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  • Writer's pictureKathy Cousineau

Understanding Auditory Processing Disorder (APD): Signs, Symptoms, and Strategies

Auditory Processing Disorder (APD) is a condition that affects how the brain understands and processes the sounds that are heard, especially speech. People with APD might have difficulty understanding speech, following directions, remembering what they hear, or telling the difference between similar-sounding sounds or words. This can make it challenging to learn in noisy environments, like classrooms or crowded places.


Elementary aged girl trying to hear what someone is saying
Auditory Processing Disorder

Characteristics of Auditory Processing Disorder (APD) Checklist:


Difficulty Understanding Speech in Noisy Environments:

  • Finds it hard to hear and understand conversations or instructions when there's background noise, like in a crowded room or during recess.

Example: Sarah finds it hard to follow conversations during lunchtime in the noisy cafeteria and often misses important details.


Trouble Following Directions:

  • Struggles to remember and follow multi-step directions, often needing them repeated or written down to understand.

Example: John struggles to complete classroom tasks that involve multiple steps, such as following a recipe in cooking class or assembling a project.


Poor Listening Skills:

  • Has trouble paying attention and staying focused during conversations or classroom lectures, often missing important information.

Example: David frequently daydreams or becomes distracted during teacher lectures, missing important information needed for assignments.


Delayed Language Development:

  • Started speaking later than other children or has difficulty pronouncing words correctly.

Example: Emily had a limited vocabulary and started speaking later than her peers, finding it difficult to pronounce certain words correctly.


Difficulty Distinguishing Similar Sounds:

  • Confuses similar-sounding words, like "cat" and "bat," or has trouble distinguishing between different sounds in words.

Example: Michael confuses similar-sounding words like "pen" and "pin" when listening to instructions, leading to mistakes in assignments.


Trouble Remembering Information Heard:

  • Forgets information heard in conversations or during lectures, even when paying attention.

Example: Alex often forgets important details from conversations, even when paying attention, making it challenging to recall instructions or assignments.


Difficulty Following Conversations:

  • Struggles to keep up with conversations, especially when multiple people are talking, when the topic changes quickly, or when someone is speaking with an unfamiliar accent.

Example: Emma struggles to keep up with group discussions in class, especially when classmates talk quickly or change topics frequently.


Sensitivity to Loud Noises:

  • Gets easily startled or bothered by loud or sudden noises, like fireworks or sirens.

Example: Jason covers his ears and becomes upset when the fire alarm goes off at school, finding the loud noise overwhelming and frightening.


Poor Performance in School:

  • Has difficulty with reading, spelling, and understanding instructions, which can affect academic performance.

Example: Lily has difficulty with reading comprehension and spelling, often misinterpreting instructions or missing key information in assignments.


Difficulty Localizing Sounds:

  • Has trouble determining where sounds are coming from, like not being able to tell if a sound is behind them or in front of them.

Example: Thomas has trouble determining where sounds are coming from during outdoor activities, often turning in the wrong direction when someone calls his name.


These characteristics can vary from person to person, and not everyone with APD will experience every characteristic. It's important to remember that having APD doesn't mean someone cannot hear sound. Instead, it means their brain has trouble processing the sounds they hear. People with APD might benefit from using strategies like sitting closer to the speaker, using visual cues, or using assistive devices to help them hear and understand better.


Understanding and recognizing these signs can help you identify and support your child in their learning and daily activities.

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