Hello! This blog is about my daughter Hailey (currently 12 years old) and her experiences living with auditory processing disorder. Auditory Processing Disorder is Hailey's primary issue, however she has also been given the labels Sensory Processing Disorder, Dyslexia, Visual Processing Disorder, Mixed Expressive Receptive Language Disorder and Phonology Disorder at various points in her life.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Group Lessons??? The Coach Makes All The Difference

Recently my daughter Hailey started to take off-ice lessons as well as her twice weekly figure skating lessons. These are lessons where they do aerobic exercises, strengthening exercises, stretching exercises, and practice jumps in their sneakers - off the ice.  Her lessons on the ice are one-on-one with a coach that she adores and works very well with. Her off-ice lessons are in a group format with nine other girls.  She also has a new coach for these lessons whom she is not familiar with and to top that off, she has an accent.

At first, I was concerned that these off-ice lessons would not work for Hailey.  She generally just falls apart in group lessons: she can't understand what is going on, what she is supposed to do, and the atmosphere feels too chaotic for her.  She also doesn't usually do well understanding people who have accents.

Pleasantly, we have both been surprised!  Her new coach for the off-ice lessons makes a point of telling the students what to do and briefly showing them.  Then she taps Hailey on the shoulder to get her attention and shows her step-by-step how to do the activity with Hailey following along.  It works wonderfully. Hailey understands how and what to do so she doesn't feel like things are out of control.

The other girls can still be noisy and active around Hailey, but she seems to be handling it well.  She just focuses on what she needs to be doing and doesn't let them distract her.  Sometimes one will get into her space a little too close (like they might accidentally kick her) and she either moves herself or the coach motions for her to move to a larger spot.

Overall, I'm happy that Hailey is doing so well in a group lesson.  Not only because she is getting the instruction she needs for ice skating, but she is also tolerating a group of noisy, active kids around her.  This is a milestone!

PS:  I didn't even have to talk to the new coach about Hailey's needs.  Hailey's original coach, her on-ice coach, explained it to her ahead of time.  Yippee!  How wonderful to have people who are so caring and pro-active for my child.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Strategies for Managing Auditory Processing Disorder

The management of Auditory Processing Disorder (APD) consists of three main categories: 1) Environmental Modifications; 2) Remediation (Direct Therapies); and 3) Compensatory Strategies.

As not every person with Auditory Processing Disorder has the same exact problems to the same exact extent, it is important to keep in mind that not all strategies work for everyone nor are all needed for everyone.  Moreover, many times Auditory Processing Disorder is one disability/difference of many for an individual; some conditions such as Dyslexia, Sensory Processing Disorder, Visual Processing Disorder, Attention Deficit Disorder, and various language disabilities are common co-existing conditions.

Environmental Modifications:

Environmental modifications are things that are done to make the environment for a person with Auditory Processing Disorder most able to function at his or her best for learning, working, and/or living.  Some examples of these are*:

  • Preferential seating to be nearest the speaker and away from environmental noises such as heaters or fans;
  • Visual cues and aids used in presentations to assist with comprehension of the material being covered;
  • Written notes provided so that full attention can be on the speaker and not on trying to take notes at the same time;
  • Study guides or outlines provided before the lecture so that the person with APD can become familiar with the material and vocabulary ahead of time;
  • A school FM sound system or a personal FM system to allow the person with APD to hear the speaker directly without as much environmental noise;
  • The speaker pausing at phrases rather than speaking in long, complicated sentences;
  • Always insuring that the person with APD has the ability to see the face of the speaker;
  • Permitting the person with APD more time to process information - both input and output;
  • Provide or allow the use of lists or other devices (such as recording devices) to assist with auditory memory problems; 
  • Noise reducing headphones for the person with APD who is sensitive to sound when direct listening is not necessary - such as during a test or when reading;
  • For the young child, picture cards are a valuable asset to assisting the child with communication. These can be made at home or purchased; and
  • Many publishers of textbooks (Harcourt Brace, Houghton Mifflin, Pearson, Macmillian/ McGraw Hill, Holt McDougal & Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Pearson Prentice-Hall, Pearson K-12) also have electronic textbooks that are available.  They are interactive and play on a computer.  I've been told that school districts are the only ones that can order them at the k-12 level.  I've also been told that some are accessible to be read by a text to speech reader application such as Adobe Acrobat 6. This is something to look into if reading speed is a problem for the student with APD.  

