Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Learning to Read and Central Auditory Processing Disorder

Do you remember the first book you read? I do. I loved reading the Dick and Jane series even if it was a sight word reader. I loved the characters and the pictures. While I'm not a total fan of sight words, they do have their place for many kids who are learning to read. My daughter has hyperacusis, dyslexia and CAPD, so sight word reading is what worked for her. I personally believe in a healthy blend of sight words and phonics for most kids.

Extensive work with phonics does work for many children who have dyslexia, but if your child is like mine, dyslexia was not her only challenge. Central Auditory Processing Disorder (CAPD), also known as APD, is a complex problem and it certainly made my daughter's task of learning to read simply excruciating. Trying was not her problem, hearing and processing sounds was her problem. Her ears worked fine and her brain worked fine, they just didn't seem to want to work together.

CAPD affects about 5% of school age kids. Kids with CAPD don't necessarily have a hearing problem per say, they just can't seem to process speech sounds very well. It is difficult to distinguish between the sounds in words. 

Here are some signals your child might have CAPD:

  • Is your child easily distracted or unusually bothered by loud or sudden noises?
  • Are noisy environments upsetting to your child?
  • Does your child's behavior and performance improve in quieter settings?
  • Does your child have difficulty following directions, whether simple or complicated?
  • Does your child have reading, spelling, writing, or other speech-language difficulties?
  • Is abstract information difficult for your child to comprehend?
  • Are verbal (word) math problems difficult for your child?
  • Is your child disorganized and forgetful?
  • Are conversations hard for your child to follow?
A diagnosis can be difficult because many of the signals seem to overlap with other difficulties such as ADD/ADHD or dyslexia.

There are five main areas of concern for kids with CAPD.
  1. Auditory Figure-Ground Problems: It can be very difficult for the child to pay attention if there is noise in the background. 
  2. Auditory Memory Problems: Remembering information like directions, lists, or study materials can be quite hard. It can be immediate ("I can't remember it now") and/or delayed ("I can't remember it when I need it for later").
  3. Auditory Discrimination Problems: The student has problems hearing the difference between words or sounds that are similar (COAT/BOAT or CH/SH). This can affect following directions, and reading, spelling, and writing skills, among others.
  4. Auditory Attention Problems: The child finds is very hard to focus or listen for any specific length of time. This makes completing work a real chore. This is one area that overlaps with ADD/ADHD.
  5. Auditory Cohesion Problems: Higher-level listening tasks are very difficult. Auditory cohesion skills — drawing inferences from conversations, understanding riddles, or comprehending verbal math problems — require heightened auditory processing and language levels. They develop best when all the other skills (levels 1 through 4 above) are intact.
While these challenges make learning difficult, it is not a death sentence. Here is what I found works best for us:
  • Reducing noise levels while my daughter works helps tremendously...no television, no music, no phone ringers, no barking dogs, and so forth. When I was still in the classroom, several of my students chose to wear ear muffs I purchased cheaply at Harbor Freight. 
  • Make sure your child looks at you when you give directions, and always have them repeat the directions back to you. Many times you will need to begin with no more than two step commands in the beginning and work up to more detailed directions with time. 
  • Always talk slowly, clearly, and a little louder than normal. 
  • Repeat, repeat, repeat!
  • Try not to use fluorescent lighting. 
  • Teach your child to take notes.
  • Implement a regular schedule. Organization and scheduling go a long way for these kids.
  • Encourage your child to wear a watch.
  • Praise them honestly. They know when you give false praise.
  • Work on healthy eating and a good sleep schedule. 
You and your child will get through this and come out on top. By the way, my daughter also LOVED the Dick and Jane series. I bought the anniversary edition for her when she was little.

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