FAQ Friday… Diagnosis: Auditory Processing Disorder. Now what?

child's earThe question I hear most often from parents relates to the term Auditory Processing Disorder. Parents will say something like, “My child has been diagnosed with an auditory processing disorder, so what treatment program does he need?” …. or what accommodations…. or what should be on her 504 Plan, etc.

Strictly speaking, Auditory Processing Disorder (APD) is a diagnosis that can be made only by an audiologist. That’s because it takes specialized equipment and training to measure “auditory” function. Audiologists may also use the term Central Auditory Processing Disorder (CAPD).

In an auditory processing disorder, the person’s hearing is fine. The problem may be:

  • awareness of what is heard (sound awareness )
  • remembering what is heard (sound memory )
  • listening when there is interference (e.g., noise, etc.)


Some educators, psychologists, and speech-language pathologists use the term auditory processing for what is more accurately called language processing. This might seem picky, but it is important because there is very little research support for using purely “auditory” or “auditory processing” treatments to help children with reading and writing problems.

When we look at the definition, characteristics and effects of dyslexia, we see a huge overlap with ADP. Dyslexics’ reading and writing problems begin with weak speech sound processing. English is built on a foundation of 44 speech sounds represented by 26 letters and used to spell more than 600,000 words. A person who cannot distinguish speech sounds — whether because of APD, dyslexia or another cause — will experience a cascade of problems related to language.

As dyslexia researcher and educator, Margaret Rawson explained dyslexic children “….need a different approach to learning language from that employed in most classrooms. They need to be taught slowly and thoroughly the basic elements of their language — the sounds and the letters which represent them — and how to put these together and take them apart. They have to have their writing hands, eyes, ears and voices working together in conscious organization and retention of their learning.”

What Rawson describes is sometimes referred to as a structured literacy or Orton-Gillingham approach and research shows that it is the most effective help for struggling readers and writers.

So, returning to our initial question about APD, what we now understand is that a child with APD does not need a hearing aid or auditory treatment, but clinical intervention, accommodations, such as text-to-speech technology, assistive listening devices and/or captioned media; structured literacy therapy; and intensive daily practice tailored to the child’s specific needs.

To learn more about APD, dyslexia, structured literacy therapy, and Lexercise, contact us directly at info@Lexercise.com or 1-919-747-4557.

2 Responses to FAQ Friday… Diagnosis: Auditory Processing Disorder. Now what?

  • Theresa Watkins commented

    I love your thinking… We are working on developing a 504, to help a loved one who has ADP

    • Theresa,
      Bear in mind that a 504 plan will only provide accommodations but no direct services. It can be part of the solution, but if there are difficulties with reading, spelling or writing accommodations alone will be inadequate. Structured literacy therapy is needed to help connect the brain’s literacy network.

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Sandie Barrie Blackley, MA/CCC

MA/CCC - Cofounder and CKO

Sandie is a speech-language pathologist with more than 30 years of experience in the private practice sector. She is Visiting Assistant Professor of Communication Sciences & Disorders at University of North Carolina Greensboro, and founder/owner of the Language & Learning Clinic, PLLC, a private practice in Elkin, NC, and Greensboro, NC, specializing in communication disorders, including disorders of reading and written language.