Understanding Auditory Processing Disorder & Your Child’s APD Treatment Options


On the surface, auditory processing disorder, also known as central auditory processing disorder or CAPD, can look like a number of other issues, such as a hearing impairment, ADHD, autism, or a learning disability. For kids with an auditory processing disorder, their brains recognize and interpret sounds differently. Children struggling with APD have a hard time understanding (not actually hearing) speech. This makes it hard for them to follow instructions, process what others are saying, and complete tasks. The signs and symptoms of auditory processing disorder range in severity and can take on many different forms, which can make it hard to distinguish and diagnose.

They will miss words and need things repeated often, resulting in a lot of “What?” and “Huh?” responses. It may feel like they are often at a loss for words, as APD can have a limiting effect on children’s growing vocabularies. When they’re in a noisy setting, or people are talking fast, children with APD may have an even more difficult time understanding what others are saying, which can result in them appearing shy or even withdrawn from the situation.

Typically, people with an auditory processing disorder can hear normally. They struggle to recognize the differences between sounds, not physically hearing the sounds themselves. Something is impacting the brain’s ability to filter and process the sounds and words they are hearing. They work so hard to understand what’s being said to them, which makes it hard to interpret and remember the details and pick up on social and nonverbal cues in conversations. When symptoms overlap, distinguishing between diagnoses can be a challenge. When a child is struggling with more than one diagnosis, like auditory processing disorder and dyslexia, it’s important to understand and separate the symptoms in order to find the right treatment and intervention options.

Only audiologists can officially diagnose auditory processing disorder. It is difficult to diagnose in children before they are around 7 or 8 since some of the auditory skills tested aren’t well developed until then. Once properly diagnosed, treatments including therapy, environmental modifications, and interventions can be introduced. The right APD treatment can vary greatly from child to child and a combination of professional, educational, and at-home therapies are often the most effective.

Auditory Processing Disorder Treatment Options:

Therapy: From active listening and reading to problem solving skills, a therapeutic approach to APD treatments gives the child ownership and responsibility for listening success. From social coping strategies to speech therapy for reading and language comprehension, there are many different exercises therapists use to help a child overcome his or her struggles. The most common types of therapy for kids with an auditory processing disorder include:

  • Speech Therapy - Kids with APD have trouble hearing the difference between speech sounds. As a result, they may struggle in pronouncing certain sounds correctly. Speech therapy helps them learn how to make the sounds they struggle with, as well as recognize individual sounds and develop their active listening skills.

  • Educational Therapy - This therapy option helps kids deal with the frustration and social consequences of their diagnosis. They typically focus on finding solutions and strategies for the learning and attention issues APD can pose in a variety of settings.

  • Auditory Training Therapy - We work with a number of therapists that use Fast ForWord to target a child’s ability to comprehend instructions, follow directions, and learn how to read. The foundation of reading is hearing and identifying the difference in sounds, so our reading intervention program offers the building blocks for a child with APD.

Educational: In a school setting, teachers can use different classroom accommodations, instructional strategies, and tools to help students with APD. From minimizing background noise to introducing reading intervention software to creating visual aids, there are several opportunities for you to work with your child’s teachers.

If your child has an IEP or 504 plan, their accommodations can be formalized. If they don’t, you can work with their educational team to find a more flexible approach. Some easy environmental changes in a classroom could include:

  • Adding carpeting and drapes to absorb distracting background noise.

  • Seating the child near the front of the classroom where the teacher can directly face him or her.

  • Incorporating visual aids in to the lesson plans, which can be as simple as writing instructions on the board or providing a written copy for your child.

  • Checking in with the child to see if he or she has misheard the information, needs some downtime, or just to provide a focus reminder.

Home Treatment Options: At home, there are a number of ways you can support and further develop your child’s therapies and success strategies. The classroom modifications mentioned above could certainly be adapted to home life, but practicing the strategies taught in therapy is also important. Some other at-home treatment recommendations include:

  • Giving your child plenty of opportunities to practice new skills.

  • Focus building his or her vocabulary through conversations and more structured activities like flashcards, reading books together, etc.

  • Create (and stick to) routines that help eliminate distractions and emphasize the need for focus.

  • Asking your child to repeat what you’ve said to make sure he or she understands your speech.

  • Be sure your child is ready to start a conversation before you begin to talk, and maintain eye contact throughout your conversation.

  • Explore the assistive technology and apps available to kids with APD that could help them with their listening comprehension, reading and attention issues.

  • Speak slowly and clearly, and take a pause between ideas so your child can process your words.

  • Help your child find a quiet environment for conversations whenever necessary.

Auditory processing disorders are responsive to early intervention, so a full evaluation and personalized treatment can be life-changing for kids with APD.

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