Remediation (direct therapy):

Remediation is controversial for Auditory Processing Disorder.  There are a number of therapy programs available and all have mixed results.  Some people may find one therapy incredibly helpful while others may find that same therapy to be useless.  

Remediation should also be aimed at the particular needs/circumstance of the individual with Auditory Processing Disorder.  Therefore, if a child is having problems processing speech, a speech therapist would be advisable.  If a child is having difficulties learning to read, a reading intervention program would make sense. Keeping this in mind, here is a list of some possible therapies*:

Compensatory Strategies:

Compensatory strategies are ways in which the person with Auditory Processing Disorder uses other skills to help him or her best cope with his or her auditory processing problems.  These are language, conversation, organizational, and social skills that have been taught or encouraged and practiced.  Some examples of these are:

  • Identifying body language and facial expressions;
  • Lip reading;
  • Social skills training such as role playing different scenarios;
  • Using the practice of rephrasing what someone says as a way to halt the conversation and use that time to better process what was said and compose a response;
  • Speaking up for oneself and one's needs such as asking people to repeat or clarify something;
  • Utilizing environmental modifications such as making a point of positioning one's self near to and looking at a speaker as much as possible;
  • Using texting or e-mail to communicate;
  • Using written reminders or lists to compensate for auditory memory problems; and
  • Use visualization techniques to remember things: make a picture in one's mind of the event or concept.

* All links posted here are only one company providing the service or product listed.  Please research to find which provider you prefer.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Just Like a 'Normal' Girl

What does it feel like to be 'normal'?  Having Auditory Processing Disorder, my daughter Hailey has had more than her share of experiences where she has felt not-normal.  She has felt like the outsider in social groups where everyone seems to understand what is being said except her.  She has felt like the 'weirdo' who says the wrong things because she recalls the wrong words when speaking.  She has felt like the 'idiot' when she can't figure something out or reads slowly and the other children laugh.  So feeling 'normal', or rather what she thinks other children who don't have processing disorders or learning disabilities feel, is something she craves.

This last year, Hailey started ice skating lessons.  She was fortunate enough to have a private lesson for her first session because she was the only one to sign up for that level.  Her coach was extremely good at teaching using visual and kinesthetic approaches with clear, concise auditory directions.  What Hailey realized is that she excels at ice skating; it was easy!

The next session, Hailey ended up in a class with a different coach and other students.  It was a disaster!  This coach relied on auditory directions without making eye contact all the time, and the other students talking and buzzing around her made it impossible for Hailey to understand what she was supposed to do.  So, being the typical mother of a child with special needs, I went to the director of the ice skating program and told her Hailey has Auditory Processing Disorder and needs visual and kinesthetic coaching with less auditory distraction.  The director had never heard of APD before, but she knows it is something like a learning disability and she is familiar with that, so she decided it would be okay to make sure Hailey has lessons that aren't really private lessons, but it could be arranged to make sure she is the only one that signs up.  I know this sounds confusing, but not really because there are more classes offered than students at her level, so it was just a matter of being flexible in our schedule.  I also made sure to request the coach she worked with before who was so great, and the director changed her schedule to make sure that coach would teach Hailey's class. Yippee!  Asking often does pay off.

So one more session of private lessons - although it wasn't called that because the program doesn't actually allow for private lessons - and Hailey was progressing remarkably fast.  She passed out of the basic skills program and moved into the freestyle classes.  These are arranged a little differently and she has the same coach she and I both adore, but two more students take classes with her.  Each student gets one-on-one time with the coach while the others practice, so it essentially works much like private lessons.  Hailey also goes to extra lessons with her coach where there are four students total and each student practices separately having their own private instruction time with the coach.

So back to the 'normal' feeling Hailey craves.  In the ice skating world, Hailey feels 'normal'.  She feels like she learns and progresses just like any other girl without needing anything special or different to succeed.  The playing field is leveled in this area and she loves it!

(Now there is still the social aspect in the locker room, but she is easing into that slowly.  The other girls seem very kind and at this point, just assume she is shy.  Eventually, she'll probably tell them she has Auditory Processing Disorder and that she needs to see their faces when they talk and can only really understand when one person talks at a time.  Hopefully that goes well, and truthfully I think it will.  Also, her coach is always there in the locker room and she does understand APD (she said she was familiar with it when I told her), so that should help.