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.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Don’t Make Judgments about Things You Don’t Understand

There has been some talk among parents of children with Auditory Processing Disorder about the lack of tact that other adults exhibit sometimes.  It seems that there is a good amount of people who express judgments about APD without thinking about how their words are impacting the people around them.

Auditory Processing Disorder is very much an invisible disability. It is not something that people can see by looking at the person with APD, and with adequate coping skills, people with APD can appear to not be having any difficulties due to their APD. When they do have difficulties, non-understanding individuals sometimes attribute it to a lack of trying.

Most school districts are completely oblivious to Auditory Processing Disorder.  Many psychologists link APD to Attention Deficit Disorder and want to treat it as such.  Family and friends may think it is nothing other than the child being lazy or willfully not listening.  Others cannot see the disability and so treat it as if it is not there, which is good psychologically by not emphasizing the disability but rather the person, but not good when not providing understanding and adequate modifications when necessary.

These opinions and lack of understanding hurt the child with the disability and the parents of that child too.  When someone says things like “He’s just lazy”, “You let him get away with too much”, “Why doesn’t she try harder”, it is hurtful because it does not respect the person with APD’s hard work or the parent’s good parenting. 

When people say things like “It’s no big deal” it is also hurtful.  This statement does not respect the real struggles that people with Auditory Processing Disorder have to work through.

Conversely people who go to the other extreme and express pity and “I could never deal with that” attitudes also hurt.  Auditory Processing Disorder is not a death sentence and it doesn’t mean people with APD cannot live happy, successful lives.

Of course I cannot speak for all people, but my daughter with Auditory Processing Disorder (and Dyslexia) wishes to be treated as a “normal” girl who has a disability that sometimes interferes with her ability to process language.  She wants understanding and not pity.  She wants people to understand that she is smart, capable, works hard, and just needs some more time or different ways to get things done sometimes.  Other times, she can do things exactly like anyone else.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

How Mathematics are More Difficult For My Child with Dyslexia, APD, and VPD

It may be obvious how reading would be more difficult for a child with Dyslexia, Auditory Processing Disorder, and Visual Processing Disorder but have you ever thought about mathematics?  There are four areas of difficulty when doing mathematics that my child has to pay extra special attention to. 
  1. Word problems:  The most obvious way Dyslexia, APD, and VPD trip up a child when doing mathematics is in the word problems.  Whether they are written or spoken problems, the child has to read or listen to them correctly and understand them correctly in order to know what to do. 
  2. Reading the numbers:  People don’t think about the fact that written numerals are a language in which specific notations represent a specific number.  A child with Dyslexia, APD, and VPD can read the numerals incorrectly; 26 may appear as 62 or 56.  If a number is read incorrectly, how can the correct answer be found?  Also, if a number in a sequence is skipped, again the answer will be wrong.
  3. Writing the numbers:  Just like reading the numbers, the Dyslexic, APD, and VPD child may write the numeral incorrectly; 26 may be written as 62 or 56. (This one is a common difficulty for my child and she has to pay extra attention to whether or not she is writing the correct numerals in the correct place.) If the wrong number is written or written in the wrong place, the answer will not be correct.
  4. Remembering how to compute correctly:  The child who has short term memory problems (common to Auditory Processing Disorder) will have difficulty remembering how to do something until it is finally stored in the long term memory. This is especially true for multi-step processes that are common in mathematics.  Therefore if how to multiply multiple digits was taught yesterday, and even though the child managed to do it correctly yesterday, does not mean the child will remember how to do it today.

Knowing that these four aspects to mathematics may be a problem for a child with Dyslexia, Auditory Processing Disorder, and Visual Processing Disorder, what can be done?

