Have you ever been to a talk, conference or a meeting with speakers who talk quickly while presenting new concepts? There is also some noise outside with people talking and setting out tables and cups for coffee or maybe lunch.

At the end of the talk could you identify and remember the key points being presented? Did your attention drift at any point during the session? If there were several speakers like this during the day how tired did you feel by the end of the afternoon?

These are the problems experienced by some children and adults with auditory processing difficulties (APD). Although a teacher may be speaking relatively slowly and clearly, many children with APD require more time to recognise sounds and words and to process a sentence. As a result, they miss part of what is said and so do not understand the information or the task to be completed.

Signs of possible auditory processing difficulties in school

This is not an exhaustive list but are the difficulties most frequently found in the children attending APLLS clinic for assessment. Few children will have all these problems. It is essential to obtain a full assessment from a suitably qualified and experienced clinician in the field of Audiology or Speech and Language Therapy if you suspect a problem.

  1. Complains of not being able to hear the teacher but when tested hearing is satisfactory.
  2. Has difficulty following instructions and requires frequent repetition.
  3. Copies other children and requests help from them Appears to day dream /lose attention often worse in group settings.
  4. Problems become more noticeable from year 3/4 as teaching becomes more class based.
  5. Difficulty with reading and/ or spelling.
  6. May have problems expressing himself clearly in speech or writing.
  7. Grammatical and sequential errors.
  8. May present with some features of Dyslexia but does not fully fit the picture.
  9. Problems at school are at odds with perceived cognitive ability.
  10. Problems with rhythm and pitch discrimination noticeable in music activities and possibly speech.

There is no single cause of APD for various reasons the brain connections develop differently. APD affects all social groups and all levels of intellectual ability.

How can I help this child at school?

It is important to obtain a full assessment, so a tailored programme of support and intervention can be prepared. A modified environment and different approaches and methods in teaching will all contribute to supporting the child with APD.

In most cases the child will need support throughout their educational journey and even into the workplace.

Dr Dilys Treharne PhD, MSc, CertMRCSLT is a Specialist Speech and Language Therapist at APLLS.

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