Auditory Processing Disorder

Parent Q&A

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  • Our ten year old son may have auditory processing issues.  His teacher is recommending an assessment because he has trouble understanding verbal instructions and word recall, among other things.  For instance, I told him this morning that I put something in his backpack.  He called me from school saying he forgot it and I told him that I told him I put it in his backpack.  I don't know if he isn't listening or if there is a developmental or biological issue.  He doesn't "get" certain concepts at first and it will take some additional exposure for him to understand it.  Even then, he may not be understanding larger concepts.  I see these issues with him and frankly, I have had the same issues.  

    His teacher says that the assessment will give us some indication of what the issue is.  If he does have an issue, he would be provided accommodations (i.e. provided new material prior to it being introduced in class so that he has additional time to comprehend it.)  But we are also worried that there will be some negative consequences (i.e.  schools may discriminate, it will make him feel insecure, etc.)

    What was your experience with your child with getting an assessment and accommodations?  Also, do you have recommendations for professionals who do assessments?  Dr. Deborah Ross-Swain of the Swain Institute was recommended.  Does anyone have any thoughts about her.

    Many thanks.

    One of my kids got a complete assessment, including an auditory processing assessment from Dr. Swain.  Dr. Swain is thorough, very bright, and compassionate.  Her report was very helpful.  She does a great job helping to “tease apart” different overlapping issues.  She is very good at explaining her testing and her findings.

    Going through the testing really helped us to understand our kid, and allows us to be more supportive and understanding of what he can and can’t do.  Getting support from the schools is an entirely different thing, though.  A diagnosis of auditory processing disorder just allows our kid to sit near the teacher and his teachers are supposed to check in with him to see if he understands assignments.  In theory, he is supposed to get written directions and instruction, but this just never happens in reality.  

    I definitely think it was worthwhile to get the testing done, but getting adequate support in school is still a challenge.

    I would suggest you pursue an assessment to find out the issue your son is facing. It's scary and nerve wracking but better to know than be left in the dark and him struggling. Our daughter had a somewhat similar issue (verbal instructions sometimes wouldn't "register" with her) and she would exhibit brief (2 seconds or less) staring spells where she was "zoned out." After dismissing it and getting the same dismissal from teachers ("she sometimes has difficulty listening or with verbal instruction"), I requested an EEG from her pediatrician. The results from the EEG are that she was diagnosed with absence seizures. While we're only just beginning to walk this path of assessment and accommodations (we haven't gotten accommodations set up with her school yet), I think that you should do everything to advocate for your child and get him the ("extra") help he may need to support him thriving in school. I can empathize with your worry of discrimination or him being insecure but as parents, we wouldn't hesitate to request accommodations for a physical ailment (e.g. if our child was on crutches or a wheelchair) and I think pursuing non-visual issues that affect our children should also be taken in the same vein. Best of luck!

    Our daughter's first-grade teacher thought she might have auditory processing issues because she didn't seem to hear.  Ultimately she was diagnosed with ADHD, and her life improved a lot with treatment.  It may be that getting a diagnosis seems like "labeling" your son, and that it could lead to problems.  Without a diagnosis, however, it will be very hard to help your child.  He will be more likely to decide that he is hopelessly stupid or lame on some global level, rather than disabled in a specific way that can be managed.  Teachers will be more likely to think he is willfully ignoring them (as they did with our daughter), rather than having trouble hearing and processing what he hears.  Other kids will be more likely to think he is weird or lame (as they did with our daughter).  As for discrimination, our daughter says that nobody has teased or mistreated her over having ADHD since she was diagnosed.


    Our child was diagnosed as having CAPD.  Things that helped: seating up front.  Away from anything noisy. The best way Ive heard it described is 'the cocktail effect'. when you are at a cocktail party you can't tune out other sounds. Id also make sure your son is looking at you when you say something, keep it simple. Usually there's a dominant ear.(To find the dominant ear tell your son you think you hear a noise in the wall, see which ear he listens with.)

    Processing more slowly is not an iq ussue. Some just need framing and more time. 

    We did a couple rounds at the Swain center and they did help a bit. I think she sends the system to you home now so it may be less expensive. We also did Lindamood Bell which was a more tangible help.  From my perspective, I wish that I had one on one for our child with a speech therapist outside of the school district. It will help with identifying sounds and words.

