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Auditory processing
disorders in children

Webwords 16
ACQ Internet Column
October 2003
Caroline Bowen

Webwords Index

The mushrooming scientific knowledge base that underpins the identification and management of auditory processing disorders (APD) in children, has brought with it a flurry of Web activity. 

In a climate of increasing certainty among speech and hearing professionals that APD is a valid diagnostic entity (Jerger & Musiek, 2000) extensive information for consumers has been developed, and chat and listservs for general and professional discussion have blossomed. 

As well, several comprehensive overviews explain why definitions have been refined in recent years, and why the "c" for "central" in the older, more familiar term, CAPD, is gradually disappearing. 

Complex disorders
Contemporary research reveals the complexity of auditory processing disorders in children (Ferre, 2001). Affected children may have problems in understanding the speech signal when background noise is present, in understanding degraded speech, in comprehending verbal instructions, or in identifying and discriminating between speech sounds. 

Differential diagnosis
An APD diagnosis may reflect "central" issues where cortical functioning of the brainstem, hemispheres or corpus callosum is compromised. Alternatively, difficulties may be occurring at the level of more peripheral structures such as the cochlea mechanism and the auditory nerve. Or there may be a mix of the two, possibly complicated by specific language impairment (SLI), language processing difficulties, pragmatic issues, attention difficulties, ADHD and problems with auditory memory. 

The role of the audiologist is to rule out auditory neuropathy (more here and here) and to accurately identify the nature of the auditory processing breakdown and the level at which it is taking place.

Cross-disciplinary collaboration
Many audiologists will say that the results of in-depth language assessments by speech-language pathologists provide vital clues in pinpointing why these individuals with normal hearing sensitivity find it so difficult to make sense of auditory information. Fifty or more APD articles and documents available on the ASHA web site (go here, enter the search criterion CAPD in the search box, and click 'go') attest to the extensive collaborative research occurring between audiologists, speech-language pathologists and educators.

APD and school
The functional implications of APD in the classroom and other school situations, and for language learning and literacy are far-reaching (Pulaski & Moskow, 1996), providing a cheerless segue to Webwords 15, and an interesting selection of literacy links.   

Ferre, J.M. (2001). Complex, not complicated: Understanding children’s auditory processing disorders. IDA Northern California Branch, 4-6 

Jerger, J., & Musiek, F. (2000). Report of the Consensus Conference on the Diagnosis of Auditory Processing Disorders in School-Aged Children.  Journal of the American Academy of Audiology, 11,467-474.

Pulaski, M. & Moskow, S. (1996). Central Auditory Processing Difficulties (CAPD) The Effects on Reading, Writing, Listening and Speaking with Elementary and Middle School Children. Paper presented at the 43rd Annual Conference of the Southeastern Regional Association of Teacher Educators. Charleston, SC.

An overview for the clinician  
Auditory Neuropathy Info Page

CAPD and auditory neuropathy 
Child Neurology Home Page
Management at School
Management at School

National Coalition on APD
New directions in auditory processing



Literacy links
Webwords Index

Webwords 16
ACQ Internet Column
October 2003
Caroline Bowen

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Page updated September 29 2003