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Auditory Processing

Many children have difficulty following oral directions, or they appear to have a short attention span and are often observed to daydream. Sometimes they display disruptive behaviours and some say 'huh?' a lot.

Could this be an Auditory Processing Disorder? Or is it something else? To find out, many parents take their children for an Auditory Processing Assessment.

What to expect from an Auditory Processing Assessment

More than 10 years testing and treating children with Auditory Processing challenges together with my training in both Audiology and Speech Pathology have shown me just how complex and fascinating auditory processing is. My test battery is tailored to suit the age and individual needs of the client.  My goal is to find out if and how Auditory Processing weaknesses affect the daily life of a client, and my management plans are practical. I understand that families need to keep a balance and that there is always a 'big picture'.

In many cases Auditory Processing weaknesses exist alongside or masquerade as other cognitive, mental health or processing challenges such as Attention Deficit Disorder, Anxiety Disorder, Depression, Language Disorder, Learning Disability, Working Memory weakness or Processing Speed weakness.  At the end of an Auditory Processing assessment parents will understand their child's auditory processing profile, with its strengths and weaknesses.  The assessment is designed to find out if the auditory weaknesses are 'bottom-up' (difficulty interpreting degraded speech, poor temporal processing, or weakness in dichotic listening) , or if the problems are 'top-down' (involving higher level processes such as language,  phonological awareness or auditory or working  memory).   Of course the problems often involve both. Finding this out is crucial to planning appropriate intervention and/or making referrals to other professionals such as psychologists and pediatricians, or making suggestions for Individual Education Plans. Sometimes children have already seen other professionals who have referred the child for an Auditory Processing Assessment.

I usually set aside 3-4 hours, sometimes on one day, sometimes on two different days, depending on the age of the client. The assessment involves a parent interview, review of past assessments, testing time with the client in the sound-treated audio booth as well as in the office, with breaks taken as needed. Results feedback is sometimes given at the time of the testing, and sometimes arranged for another day. A comprehensive report with conclusions and recommendations follows within 2-4 weeks after the assessment is complete.  Many extended health plans cover some of the cost of an Auditory Processing assessment. If not, the fee can be used towards a medical expenses tax credit.

Further Considerations Age and Children

Whhile it is difficult to comprehensively diagnose Auditory Processing Disorder before the age of about 7 years, there are tools that can help to screen for potential
weakness so that a child can benefit from early intervention.  For example, if the basis of a child's auditory weakness is phonological or language-based in nature, early intervention in these areas is crucial. If the weakness is more bottom up in nature, then making environmental modifications can be a huge help until such time as a child is ready to benefit from some form of auditory training approach.

Age and Adults

Gradual Auditory Processing weakening is a normal part of aging. However,
some adults experience Auditory Processing deficits that are more severe than those expected with age, and which have a negative impact on communication.  One of the challenges facing Audiologists however, in testing adults is that in many cases, due to the natural aging
process, peripheral hearing loss also exists. While it is possible to use a modified test battery for Auditory Processing in the presence of peripheral hearing loss, diagnosis must be more cautious, and

treatment recommendations must be more guarded.

Treatment Options

There is no one-size-fits-all treatment for children or adults with Auditory Processing weaknesses. Instead, each case is considered individually, and depending on the Auditory Processing profile and depending on the real-world impact of these weaknesses in conjunction with any coexisting deficits, any of the following treatment options can be considered:
Individual therapy with Phonological Awareness training or Language redundancy training; Web-based intensive listening training using Fast ForWord;  recommendations for environmental modifications at school or at home; recommendations for Individual Education Plans in the school environment.  Parents should not expect a 'quick fix', nonetheless, positive change can be expected when a combination of appropriate treatments is carried out.