    I also found having a tutor to help front load, and just support, very helpful.

    Most importantly, remember that you son will be fine. If you are a worrier, like me, its good to keep any of these types of conversations away from your son. Just my 2cents.

    We found the special ed extremely unhelpful.  That said, all schools are different. You might take a look at Wrightslaw online.

    We had my son evaluated last year and the audiologist determined he does have APD. It helped us understand a lot about his behaviors, interactions at school, etc.  As part of my son’s IEP, the school added some classroom supports like written instructions in addition to verbal. We went to SF Speech and Sound and thought they were great. They also have treatment services there, but we didn’t do that because of the distance from Berkeley. 

    My younger kid, now in middle school, has a 504 plan.  We paid for an initial assessment at UC eye clinic for tracking and processing issues, then the school district paid for a comprehensive assessment.  It's a good thing to have a 504, it lets her sit closer to the teacher, it lets us communicate  with the teacher(s) at the beginning of the school year to  let  them know she is  not being defiant if she just stands there--she probably did not understand the instructions of what she is  supposed to  be doing.  It lets them know when several kids are  talking  in a group  she  is not going to be able to track everything they are saying.  Before this, we felt like her third grade teacher thought she was not a cooperative student who tried hard, but it was a learning disability. 

  • Auditory Processing Disorder testing

    (2 replies)

    I have two referrals:

    Rupa Balacandran at Univ of Pacific and Melissa Wilson at Sound Speechsnd Hearing.

    I am needing to test my daughter who also has vision processing issues. 

    Any comments or advice would be greatly appreciated!


    I would recommend Rupa Balachandran - she is very caring and good with kids.

    Dimitra Loomos, AuD, Audiology Consultant

    Voice Message: 510-282-7803

    Email: dimitra [at]

    We used her. She was great.

Archived Q&A and Reviews


Testing for teen's Auditory Processing Disorder

Nov 2015

I'm looking for recommendations for doctors or specialists who will test for auditory processing disorder. My 14 year old daughter describes it as having ''dsylexia'' for hearing. I welcome any suggestions/recommendations on how to help her deal with this issue.

Worried parent

Don't fret. Although it is only recently being called Dyslexia for hearing, the person advising you or your daughter are likely referring to phonemic awareness. PA is one of (not the only) fundamental issue behind most reading challenges (dyslexia being the most common reading (decoding) challenge. Dyslexia is still the most common learning challenge at ~20% of the population. (Perhaps anxiety and ADHD have surpassed it by now...) So, there is a lot of good qualified help because there is a lot known. (NIHCD has a lot of information on learning.)

I would find an EXPERIENCED Educational Therapist (Professional or Board Certified) in your area (see to meet with for an Intake first. Then that professional can help you decide what might be going on and the best next steps. Your advisor, which is what ET/P or BCETs do, should have the whole child in mind, not just phonemic awareness or auditory processing. If they think you need a full psychoeducational assessment; Neuropsychologists, EdPsychs, or BCETs are best suited for that. Anyone you choose must be one who specializes in assessments but also has a bit of their practice implementing change which keeps them pragmatically grounded. Berkeley/Oakland, Orinda/Lafayette have a lot of these such professionals. I know you will find the right person(s). Best, Kathryn

My child was recently tested for auditory processing disorder, and we used Dr. Deborah Swain. She is an audiologist. She is very thorough and it was well worth the drive up to Santa Rosa. The treatment depends on the type of auditory issues that your child experiences.

Dr. Deborah Swain Swain Center +1 (707) 575-1468

Based on our personal experiences, I would suggest that you start the process of understanding how to help your child with a visit to your pediatrician. Hearing differences that are caused by the ear itself are diagnosed and treated by the traditional medical specialists. Hearing differences that are caused by how the brain interprets sound (auditory processing disorder) are diagnosed and treated by an audiologist.

