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by Dr. Etta Brown, Educational Psychologist and Special Needs Advocate for Parents and their Children, Oakland, CA
Auditory Processing Disorder Defined

Auditory processing disorder is used to describe a studentís difficulties that are believed to be due to a weakness in the ability to process verbal and written language. It is related to a weakness in the brain's ability to fully process auditory information.

Children with auditory processing weaknesses often do not recognize subtle differences between sounds in words, and struggle to understand or remember spoken language even though the sounds themselves are loud and clear. The child will have even more difficulty understanding what is said when there is noise or other activity in the background.

An easy way to identify this problem is to stand behind the child and talk to him. If he does not respond well when he is not looking at you, the problem may well be more of an auditory processing problem than lack of focus. Or, say some words to him, begin with sentences and then progress to isolated words. At the end of the sentence or list of words, ask him what he heard you say. If he garbles sentences, changes sounds within the words, drops word endings, or he says completely different words, it may be due to poor auditory processing.

Once you have determined that your child might have an auditory processing problem, you should bring it to the attention of the classroom teacher, and ask her to make a referral for formal assessment to determine what classroom modifications are needed to accommodate any special needs, and whether special education is appropriate.

Parents should keep in mind that when determining eligibility for education the school does not determine why a problem exists, only that the child is having difficulty.

When a diagnosis of ADD or ADHD or any other disability is being considered, it is very important not to overlook the possibility of all the other factors which may be impacting the childís focus and attention.

Remember, a lack of focus and attention are not limited to the child with attention deficit or ADHD, problems with attention and focus are also exhibited by children with auditory processing disorders. They fail to pay attention because they cannot attend to information that has been distorted on the way to the brain. The brain can interpret only what it receives in the way of information. Distorted information results in a distorted response.

Some Underlying Causes of Auditory Processing Disorders
A history of ear infections during the first three years of life is often a contributing factor to auditory processing disorders. With ear infections, fluid may build up in the middle-ear space, and if it is present over a period of time during the developmental years it may prevent auditory stimuli from reaching the brain. If the brain does not receive the stimulus, the area of the brain which interprets auditory stimuli may fail to develop.

During the first three years of life the preferable auditory stimulus is the human voice. Lullabies and bedtime stores and talking to the infant child stimulate the auditory receptors in the brain and help with their development. The auditory receptors in the brain develop in direct proportion to the amount of stimuli received. The more lullabies and bedtime stores, the better the development of the auditory receptors in the brain.

In older children the build up of wax in the ears, or water from swimming, may be responsible for auditory stimuli not reaching the brain. Any form of obstruction that distorts the sound wave on the way to the brain will diminish the childís ability to interpret auditory information.

Food allergies can be a big factor in brain function and performance. The main food allergens are dairy, wheat, corn, and sugar. A body's reaction to an allergen can occur in various ways, such as fluid in the middle ear, hyper behavior, depressed behavior, mood swings, lethargy, or congestion. Allergies can also affect the brain by hindering it from performing or functioning optimally.

There is no need for expensive tests and interventions. The factors in the environment that impede normal child development can be easily identified at home. Motivated parents have proven repeatedly what good nutrition, sound sleep, and good parenting will do to improve the development of the central nervous system. And, it is never too late to begin to try to make a difference.

The steps in this process are outlined in our parent guide. The process is simple and the steps are carefully outlined so that you don't make mistakes that will keep you from getting the desired results.

Sugar is always the most likely food allergen. Begin by removing sugar from the diet. At first, just the breakfast cereals that are 50% sugar with a little oats or wheat added. Substitute boiled eggs chopped with salsa in a taco shell.

Next, read the label and avoid high fructose corn syrup, its pure sugar, used as a substitute in soft drinks and other foods to fool those parents who are wise to the consequences of sugar. If he is allergic to sugar, you should begin to see a difference in his behavior in just a couple weeks. If not, eliminate one of the other foods listed above.

Etta Brown, author of LEARNING DISABILITIES, Understanding the Problem and Managing the Challenges, received her undergraduate degree from the Ohio State University with a major in Dental Hygiene Education and the Masters in Education degree from South Carolina State University with a major in Special Education. The Educational Specialist Degree was conferred at Kent State University with studies in School Administration, and a major in School Psychology.

Dr. Brown continues to reach out to parents and children by fax, phone and email, as a Licensed Educational Psychology providing advocacy services to parents. if you are in an IEP or other meeting at school and you need immediate reinforcements you can call us at 510 652-6831.

Disclaimer: Internet Special Education Resources (ISER) provides this information in an effort to help parents find local special education professionals and resources. ISER does not recommend or endorse any particular special education referral source, special educational methodological bias, type of special education professional, or specific special education professional.
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