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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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).
- She focuses on spending one on one time with friends so that she can manage the conversations and feel comfortable and confident.
- 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.)
- We do math in small increments so as not to be overwhelming, use visuals, and I do not talk too much (We homeschool).
- We watch documentaries and do hands on learning for a lot of science and social studies.
- 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.
- 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:
- We scheduled her day to have auditory breaks where she did not have to listen.
- 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.
- 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.)
- 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.)
- 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.)
- 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.
- 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.)
- 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.)
- 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.