Auditory processing disorder has a lot of overlap with dyslexia, too. There is quite a bit of recent research being done to understand the relationship between APD and Dyslexia. So, you might want to look into an evaluation for dyslexia, too. Dyslexia is not that a person sees numbers or letters backward, as many people believe. Dyslexia is a characterized by difficulties with accurate and/or fluent word recognition and by poor spelling and decoding abilities because of a deficit in the phonological component of language (yes, it's based on difficulty processing the sounds in language). Good luck!

I highly recommend Audiologist Dimitra Loomos. Her website is for more info. Lisa

Dear Worried Parent,

UCSF Benioff Children's Hospital Oakland performs CAPD evaluations. One of our Audiologists recommended that your daughter be assessed by an audiologist, if she hasn't already been. There are only a few in the Bay Area that perform CAPD assessments. She also recommended that your daughter receive a Language Processing assessment and see a Neuropsychologist. Ideally, Central Auditory Processing Disorder (CAPD) should be diagnosed in a multi-disciplinary approach. If she is diagnosed with CAPD, then it should be specified in what particular areas your daughter has difficulties. Under the label of CAPD, there are specific areas such as auditory discrimination, dichotic listening, temporal processing, monaural low redundancy and binaural interaction.

The diagnosing audiologist will create a treatment plan that should include environmental modifications (ie preferential seating away from noise), management strategies (ie writing down multi-step directions) and direct therapy (ie fastforward, CAPDOTS, etc). We understand how confusing CAPD can be. Feel free to email me our audiologist at the address below directly with any other questions. She is willing to help in any way she can. Susan at CHO

A fabulous and fairly affordable place to get an evaluation is at Full Circle Development Center. They are a pediatric Occupational Therapy office which focuses on processing disorders. Any of the practitioners there are great. We see Nami Hayashi. It may take a while for them to call you back, but keep calling. It's worth it; they really know what they're doing. The number is: :(510) 652-7611 They're located on Claremont in Oakland, right near the DMV. Michelle

Which programs are helpful for kids with auditory processing issues?

March 2015

This is for any teachers or parents out there with children with auditory processing problems - what programs are helpful? Recently there has been a few posts on inattentiveness or ADD and auditory processing has come up. As an elementary kid in the 70s I did a weekly special workshop at school for an auditory processing disorder and I found it really really helpful. I have no idea what was called. Now my son has the same thing and I wondered if anyone knows what is used? We live overseas and his school here doesn't have anything so I thought maybe I would buy something.

As I remember, the one I had was a series of cassette tapes with a work book. I would listen to instructions with earphones and then do the task. At first this was impossible, at 10 I could not remember an instruction as simple as 'find the circle and color it brown', I had no auditory memory or comprehension but this program quickly trained me how to listen and was really really helpful.

I also mention this because of the discussion last week on inattentive children who zone out. That was me exactly. And like many children who are compliant and able to develop compensatory tactics (such as always relying on looking around the classroom to see what others were doing to figure out what to do) neither my parents nor my teacher knew that I had a problem. It was the school speech therapist who had worked with me when I was 6 and kept on eye on my development who recommended it, and I will forever be grateful to her because it was eye opening to finally know what was going on in the class. Also to some who mention that if a child can focus on some things then they have the ability to focus on everything, that is simply not true - it is not across the board and not 100% consistent. For instance I could listen to a story being read for 30 minutes out loud by the teacher everyday at the same age and remember every word almost but instructions, even for something I really was interested in, were beyond my ability.


Try Visualize and Verbalize by Linda Mood Bell. Does wonders with some of the children I work with who have APD. Wish I had it when I was a child! SLP with ADP

I just attended a talk by Deborah Swain of the Swain Center in Santa Rosa. They have a number of assessments and treatments for auditory processing disorders, which can results in child behaviors very similar to ADD. I was particularly interested to learn about the Tomatis Method which uses music to achieve some really amazing results in sensory processing and other learning issues. Google them for the web site. Swain Center is also collaborating with the Summit Center in Walnut Creek for evaluations and treatment of all types of learning issues. Elizabeth

Auditory Processing - experience with Tomatis or Bernard Methods?

Feb 2008

After an audiology exam we find our son has an auditory processing disorder. In addition to the school support we are looking to add either the Tomatis Method at the Listening Center, or the Bernard Method. Does anyone have any experience with either? I am in a spin from so much different research so any experience would really help.

