+ Auditory Processing Disorder Stifles Communication and Learning

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Tara Parker-Pope writes in tne NY Times about auditory processing disorder and its effect on Rosie O’Donnell’s son Blake.

Children with auditory processing disorder are often called “slow.”  They can be told to “pay attention,” or “stop being so lazy.”

APD is a poorly understood syndrome that interferes with the brain’s ability to recognize and interpret sounds. 

Perhaps 2-5 % of children have this disorder, according to Gail D. Chernak, speech and learning sciences expert at Washington State University.  And it’s likely that many cases are undiagnosed or misdiagnosed.

 The symptoms include trouble paying attention and following directions, low academic performance, behavior problems, as well as poor reading and vocabulary. 

Children may have challenges retrieving information and also formulating spoken language.  (If you visit the link to the article below, you will hear O’Donnell describe the expressive language difficulties Blake has largely overcome.) 

Often these symptoms are mistaken for developmental problems, attention problems and even autism.

Lois Kam Heymann is a speech pathologist and auditory therapist who has written “The Sound of Hope” (Ballantine).  She is the therapist who worked with Blake O’Donnell.

Blake always struggled to retain the words he heard.  It resulted in a limited vocabulary and trouble with reading and spelling.  He couldn’t understand abstract language, such as “cover third base;”  even “knock knock” jokes confused and frustrated him.

Ms. Heymann says

The normal reaction by the parent is ‘Why don’t you listen?’  They were listening but they weren’t hearing the right thing.

Often the solution is a comprehensive approach, both at school and at home.  Parents can dampen unwanted noise, for example, with strips of felt.  Tennis balls can be placed on the legs of chairs or desks.  Parents can simplify language, avoid metaphors and abstract references. 

Rosie O’Donnell, who wrote the forward to Ms Heymann’s book, says in their family, they cut back on large, noisy gatherings, which were upsetting to Blake.  They also saw to it that Blake had twice-weekly sessions with Heymann: these focused on sounds and words, using rhyme and body gestures.  Such interventions helped him catch up on missed learning.

Classroom help is essential.  One family met with teachers to agree on a series of adaptations.  Among those adaptations was having a teacher wear a small microphone that directed her voice more clearly to a speaker on the boy’s desk.  In that way, he was able to distinguish her voice from competing background noise.

Parents do take heart from knowing that the disorder seems to have little or nothing to do with intelligence.  O’Donnell says Blake has an encyclopedic knowledge of animals — he once corrected her when she referred to a puma as a mountain lion.

According to O’Donnell, treatment is about more than better grades.

[APD] definitely affected his whole world.  Not just learning.  It cuts them off from society, from interactions.  To see the difference in who he is today versus who he was two years ago, and then to contemplate what would have happened had we not been able to catch it — I think he would have been lost.

For the complete Times article by Tara Parker-Pope, visit http://tinyurl.com/2eh5dkp.  Watch a short video of Rosie O’Donnell and her son, and hear some of the ways Blake’s situation improved.

Scientists are conducting brain imaging studies to better understand the neural basis of APD and perhaps determine if it manifests in several forms.

For a trove of information and a vast number of resources, vist the site of  The National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders at  http://www.nidcd.nih.gov/.

tutoring in Columbus OH:   Adrienne Edwards   614-579-6021   or email  aedwardstutor@columbus.rr.com

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