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.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Social Skills and Auditory Processing Disorder: Dealing with Non-Stop Talkers

Lately I’ve noticed that my daughter with auditory processing disorder does not like to hang out with people who talk non-stop. When I asked her why she doesn’t enjoy the company of certain people, she explained that she feels it takes too much energy to have to listen to all that talk and never get to talk in return.

So not knowing the answers and wanting to understand my daughter, I took some time to notice how it feels and what I do when I encounter people who talk non-stop.  These are the people who talk a lot, talk fast and usually talk loud.  They are the ones who tend to monopolize a conversation and honestly I don’t think they do it to be unkind in any way; in fact, I think for some people, it might be a way they deal with their need to control a conversation.

I realized that what one has to do in the situation of trying to converse with someone who talks non-stop, is to jump in on the conversation when you notice a pause.  Moreover, if you want to talk about a certain subject that has been brought up, you have to do this before the speaker moves on to another topic.  Of course this all happens in fractions of seconds really, because you have to push your way in by speaking up quickly and loudly when the speaker takes the most miniscule of pauses that was probably just to take a breath.  Personally, I don’t enjoy that kind of conversation, but I have learned to deal with it; I’ve learned the skills necessary to manage that interaction.

Then I had to think about how a person with auditory processing disorder would manage that interaction.  Can my daughter process what is being said and what she wants to say quick enough to jump in to the tiniest of pauses and make it flow relevantly?  If I find that difficult and tiring, how much more difficult and tiring is it for her?

Understandably, my daughter feels forever relegated to the realm of listener in those situations.  She cannot process auditory input or output at a speed to be able to force a mutual conversation with a non-stop talker.  Like probably all human beings, she needs to feel that her relationships and conversations are mutually respectful.  For her, this means she needs her conversation partners to take a pause sometimes, to ask for her input, and to give her the space she needs to speak and feel heard.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Early Intervention Services for Infants and Toddlers With Special Needs

I thought I would take a step back in time again and tell you about getting an IFSP (Individualized Family Service Plan) when our daughter was two years old.

By the time our daughter was two years old, we really knew something was not working so well for her.  She was not speaking, didn't seem to understand what we were saying to her, was having meltdowns and staring spells a lot, and she did odd things like keep things stored in her mouth, smell everything, constantly put her head down in between her legs, and most scary of all, she absolutely panicked when she heard loud noises.  It seemed that life was just getting too difficult for her, and she was not coping well.

So I kept a notebook or her issues and started doing some research on the internet.  I also spoke with our family pediatrician who was concerned the issue might be Autism.  So we set up an appointment with our state's early intervention program.

The state we lived in was the State of Missouri and their program is called Missouri First Steps. They came to our home and talked with us the parents while just observing our daughter at first. They listened to our concerns and decided that some testing of our daughter would be appropriate.

A speech and language pathologist came to our home and tested our daughter.  She was found to be significantly behind in her speech and language development, so this qualified her for their speech services.  Our IFSP had a plan of weekly home visits with a speech and language therapist to work with our daughter and teach us things to do with her ourselves to help build her receptive and expressive language skills

Next an occupational therapist came to our home to test her.  Our daughter was diagnosed as having Sensory Integration Disorder and the occupational therapist's services were added to our IFSP.  Like the speech services, an occupational therapist came to our home weekly to work with our daughter and teach us a sensory diet to use with her at home.

Third, a special education teacher was sent to our home to do some testing to determine if it seemed our daughter had an intellectual disability.  This teacher felt she was most likely at least average intelligence and did not show any signs of an intellectual delay at that time, but as she had severe speech and language problems, she was at a high risk of having a learning disability. Therefore, our IFSP maintained that we would have monthly visits from the special education teacher to track our daughter's progress and address any concerns we had.

These services continued until our daughter aged out of that system at three years old.  All of the states' early intervention programs are only for children birth to three years.  Then children continuing to need services are sent to the school districts to be tested and provided services as determined by them.

To look up services provided by your state for children birth to three years, search for "(your state) early intervention services".

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

A Love of Reading Spurs Reading, Writing, and Spelling Skills

Recently I wrote about how my daughter has found graphic novels, particularly what is referred to as manga, and she has become a huge fan of reading.  She absolutely devours the books!