Thank You

Our son's auditory processing disorder wasn't diagnosed until he was almost 15 so it was late for some interventions. I recommend you join Yahoo's auditory processing group where you will get a lot of helpful information and can post your specific questions. The group's moderator is a specialist. Her most consistent recommendation is using Fast ForWord, which improves reading and attention skills.

As far as auditory integration training, there isn't the same scientific proof that it is effective. My son worked with an occupational therapist who recommended Vital Sound's fine tuning and selected a specific program for my son based on his auditory processing evaluation. It appeared to help. Good luck! Anon

Testing for Central Auditory Processing Disorder

April 2006

I'm beginning to wonder if my 13 year old son may have central auditory processing disorder. He often has trouble remembering verbal instructions, and many times he seems to be a beat or two behind in conversations. He'll say ''what?'' and then he'll realize he did actually hear what was said, he just has to think about it for a minute. He's bright & gets good grades in school, but he often has trouble staying attentive and sometimes just completely misses instructions about assignments. He had a lot of trouble when he was younger with allergies, ear infections and prolonged periods of diminished hearing ability. I'd like to have him evaluated for CAPD, but am not sure which is the best route - requesting an evaluation throught the school or doing it independently. We have Kaiser for health, but are open to the idea of going outside the Kaiser system if we need to. Is there any who has experience with this and can give me some advice on how to best proceed? Any recommendations for audiologists here in the Bay Area? Thanks a lot!

My experience is that an assessment with an audiologist can confirm a suspected CAPD diagnosis. I had a very positive experience with audiologist Dimitra Loomis, who was located in Oakland. There are also two books that are helpful and focus on CAPD, in case you haven't read them already: Like Sound Through Water, One Mother's Journey Through Central Auditory Processing Disorder ~ Karen J. Fol ... When the Brain Can't Hear: Unraveling the Mystery of Auditory Processing Disorder ~ Teri James Bellis Laura

Auditory processing therapy for 3 year old?

Jan 2005

Has anyone had experience with auditory processing therapy for children? My son, age 3, is going through some developmental issues (like he is few responsive, or even doesn't realize when somebody is talking to him). Any experiences (good or bad) you would like to share will be greatly appreciated. Concerned mom

Hi, My son has Central auditory processing disorder -- he too doesn't seem to always hear us, is kind of spacey, and he is having a lot of trouble learning to read and to blend words, and so on. I just found a great website which has a lot of information in its archives (below). It is a little tricky to get signed in the first time, but I figured out you need to sign up for a particular forum and get a password, and then it seems to work.

Also, there is a great book called ''When the Brain Can't Hear'' which explains a lot of the auditory processing symptoms, strategies, and the different types of processing issues there might be. They seem to say that you can't really test for this until they are a little older, like 6 or 7, but you should definitely find out what you can get tested for now, and do it. I have been told over and over again that it is important to start working on 'strategies' for dealing with the processing problems as they are likely to be there for my son's entire life, and he needs to work around them.

Good luck! you can email me if you have any other specific questions, but I am still at the beginning of this process too.. Melinda

My son received auditory processing (Berard method) from Judy Paton in San Mateo when he was 6 years old. Our main goal was to reduce hypersensitivity to loud/sudden noises. It was somewhat helpful and he has maintained his gains. It is a very serious, intense therapy which requires two short sessions with a three-hour break in between for 10 days. Judy is an amazing person with a huge knowledge base, particularly in sensory integration issues and different learning styles, and would not try to sell you on this idea if your child is not a good candidate. asymetry

My son did AIT, specifically Tomatis, about 1 and 1/2 years ago. It was very intense and very expensive, almost $8,000, and we didn't see any change. In fact, all of the input seemed to overwhelm him. It didn't increase language and it did increase some of his self-stimming behaviors (which is quite common). My son has Down syndome and PDD and did the program when he was 3. On the other hand, my mom's neighbor's son did the program and it changed his world. He has very mild autism and prior to AIT he only used one to two word phrases (this was at around 4-5 years old), and afterwords he began speaking in sentences. It was that noticeable. The mom also did something called Metanome??? which she also liked. My best advice is to really make sure you are working with smart people and possibly try a shorter, less intensive program first, which might cost more like $2,000. Patsy