Treating Auditory Processing Disorder

Julie Entwistle, MBA, BHSc (OT), BSc (Health / Gerontology)
In my previous post, What is Auditory Processing Disorder, I explained that auditory processing disorder (APD) is like a game of “Operator” where a message is misinterpreted when travelling between the ears and brain.  This causes problems with communicating in noisy environments, following multi-step instructions, and wrongly hearing words, sounds and sentences.    The good news is that APD can be improved organically and through modifications to the functional environment.

Personally, my daughter was diagnosed in Grade 3 (age 8).  To understand her problems, I read several books on APD and copied some chapters for family.  I disclosed fully to my daughter the results of her testing and explained that sometimes her ears and her brain are hearing different things.  I wanted her to understand that at times, when things people say might seem funny, confusing or strange to her, she might have heard them wrong.  She was encouraged to ask questions about her ADP, and to never be shy about asking people to repeat themselves if needed.

At school, the teacher started wearing an FM unit to help best deliver instructions and teachings to my daughter who wore corresponding headphones.  The teacher and I put tennis balls on the classroom chairs to reduce noise.  My daughter was relocated near the teacher’s desk and away from the busy hall.  The door was closed (reducing background noise) during lectures.  She was allowed to write tests in the quiet resource room.  The teacher was provided a list of other classroom modifications to implement, including ways to breakdown instructions into smaller chunks to improve her retention and follow-through.  I talked to the teacher about the fact that when my daughter was reading in class (when she was supposed to do other things) to tune out classroom noise and / or because she missed the directions.

In sports, we noticed an issue with her playing basketball.  The sound of the balls bouncing on the floor made it difficult for her to hear her coach and the background noise in the gym during practice was a struggle for her.  At Karate, she would look around to see what the other kids were doing as she would miss instructions.  All of her coaches and Sensei’s were advised of her APD and started speaking more directly to her, asked her to repeat instructions, and tried to reduce background noise when possible.

We also made changes at home.  We took extra time to reduce background noise (difficult in a family with four kids), would reduce the number of instructions we gave her at one time, had her repeat these back to us, and developed a “roger that” mantra that she would say to indicate she got her instructions.  Our audiologist recommended Fast Forward, an online game designed to help improve APD.  While research does not conclusively confirm that this is helpful for APD, we decided to give it a try and she found it very helpful.  Ultimately, and for reasons other than just her APD, we moved her to a small school with very low class sizes and she is now thriving.  We still notice her APD at times, but she is very aware of this and is mature enough to understand that if something sounds wrong (i.e. turtle twins) she should politely ask for clarification.


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  1. Devi OT says:

    Thanks for sharing this.

    1. Erin Ridpath says:

      You’re very welcome! Thank you for being a valued reader!

  2. Thank-you for providing this educational article and timely article during Speech and Hearing month. It is always positive when occupational therapists and speech language pathologists work collaboratively to support clients! A great example of collective competency in healthcare. It is important however that any-one with an auditory processing disorder (or suspected) be referred to a registered audiologist for diagnosis, and to a registered speech language pathologist, experts in communication (listening, speaking, reading, writing, thinking;cognitive-communication and social communication), for treatment.
    Catherine Wiseman-Hakes Ph.D. Reg. CASLPO, speech language pathologist. Dept. of Speech Language Pathology, University of Toronto

    1. Erin Ridpath says:

      Thank you and I agree that proper diagnosis and multidisciplinary treatment are often the key to great outcomes with any functional impairment!