can treat weaknesses or deficits in auditory processing skills. Speech therapists can provide treatment for auditory processing difficulties through a variety of strategies and activities.

Auditory Processing Disorder Treatment

Treatment of an auditory processing disorder can include using compensatory strategies to improve auditory memory, build auditory retention, improve processing of information against background noise, and dichotic listening skills. Speech-language pathologists can work with clients to build such skills through auditory training activities, including speech sound discrimination, audio-memory exercises, auditory figure-ground training, visual cues, dichotic listening activities, and phonemic/phonological awareness tasks, among others! Therapists may also recommend the use of assistive technology for clients who present with auditory processing difficulties. This may include FM systems or adapting environments for better sound quality, which can also help in making listening easier for those who struggle with processing information against background noise. With careful assessment and appropriate intervention from a trained speech and hearing specialist, significant improvements in language skills and auditory processing abilities can be achieved.

Clinicians Providing These Services:
Megan Crisler Megan Zecher

Information taken from: An Advanced Review of Speech-Language Pathology, Preparation for PRAXIS and Comprehensive Examination, Third Edition. Celeste Roseberry-McKibbin, M.N. Hegde.