  1. Give more time:  The biggest help for a child with APD, VPD and Dyslexia in doing mathematics is to have more time to do each problem.  With more time, the child can carefully reread problems and numbers to make sure he or she is reading, interpreting, and writing correctly.
  2. Reteach concepts and practice consistently:  Do not assume just because the skill was mastered yesterday that it will even be remembered today.  Reteach the skill without condemning the child for not remembering.  Reteach the skill until the child does not need to be retaught anymore.  It will happen; the skill will eventually reach the long term memory and the child will be able to do it without help and reteaching one day.  Be patient.
  3. Use visuals and/or kinesthetics when teaching mathematical concepts and skills: Children with Auditory Processing Disorder have poorer auditory processing skills and are usually much stronger with visuals and kinesthetics. (My dauthter's VPD is very mild and pretty much limited to letters and numerals.  We have used a lot of drawings, hands on work with objects, Cuisenaire rods, place value blocks, and movement when she was younger for things like basic addition.)
  4.  Teach in small chunks:  Smaller pieces of information will be better retained by the short term/working memory and thereby be more usable to the child.  Too much information will simply be overwhelming.  

Given the right circumstances and the time to learn mathematics, my daughter has proven that she is very capable of doing well.  She can grasp the concepts, memorize the processes over time, and use mathematics in her every day life.

* For more information on how to help children with short term memory difficulties, visit the National Center for Learning Disabilities: http://www.ncld.org/types-learning-disabilities/executive-function-disorders/how-to-help-child-with-weak-working-memory
* Here is an article by the Yale Center for Dyslexia and Creativity about Math Struggles:  http://dyslexia.yale.edu/math.html
* Here is a really inclusive article about dyslexia and mathematics from Dyslexia Scotland via Oban High School:: http://www.obanhigh.argyll-bute.sch.uk/Websites/SchSecObanHigh/UserFiles/File/dyslexia%20materials/3_9_19HelpWithMaths.pdf

Personal Notes and Feelings About this Piece:

Since I cannot pinpoint exactly which one of her diagnoses (APD, Dyslexia, or VPD) is the culprit of these problems, I have decided to include them all.

I also have to put in a caveat here that my daughter does have short term memory problems for things like language and mathematics yet her short term memory for things like pictures, feelings, physical movements, and events is incredibly strong.  She has also grown very strong at quickly memorizing the spellings of words via her understanding of phonics and utilization of chunking common spelling patterns.   I suppose all this tells me is that each child is unique and the definitions cannot apply straight across the board and/or she has learned compensatory strategies for some things.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Why Auditory Processing Disorder Makes Reading Difficult

Guest post by Bonnie Landau

Auditory Processing Disorder (APD) is not an issue with hearing sounds, but an issue with how the brain interprets the sounds that are heard. The challenges most often arise with spoken speech since the differences between sounds can be subtle and therefore more difficult for an individual with APD to detect. The presence of background noise can make this even more difficult.

But even without background noise, people with APD are often have difficulty distinguishing differences between similar parts of speech.  For example, you can say “Please go to your room and get your red coat,” and the person may hear “Please go on your broom and get your bed note.”

Research has shown that APD effects the ability to distinguish specific sounds, or phonemes, within speech. This causes speech to be perceived as “muddied” or “blending all together.”  As a result, when children with APD begin to read, they have difficulty learning the distinct sounds that are used to make words.

Muddied sounds makes for inconsistent learning
When a child is learning to read, the first part of that process is teaching the sounds (phonemes), and how they relate to the letters (graphemes). This is known as the alphabetic principal. In addition, the child must master phonologic awareness, or the ability to break words apart (decoding) into their phonemes and put them together (blending) to make the word.

Since children with APD often perceive similar sounds as the same, this can make it very difficult for them to learn the specific phoneme pronunciations. As a result it is very difficult for them to learn how to decode the sounds in a word.

Environment contributes to the inconsistency
Because environment effects how a child with APD interprets sounds, the classroom environment can further hamper the learning process. What they learn one day with a quiet room can sound very different the next day when the air conditioning has been turned on. When you read to your child at home it sounds very different than in a classroom of 30 kids all rustling and making noise. This inconsistenct input makes learning a struggle.

