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We are an Army family! Miles was diagnosed with Autism at the age of 6 and he is now 18 years old. Marley is Miles' Autism Service Dog and his best friend. This dynamic duo has been together for 8 years and look forward to many more adventures! 

For God has not given us a spirit of fearfulness, but one of power, love and sound judgement.  
                                                       2 Timothy 1:7


Auditory Processing Disorders

We know all things work together 
for the good of those who love God:
those who are called according to His purpose.
                                                                Romans 8:28

Miles is currently working on his Central Auditory Processing Disorder (CAPD) through several Listening programs with his Occupational therapist. 


What is auditory processing?
Auditory processing is a term used to describe what happens when your brain recognizes and interprets the sounds around you. The “disorder” part of auditory processing disorder means that something is adversely affecting the processing or interpretation of the information.
Children with APD often do not recognize subtle differences between sounds in words, even though the sounds themselves are loud and clear. For example, the request “Tell me how a chair and a couch are alike” may sound to a child with APD like “Tell me how a couch and a chair are alike.” It can even be understood by the child as “Tell me how a cow and a hair are alike.” These kinds of problems are more likely to occur when a person with APD is in a noisy environment or when he or she is listening to complex information.
Human communication relies on taking in complicated perceptual information from the outside world through the senses, such as hearing, and interpreting that information in a meaningful way. Human communication also requires certain mental abilities, such as attention and memory. In children, auditory processing difficulty may be associated with conditions such as dyslexia, attention deficit disorder, autism, autism spectrum disorder, specific language impairment, pervasive developmental disorder, or developmental delay. 

What are the symptoms of possible auditory processing difficulty?
Children with auditory processing difficulty typically have normal hearing and intelligence. However, they have also been observed to
  • Have trouble paying attention to and remembering information presented orally
  • Have problems carrying out multistep directions
  • Have poor listening skills
  • Need more time to process information
  • Have low academic performance
  • Have behavior problems
  • Have difficulty with reading, comprehension, spelling, and vocabulary

How is suspected auditory processing difficulty diagnosed in children?
To determine whether your child has a hearing function problem, an audiologic evaluation is necessary. An audiologist will give tests that can determine the softest sounds and words a person can hear and other tests to see how well people can recognize sounds in words and sentences. The audiologist is trying to identify the processing problem.
A speech-language pathologist can find out how well a person understands and uses language. A mental health professional can give you information about cognitive and behavioral challenges that may contribute to problems. Because the audiologist can help with the functional problems of hearing and processing, and the speech-language pathologist is focused on language, they may work as a team with your child. All of these professionals seek to provide the best outcome for each child.

What treatments are available for auditory processing difficulty?
Several strategies are available to help children with auditory processing difficulties. Any strategy selected should be used under the guidance of a team of professionals, and the effectiveness of the strategy needs to be evaluated. Several strategies you may hear about include:
  • Auditory trainers are electronic devices that allow a person to focus attention on a speaker and reduce the interference of background noise. They are often used in classrooms, where the teacher wears a microphone to transmit sound and the child wears a headset to receive the sound. 
  • Environmental modifications such as classroom acoustics, placement, and seating may help. An audiologist may suggest ways to improve the listening environment, and he or she will be able to monitor any changes in hearing status.
  • Exercises to improve language-building skills can increase the ability to learn new words and increase a child’s language base.
  • Auditory memory enhancement, a procedure that reduces detailed information to a more basic representation, may help. Also, informal auditory training techniques can be used by teachers and therapists to address specific difficulties.
  • Auditory integration training may be promoted by practitioners as a way to retrain the auditory system and decrease hearing distortion. 

The auditory system is also highly involved in vestibular functions

Anything that disrupts auditory information can also affect vestibular functioning.   
This sensory processing system is responsible for helping an individual maintain balance and coordination. Individuals with vestibular dysfunction have difficulty integrating space, gravity, balance, and movement information. These difficulties can result in autistic children being under-sensitive to movement, extra-sensitive to movement, or a combination of both.
In children with autism, vestibular dysfunction is particularly important because information gathered from other senses is processed in relation to the vestibular system. For example, visual processing includes spatial awareness like depth perception which will be inaccurate when spatial data from the vestibular system is incorrect.
There are many senses that can get scrambled during sensory processing and many variables within each sense itself. The signs of sensory processing disorder (SPD) in children with autism can, therefore, range from one extreme to another within each system.

Vestibular System Hypersensitivity
Those with vestibular system hypersensitivity are often intolerant of movement. Turning around too quickly or standing up can throw the body’s equilibrium out of balance. These children often appear clumsy, do strange and bizarre things, or fear movement activities.
  • uncoordinated or awkward movements
  • unable to do tasks that require timing or sequencing
  • difficulty learning how to climb or go down stairs
  • doesn’t like unstable surfaces

Vestibular System Hyposensitivity
Those with vestibular system hyposensitivity generally have an increased need for movement and crave lots of vigorous activity like:
  • hanging their head off the edge of the bed
  • twirling and spinning around
  • constantly on the go; tons of energy
  • doesn’t seem to be able to sit still; appears hyperactive
Sensory issues affect most children with autism and are of vital concern to parents and teachers. However, the signs of sensory processing disorder can range from under-sensitivity to over-sensitivity, or anywhere in between. Vestibular dysfunction is one of the most important sensory issues to learn about because the brain organizes many perceptions in relation to the vestibular system.

The picture below shows Miles doing the Interactive Metronome program with his Occupational therapist. 

Let us know how well your child has done with their Listening programs!

These articles and more can be found at About.com under Autism Spectrum Disorders and online at ARI.

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