Well, all this reading is paying off in not only her reading skills, but her spelling is suddenly just clicking. I find her playing with words all the time; she'll just out of the blue tell me how the sound of long e at the end of a word can be spelled with a y, an ie, or sometimes just i.  Then she'll speak about scooping parts of words from one word to put into another word because those words share that part in common.  It is as if the whole puzzle of how the written language works is finally apparent to her and it all just makes sense.

I know this is directly related to all the reading she is doing because I homeschool her.  I have never used the term "scooping" in terms of language before, and we have not talked about the phonics rules in quite a long time.  In fact, she's been enjoying reading and writing on her own so much, the only input I have been giving is when she asks me to listen to her read, look over her writing for spelling or grammar issues, or we talk about what her book is about, where sometimes other comprehension topics might come up like foreshadowing and protagonist.

I truly think inspiring a love of reading has made my daughter with severe Auditory Processing Disorder and Dyslexia not only read better, but write better, and to all of our surprise, become a pretty good speller.

So when those busy bodies who insist that "a child should only read classic literature" and other such nonsense start talking, just ignore them.  A love of reading will outshine anything else when it comes to literacy development, and whatever your child likes to read is perfect!

(I put a list of the graphic novels she has been loving in the list at the right.  It does link to Amazon, but if you want the books, check out your library too.  Ours has a very large selection!  Also, remember my daughter is an almost 12 year old girl, so some of the books are more appropriate for teens and pre-teens rather than younger kids.  I also put a few that were recommended by others.  If there are any your child likes, let me know and I will add them to the list.)

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Coping Strategies For Auditory Processing Disorder in Everyday Life

I promised to write a post about coping strategies for Auditory Processing Disorder in terms of just living everyday life.  This is something we have come to over time and developed and changed according to Hailey’s needs at each stage of her life.  Some we learned from therapists, some from experimentation, and some from the helpful advice of other people dealing with APD in their lives or that of their child’s. 

As an almost twelve year old girl, here are some strategies she employs today:
  1. She had to learn to not compare herself to children who do not have learning disabilities and to realize that she is incredibly smart and capable to be able to learn all that she does and do as great as she does even with her APD.
  2. She had to learn how to manage her day to not be too overwhelmed: not too much socializing or too much having to listen to things. She takes quiet breaks and alone time as needed.
  3. She had to learn destressing techniques that help her such as chewing gum (it relaxes her), or smelling something beautiful (she really likes lavender and has some oil she can place on anything to carry around and smell as desired).
  4. She focuses on spending one on one time with friends so that she can manage the conversations and feel comfortable and confident.
  5. When she has to be in a group of friends, she tries to focus on one kid if possible, and if it is too overwhelming, she finds a way to leave the group without appearing rude. (This is a new one for her and not always easy, but she is trying.)
  6. We do math in small increments so as not to be overwhelming, use visuals, and I do not talk too much (We homeschool).
  7. We watch documentaries and do hands on learning for a lot of science and social studies.
  8. My daughter loves graphic novels/manga books and this has greatly advanced her reading confidence, skills, and she feels like it is a typical pre-teen/teenage girl thing to do as the topics are geared towards that age group.
  9. She found an activity that does not require processing auditory input so much and she has a level field with the other kids. This helps her to feel "normal". (It is figure skating for her.)
As a young child, we the parents had to employs strategies to help her cope with her days.  We had to regulate her activity level, environment, and stress levels.   Here are some strategies we used then:
  1. We scheduled her day to have auditory breaks where she did not have to listen.
  2. We used a sensory diet throughout her day to manage her stress levels; when overwhelmed she would check out from reality and sit in a dazed like state or have major meltdowns.
  3. When we had to go to a noisy environment, we used noise reducing headphones, made sure to massage her legs or arms to keep her focused, and protected her from the demands of others. (For example, when the lady at the checkout wanted to ask her questions and she just could not process them, we would answer for her while smiling at her, rubbing her legs, and reassuring her as she got extremely anxious when people spoke to her.)
  4. We used picture cards, eye contact, and small phrases only to communicate with her so she would know what we were talking about.(She also required a physical touch to make sure she was aware we were talking to her.)
  5. We planned for transitions (going from one activity or environment to the next) by interacting with her at her level, using picture cards, doing sensory diet activities to help her deal with her anxiety, and making sure we brought whatever she needed to bring with her to help her remain calm. (She had a special blanket that we put scents on that she carried everywhere.  We also had chewy toys and strong tasting mints or candies (a sensory calming strategy for her) to give to her as needed.)
  6. When it came to academics (or just learning things like language when she was very young), we limited her time to just what she could handle; we used a lot of visuals and kinesthetics to help her understand; we made sure to give her a long amount of time to actually process what she learned; and we repeated things as often as necessary until she got them.
  7.  In social situations, we always stayed with her to provide support as needed, and we gave her tools to help her navigate them.  For example, she needed to have the practiced phrase, “Hello, My name is Hailey.  What is your name?” at first.  We also taught her other stock phrases that helped her tremendously like “Do you want to play with me?” and “I like your ______”. (As she got older, we were able to communicate with her how to go with the flow more in socializing and as her receptive and expressive speech skills grew, she was able to not have to use stock phrases anymore.)
  8. We made sure all our family and friends were aware of her needs and did not place expectations on her that would create anxiety for her. (This was not readily accepted, but over time it was.)
  9. We worked with specialists such as a speech and language therapist, an occupational therapist, an audiologist who specializes in auditory processing disorder, and a special education preschool to implement therapies to help her.

