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, April 14, 2013

Processing Conversations with Auditory Processing Disorder: You Don't Always Understand

A few days ago I posted on Facebook a quote from a young woman* with auditory processing disorder.  She described how she understands maybe only a few words in a conversation and uses body language and context to try to figure out what the other person is saying.  Well, I knew my daughter did this to some extent, but I hadn't really been paying as close attention to this in a long time.  

At home, in an ideal environment with people she is very familiar with, my Hailey actually does very well at understanding most things; her only real difficulties at home seem to be in watching television as she often misses the conversations there.  That really isn't a problem though as we just pause the tv (we use a dvr and it is wonderful for this reason) and help her understand if she wants the help.  Of course most of the time she is content to just half-understand the words spoken, because let's face it, television is not usually very complex and is highly visual.

So we were going along in our nice little world of home without thinking too much of the real difficulties Hailey has with understanding what people say.  Socially, she has friends and the group aspect of conversations still make it too difficult to follow a conversation, so she just follows along at the edges of the group.  With her close friends, she has one-on-one conversations and that works well. We knew this and felt okay with it all.  However, with the information from the young woman that I posted on my Facebook page, I started paying more attention to where maybe her lack of understanding is causing her real problems.

As many of you know, Hailey ice skates.  She is also in a theater on ice class, which she really enjoys.  Mostly, she just has to follow along with what the others are doing and takes in her input visually.  Yes, she has to follow the music to stay on beat, but luckily she does not have the prosodic form of APD and so can hear the beat of the music well enough.  Well, her troupe is starting to learn a new program and her coach has decided to allow each skater some more individual input.  With this is mind, her coach took her aside to talk to her about what character she would like to be in the upcoming program; her coach has become aware that Hailey does not comprehend well in the group setting and so kindly spoke to her privately, making eye contact.

Hailey didn't want to make eye contact, kept shrugging her shoulders, and desperately wanted me to speak for her.  I tried to help without interfering and tried to encourage her to speak for herself; she is 12 years old and can handle these things. She did okay, but it was clear that she doesn't understand as much as I would have thought.  Later in the car, alone with me, she said some things to me about the conversation she had with her coach and she got quite a few things very wrong; she thought she heard things that were never said.

So even though her coach spoke to her one-on-one and she had me there to help, Hailey still didn't process it all.  The surrounding factors, I believe, were:

  • she was already worn out from a full day of skating and socializing to her ability in a group;
  • her coach has an accent;
  • she is somewhat intimidated by her coach even though she really likes her a lot - she sees her coach as someone with a lot of authority and also as someone she wants to please and yet doesn't always understand; 
  • and she is afraid that she might choose the wrong character in this particular scenario and end up in a situation that is too hard for her. (Talk about anxiety!)

All of this just helps me to realize that my sweet Hailey works really hard to make sense of what she does hear and unfortunately, she still misunderstands quite a bit if not in an ideal situation with a familiar context.  Being homeschoolers, I forget how much this is a problem because she is in an ideal environment most of the time and she is very familiar with our speaking styles and not at all intimidated by us. 

*Kendra Ross: "I have been called a liar by teachers, students.... I understand that APD is so hard to deal with and not understanding what someone is saying to you; the best thing I do that helps me when someone is talking to me and I have no idea what they are saying is reading their body language. If that doesn't work even if I don't understand what someone is saying, I use whatever words I do hear, and replay that back to them. Like today this one girl in my class was telling me about what she is going to do for her video, and it was a long hallway, she slurred. I had no clue what she was talking about until i got these words "needed.........talk.......teacher". Even though it was just 3 words, I got that she needed to talk to our video teacher about what she is going to do for her final. Then I wished her good luck. Now if I'm having a bad day, then I will just nod at the appropriate times until the conversation is over. Which happens, but it's best to try and understand the situation, even if it only 1 piece of info. It is key to have your [children] develop the skill of understanding a situation even just on body language. And the most important skill is understanding the situation and filling in the blanks. Hope this helps."


  1. Hi,
    I just found your blog through a posting on facebook. Thank you for listing my 3 time award winning book "I Get It!, I Get It!, How John Figures It Out" as a resource. Have you seen my first book titled "Don't You Get It?, Living With Auditory Learning Disabilities"?

    Loraine Alderman, Psy.D.

  2. Hi Loraine, Thank you for visiting. I do know your book and I will put it on my Amazon link; I'm sorry I must have missed it before. I love your books very much! I am particularly a lover of children's books and so your book "I Get It!, I Get It! How John Figures It Out" was such a wonderful addition to my collection.

    - Bev