Does My Child Have APD?


My daughter has difficulty with multiple sounds at the same time. She is unable to pick and choose which sounds she needs, and she also has trouble with memory. She was tested at school, and as a result they provided her with a calculator. She also has ADHD and is being treated successfully. I believe she needs further testing for auditory processing and find the school's test to be inconclusive. Any advice is welcome.

                                    Joanne, Ridgefield, CT

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Sheryl Knapp, A/AOGPE

Sheryl Knapp is the founder and President of the Literacy Learning & Assessment Center of Connecticut. Knapp has Associate Level certification with the Academy of Orton-Gillingham Practitioners and Educators

Auditory processing disorders are frequently misunderstood, and consequently over-diagnosed. Students with Auditory Processing Disorders (APD)—sometimes referred to as Central Auditory Processing Disorders or CAPD—frequently struggle with tuning out conflicting noises, especially in classroom settings, and thus have problems following directions that are presented verbally.

These kids may have difficulty with discriminating between similar speech sounds, but such struggles can also be a sign of phonological difficulties. Phonological awareness involves a continuum of skills, ranging from identifying and producing rhymes, to the ability to isolate and manipulate the sounds (or phonemes) within words (known as phonemic awareness). Phonemic awareness skills, as well as the ability to associate phonemes with the corresponding letter(s) (known as phonics), is critical to becoming a proficient reader or speller.

Although it’s difficult to draw conclusions about your daughter without more information, it sounds as if her difficulties may be phonological or phonetic in origin. When we read, we are presented with letters and we must retrieve the associated sounds; and when we’re spelling a word, the sounds are provided and we must retrieve the letters.

From your question it appears as if this former process may be breaking down for your daughter, but in many cases the inverse is true as well. In either case, her struggles could stem from more foundational difficulties with differentiating or isolating the speech sounds. All these skills (phonemic awareness, decoding, and encoding) can be systematically explored through a variety of assessment options, and should be if you suspect struggles with either reading or spelling.

Your daughter can also be tested for APD by an audiologist, which may be covered by your medical insurance, but make sure you confirm that the audiologist has specific training and experience in diagnosing APD. All of these deficits are commonly associated with attentional difficulties.

Finally, a calculator can be a valuable accommodation for students who struggle with memorizing math facts, but you didn’t mention that as one of her problems. It is up to her team to determine the appropriate tools and interventions for your daughter. As part of the team, you have every right to question what the purpose of this accommodation is, and what else she may need.

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