A child without APD is presented with phonics and reading exercises which are the same day-to-day. A child with APD is faced with exercises that can sound very different day-to-day. This clearly causes confusion, frustration and an extreme slowing of the learning process.

Kids with APD compensate with sight reading
Kids with APD are often very bright, and to bypass this inconsistent learning situation, they will often rely on their visual strengths to help them learn to read. As a result, they will not bother with the breaking apart (or decoding) of the words, but instead learn the word in its entirety, like memorizing a picture. The child may still struggle to hear the different words, but there is less confusion than breaking the word into specific phonemes.

At first this technique is an effective coping strategy, but as the volume of words turns into 1,000’s of words, reading becomes cumbersome and slow as they continually have to access this visual memory bank. In addition, when faced when an unknown word, the child has no tools for deciphering the word and must rely on others to teach new words.

Around a third of children try to read by sight recognition of the words and we call that pattern Optilexia. Some of them have auditory weaknesses, like APD, while others just have great visual memories and so memorizing words seems the easiest way to deal with inconsistent English spelling.

57% of kids with APD have reading difficulties
A lot of research has been done to identify causes of reading difficulties in children. Recent studies have identified a causal relationship between APD and problems learning to read (Sharma et al., 2009; Watson et al., 1993; Wright et al., 2000). In 2009 Sharma et al. did a study of 68 children diagnosed with APD. 57% of these children were found to have a reading disorder. 47% of these children were found to have a language disorder in addition to the reading difficulties.

Helping a child with APD learn to read
Clearly the auditory-only approach taken by most schools is not the optimum learning environment for a child with APD. It is best to supplement their reading instruction with a modality that engages the visual and/or kinesthetic approaches in order to expand ways the child can learn phonemes and decoding. By engaging the other senses the child has a way to verify decoding, and they can progress more rapidly in learning to read.

It is important to not use reading programs that involve a lot of language or word-structure rules which require even more auditory memory for the children. For example, having to remember a silent ‘e’ at the end of the word makes the vowel say its name.  Modalities that layer language rules on top of reading rules requires more short-term memory processing,  which children with APD often struggle with.

It would be optimum to understand the child’s strongest learning style, and choose a program that fits this strength. Then the child can have a structure that will be engaging as well as assisting in learning to read.

Bonnie is a mom to 2 boys, one of whom was diagnosed with APD. She manages the USA office for the Easyread System, a new approach to providing reading help and spelling help for children who have dyslexia, reading problems or are visual learners.

Monday, October 8, 2012

What is Your Face Expressing? Teaching Body Language Awareness

Have you ever thought about how the expression on your face influences how other people react to you? 

I’ve been watching my daughter in different situations and it dawned on me that when she is feeling uncomfortable or nervous, such as in a group situation or meeting someone new, she looks down and has an almost frown/almost grimace on.  I’ve asked what she is feeling when she looks like that and she said she’s a little nervous, but that’s it.  If I were not someone who knew my daughter well, I’d assume from the look on her face that she was grumpy.

My daughter has always been extremely good at reading facial expressions and so I just assumed she was aware of her own.  This incident made me realize that the two skills are not the same.  So very carefully, I initiated a discussion about facial expressions.  We played with different ones and said what we thought as observers of these expressions.  Together we decided that a grumpy looking face is not one that we would feel very comfortable going up to and starting a conversation with.  In fact, we’d probably avoid that person.

Now my sweet daughter who tends to get a little nervous is trying to remember to look up and smile when she is around new people or in a group.  Of course, she still puts on the grumpy face sometimes because it is hard to not do what one is so conditioned to doing.  It takes a lot of courage to smile and look up when you are feeling like maybe you’d rather just hide.  But the reality is she doesn’t want to hide; she wants to socialize, she’s just a little nervous.

Have you realized how your facial expressions affect those around you and influence how they treat you?  How did you learn to make yourself aware of what you were expressing and if it was what you wanted to be expressing?