Early Intervention for APD: Why it matters for academic success

Childrens Hearing

Auditory Processing Disorder (APD) is a condition which affects the brain’s ability to process and make sense of auditory information, including speech. APD is classified as a weakened pathway between the ears and the brain, and how they work together to give sound meaning. This leads to challenges in recognising and interpreting the sounds that are heard, accurately determining the direction of sound, and can even increase sensitivity to sounds.

People with APD often display characteristics of a hearing impairment, despite having normal hearing thresholds. This is because standard hearing assessments only test for the awareness of sounds, rather than how the brain interprets and processes speech. APD can cause people to have difficulties following conversations, remembering what has been said and learning new information, which can affect literacy and other academic skills. APD can also affect a person’s ability to filter out background noise and focus on another person who is speaking.

Auditory processing difficulties are not associated with a person’s intelligence; highly intelligent people can have APD. APD can affect people of all ages, however it is commonly first identified in school-aged children. In the classroom, children with APD may find participating in discussions or following instructions challenging and may become easily distracted by noise.

APD can affect a child’s performance in the classroom environment in many ways. Misinterpreting certain sounds can cause difficulties in other areas. Some common examples of effects and potential signs of an APD include:

Behavioural problems

When children are unable to understand what is being said, they may become embarrassed, frustrated, or put on the spot. This may cause them to become defensive or to mask their lack of understanding by pretending to lose interest. Educators may misinterpret this as a deliberate act of defiance.

Delayed performance compared to peers
Auditory processing abilities are important in the classroom environment, particularly when it comes to:

  • Decoding information delivered verbally (effects commonly seen in reading and maths)
  • Sequencing information
  • Remembering the order of steps

Poor auditory processing skills can manifest and put children at an increased risk of developing learning difficulties.

Poor social skills

APD can make keeping up with conversations difficult. Whilst the person is digesting what has been said, others have responded, and the conversation has progressed in other directions. This is particularly evident in loud or busy environments such as a playground, classroom, or party. These difficulties can lead to social isolation, or extraverted behaviour to gain the attention of others. Children may also choose to not engage, as it may be easier to hover in the background rather than struggle to connect with peers. This makes forming friendships difficult and a cycle of low social interactions and poor language skills can develop.

Stress, confusion and anxiety

Individuals who don’t feel grounded and comfortable in their interpretation of a situation can become confused or distressed. These feelings may also impact their academic performance and their perceived perceptions by their peers. Consequently, they may experience increased stress or anxiety over time and develop social and behavioral problems.

Early Intervention

Whilst there is no ‘cure’ for APD, early identification, intervention and auditory training or assistive listening devices can improve the communication skills of people with APD and assist them to succeed in difficult environments. This is achieved by strengthening the pathway between the ears and the brain, therefore improving overall listening comprehension skills. In some cases, auditory training may be able to improve these skills to a typical level.

Early intervention can allow people to learn specific strategies to focus on their strengths and reduce, build-on or adapt to weaknesses. This in turn may improve their everyday performance and academic outcomes on a broader scale, allowing people to reach their true potential. Early intervention assists with addressing learning difficulties prior to them becoming embedded, which may then lead to further problems such as emotional or behavioural issues.

APD can significantly influence people’s enjoyment of and motivation to tolerate difficult environments, such as social gatherings, school, or the workplace. This may result in low self-esteem, anxiety, and depression. The earlier APD can be diagnosed and the earlier an intervention program can be established, the higher the chances are or improving long term outcomes. It is also important to make the appropriate alterations or interventions to avoid the negative cumulative effects of learning, emotional and behavioral deficits over time.

APD is considered a lifelong condition. Auditory training is designed to re-adjust and correct the manner in which the brain understands sound. Early intervention and treatment is highly beneficial as the brain’s plasticity is higher at a younger age.

Without prompt and correct diagnosis, children may continue to face challenges in the classroom environment, which often leads to years of tutoring, counselling, or other testing; working around an underlying problem rather than addressing it. A diagnostic auditory processing assessment with Knox Audiology provides comprehensive, specific, and individualised results and recommendations for patients to begin their journey towards future success.

If you suspect you or your loved one may exhibit symptoms of Auditory Processing difficulties, please complete our online Auditory Processing Characteristics Checklist (Adult or Child) or book an Auditory Processing Assessment Consultation or Screening Assessment with one of our qualified audiologists.

At Knox Audiology, we take pride in our team of university qualified and experienced audiologists, who are committed to providing trusted, friendly, and professional hearing services, catering to all your unique hearing needs. To find more about APD, please reach out to us, call 03 9800 5697 or contact us online.