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Understanding the Basics of an Auditory Processing Disorder

Auditory processing refers to how humans take in sounds that make up language and then process or interpret these sounds to understand that language. The area of the brain that interprets and understands language is different than the areas that recognize other sounds, and of course the sounds that make up language are different than the sounds that make up music, nature, man-made items, and the like. Any type of disruption to this process of hearing and interpreting sounds that make up language is called an auditory processing disorder. Note a few of the basics about this disorder so that you can discuss it with your doctor if you suspect you or your child may have this condition.

1. Symptoms of auditory processing disorder

One common symptom of auditory processing disorder is the struggle to understand spoken explanations or instructions and to repeat them back to a person. This can also apply to ideas, suggestions, and anything else that is spoken. A person may also interpret words very literally so that they don't understand puns, or have a hard time distinguishing between words that sound alike but which are used and spelled differently, such as salary and celery.

In everyday actions, a person with auditory processing disorder may get distracted by background sounds when someone is speaking. They may also have a very difficult time following spoken lectures and seminars, classes and the like.

2. How to accommodate

Because an auditory processing disorder is connected to a person's hearing and especially when they hear speech, it can be good to use illustration and graphics when explaining new ideas or concepts to them rather than relying on the spoken word alone. They may need extra time to learn certain words and their differences in how they're used. When speaking to someone with this disorder, it can be good to alter the pace of your voice, slow yourself down when speaking, and be sure you emphasize important words and phrases. A doctor can also give you specific tips for communicating with someone, especially a child, with auditory processing disorder.

3. What auditory processing disorder is not

A person who struggles to learn a new language does not have auditory processing disorder if they understand their native language. The disorder is a problem with hearing and how the brain interprets the sounds of language, not the normal struggle many people feel when learning a new language. A person with this disorder is also not 'stupid' or 'slow', but may simply struggle to hear slight variations and differences in spoken language that others take for granted, and which are very important to overall learning. With small accommodations, they may be able to learn to communicate and understand concepts just as clearly and easily as others.