Auditory processing is a child’s ability to process incoming auditory information and make behavioral changes and decisions based on that input. A child with an auditory processing disorder usually has normal hearing, but has difficulty understanding what he or she is hearing, and incorporating auditory information into perception of a situation. Children with APD have difficulty following verbal directions, trouble blocking out background noise and distinguishing sounds in words, especially in words that sound the same (like “coat” and “boat”). These difficult behaviors are commonly displayed on an intermittent basis. This often leads to the conclusion that a child is purposely ignoring adults. Auditory processing disorders may occur alongside other learning or communication disorders, but a specific diagnosis of central auditory processing disorder must be provided by an audiologist in order to rule out other conditions and specifically tailor treatment for each child.
These auditory processing challenges may result in speech and language difficulties or academic difficulty. Children with APD often need quiet surroundings to focus on auditory stimuli and are better at understanding written, pictured or gestural commands. Speech and language pathologists work with children with APD to teach compensatory strategies for listening, change the environment in which learning occurs and/or implement an individualized listening program to increase success in auditory processing. Occupational therapists assess and treat auditory processing disorders in regard to over and under reactivity to auditory input often affecting a child’s regulatory state.