As I read about the experiences of teenagers and young adults, I know that she will have to learn and incorporate more strategies as well as alter the ones she has now to fit new situations.  So as new situations and environments arise, we'll do research, ask others for advice, and do what we can.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Telling Relatives and Friends about our Child’s Special Needs: It is a Process for them Too

“Don’t lay him down or jostle him in any way, he’s just eaten,” I’d warn the unsuspecting loved one who just had to hold my baby boy at that moment.  Then, of course, came the dirty looks suggesting that she had held babies before and why was I being such a know-it-all.

 “Whoosh,” smelly, white liquid gushed from his mouth and covered her entire front side in sticky vomit. 

“Yep,” I’d think to myself, “that is why I said that,” as I went to retrieve my now sticky baby boy in need of a bath and to be refed.

So this was our introduction to letting family and friends know that our twin babies were not exactly like other babies – those ones that come out at 40 weeks gestation and not 32 weeks.  Among other things, the twins both had severe reflux which required special handling in their feeding routines – including keeping them still and upright for at least half an hour after eating.

As the years went by, my reputation as overprotective mother became even more pronounced.  I insisted my children did not have to be physical with relatives when they did not want to: “No Auntie he does not have to kiss you and she does not have to climb into your lap no matter how much you wish it to be so.”  Of course, I would try to explain why I felt this was important to their development, but like the adults in those Charlie Brown specials, I’m sure it just came off as “wa-wa-wawa”.

Well, you can just imagine the reception when I told the family that our daughter had a language delay and most likely Auditory Processing Disorder.  They simply didn’t believe it.  I was just being that overprotective mother who didn’t want to just let my children be.  “She would come around in her own time,” they thought, “all this effort on speech therapy and occupational therapy was a waste.”  Not to mention the fact that I used it as an excuse to not make her stay at large gatherings for long periods of time.

Still, I never let other people’s opinions change the way I reared my own children.  I knew I was being responsible and doing the best for them.  Heck, I researched everything and put every ounce of my heart and soul into being the best mother I could be for them.

Eventually the family came around.  They started to see that maybe I wasn’t this crazy, over-protective mother they had made me out to be.  Truthfully, I think having the “expert opinions” of others made them more open to the idea that maybe I was onto something true.  Here it wasn’t just me saying these things, but people with degrees in specialty areas were saying it too.  (Yes, you detect a note of sarcasm here because I hate that people think you need a degree to know something, but that’s another story.)

I don’t harbor any ill feelings towards the family members and friends that did not accept that my children had any special needs or who did not approve at first of my parenting style.  It is only human psychology to try adamantly to not accept something that is hard to accept; if I went through quasi-panic attacks coming to terms with my children’s needs, how could I expect them not to have their own problems in accepting it as well.  It is a process after all, and all those in our children’s lives have to go through their own process as well.