Sourced from




Although Auditory Processing Disorder originates in the brain, neurological dysfunction is not observable. APD tends to manifest as poor listening skills or an inability to process auditory information and is often accompanied by motor problems.

It is important that parents do not disregard the indicators of APD – the earlier the condition is identified, the more likely that intervention will have a positive effect.

Does your child frequently demonstrate any of the following problems with expressive language?

  • Doesn’t speak fluently or articulate clearly
  • Has poor vocabulary, sentence structure and grammar usage
  • Displays illogical flow of stories or ideas
  • Uses vague words such as ‘thing’, ‘stuff’, ‘whatever’
  • Problems with receptive language?
  • Needs to hear instructions/directions more than once
  • Appears overwhelmed when there is a lot of auditory activity
  • Misinterprets verbal messages
  • Confuses similar words or sounds
  • Seems distracted or unable to sustain attention when receiving verbal messages

Problems with other language tasks?

  • Cannot associate sounds with their written symbols
  • Tends to spell words phonetically (eg. spelling ‘fire’ as ‘fier’)
  • Reads slowly and has poor reading comprehension

Problems with auditory sensitivity?

  • Finds neutral sounds unpleasant or painful
  • Puts volume of music or television unusually high or unusually low

Demonstrate any of the following physical coordination problems?

  • Poor fine motor skills (using scissors, writing neatly, holding a pencil, etc)
  • Poor gross motor skills (catching a ball, skipping, swimming, etc)
  • Inability to perform many simple physical activities that others of the same age are able to do
  • Falls over and loses balance easily or handles objects clumsily

Demonstrate any of these additional problems?

  • Has poor personal organisation (operating within time limits, approaching tasks in a logical order, etc)
  • Becomes frustrated, overwhelmed or irritated more easily than most children
  • Experiences difficulty with concepts that involve time, direction or sequence


It is recommended that direct intervention for APD (eg. auditory training or speech therapy) be combined with improved environmental conditions and enhanced communication techniques to find ways to help children compensate for their difficulties. Compensatory strategies are not meant to cause avoidance of auditory learning but to enable the child to recognise situations where their listening will be challenged.

Repetition is not a helpful tool in dealing with children who have APD. The comprehension problems are not a result of not hearing the words but of having trouble using the words to interpret the message efficiently. Messages that are not understood must be rephrased slowly with reference to the guidelines below.

1. Eliminating environmental distractions

Anything that can shift the child’s focus from the required task should be kept to a minimum. Possible distractions include background noise (appliances, conversations, traffic, etc) and visual clutter (objects on table, crowded blackboard, etc). It is best to seat a child with APD towards the front of the classroom. Open-plan classrooms have been shown to cause more confusion for children with this condition, so a structured setting is preferable.

2. Improving listening comprehension

Teachers and parents alike tend to deliver most instructions through speech. These can be more carefully structured so that a child with APD has the best possible chance of interpreting the intended message.

Some strategies for presenting information to a child with APD include:

  • Making sure you have the child’s attention before speaking
  • Speaking clearly and slowly
  • Keeping instructions to 8-word sentences or less
  • Phrasing instructions as simply as possible
  • Using words like ‘firstly, then, after, before’ to give the child a sense of sequence
  • Rephrasing rather than repeating misunderstood instructions
  • Being explicit when the topic is changed

Spoken instructions can be enhanced by:

  • Presenting the same information in another medium (eg. pictures, writing)
  • Using physical gestures to demonstrate a point
  • Modulating the voice to emphasise the most important pieces of information

Checking a child’s progress in comprehension can be done in a number of ways:

  • Asking the child to reflect your information or instructions in his/her own words
  • Encouraging the child to ask questions
  • Revisiting material that was learnt earlier

The adult dealing with a child who has APD should make an effort to do the following:

  • Pay attention to the child’s demeanour – if he/she looks tired, take a short break where appropriate
  • Expect that the child will not comprehend messages immediately – if you are frustrated, try not to let this show outwardly to the child
  • Only ask the child to do one task at a time – if you are talking, make sure the child is only listening; if the child is writing, do not give further instructions [13].

3. Other techniques

In specific environments, other techniques include using ear plugs, which may help to reduce unwanted auditory stimuli. Teachers and parents can also actively simplify the child’s visual environment, especially in situations where learning may be challenging.