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.

Monday, October 14, 2013

APD Makes Classroom Learning Hard: Having Auditory Processing Disorder and Taking Classes after Homeschooling

As many of you know, Hailey (7th grade) wants to take community college classes as a high-schooler, which is in two years.  So we found a local homeschool center that offers classes to homeschoolers and she signed up for tennis, 3-D art, theater improv, and creative writing.  This way she will have some exposure to taking classes before taking college level classes. (And she really is loving just having the experience of going to school and taking classes and eating lunch with her friends.)

This experience is really showing her and us just how much her auditory processing disorder affects her in a classroom environment.  None of us really could have guessed how difficult some aspects of a classroom learning experience would be.

As Hailey has some great coping skills and really relies a lot on the visual information she is inputting, she is doing very well in the tennis and 3-D art classes.  She says that although she doesn't necessarily understand what the teachers are saying, she can see what they are demonstrating and so knows what to do.  She has always done well at both art and anything physical.

The problems for Hailey are in the creative writing class and the theater improv class.  The areas of difficulty so far are in understanding what is being taught orally, clearly knowing the directions told, and reproducing the spoken or written work under the pressure of time.

The creative writing class is taught by the teacher reading a poem and talking about the use of literary devices such as metaphor, simile, personification, etc.  She tells the students what a quatrain is and reads an example.  So everything is being told to them and at most, they have a sheet in front of them.  The problem is that the sheet is just of the poem being read and so it helps, but it doesn't teach Hailey what a metaphor is for example; she would have to understand what the teacher is saying to get it.  The homework is also told to the students at the end of class.

The theater improv class has the students working in groups and doing improvisational type skits; although not completely improv as they do get to do some planning and preparing before they do their skit.   This is very fun and Hailey is enjoying it, but again she is not processing everything and so tells me that she just lets the others take the lead and she has very few lines.  She says that she can understand the themes and emotions by the body language and so uses that as her guideline as well as in the groups, the other students do make sure she knows what is going on so that she can perform her part.

In creative writing, she has to write in class as well as at home. The writing at home is something she actually looks forward to doing and does well.  She has all the time she needs and she can get help as needed.  In class, she feels pressured to write in the limited time frame given and this worry makes it so that she cannot remember how to spell even simple words and she says she even has trouble just making it look neat on the paper. This was shocking to me as she has good handwriting and has always taken great strides to make her handwriting neat and legible.  She is also a good speller (which is not that common in people with APD it seems) and so I think her and I were both shocked that she would have these problems.

In theater improv class, the teacher has them practice things like accents and tongue twisters and speaking backwards and really fun things like that which makes a lot of sense for a theater class. However, Hailey's APD makes it even more difficult for her to process these and forget having her try to do them; she can say a tongue twister for example if she practices it a lot and even then she has to say it slowly, but on the spot and fast is simply impossible.

So we are taking advice from all our schooled friends with APD (those on the Facebook APD support groups) and asking for accommodations that may help Hailey in her classes.  My hope is that we can do all the experimenting at these homeschool center classes and then be prepared and ready for community college in a few years.

So far we are going to record the creative writing class so that Hailey can bring it home and we can go over it together.  I can then teach her whatever was taught in class.  She is also going to type her in-class writing and e-mail it to her teacher so that she feels less constrained by time, because typing is faster than handwriting and she doesn't have to worry about making it neat.

In theater improv class, the teacher is now aware of the APD issues and will hopefully make sure Hailey works in a group that helps her be her best as well as she won't keep asking her to do tongue twisters; maybe she can focus on more gestures and body language in acting skills.

I'll certainly keep you all updated on what we discover works and what doesn't.  I do feel very grateful that Hailey has her background of being homeschooled and knowing that she is very smart and capable of learning and accomplishing whatever she wants to do.  I fear that if she hadn't had this successful background to discover herself and feel assured of herself, these experiences of not understanding in class would be too hard on her.

My heart goes out to all the children with APD who go to school everyday to sit in a class where they do not understand what is being taught.  My hope is that more and more teachers are using a multi-sensory approach to teaching and not relying on auditory input only.  Our children with APD are smart and capable and just need to be taught in a way that works for them.


  1. Hi! As an adult with this disorder, who is taking Improv classes at UCB, I want to encourage a different approach. I am going to take a guess and say that, like me, Hailey is already able to make strong and active physical choices. There's no need to practice them....lean on them in performance situations. But classes are for developing skills, not gaining affirmation. What I try to do that has helped me is, after a class or practice session, I try to remember ONE verbal note that I received, and write it down ASAP. Then I think about that and visualize what success in that area would look like, I try to boil it down to one type of thing I have to remember to listen for or to articulate.
    Another helpful mindset is, think about it, does being able to do tongue twisters well , or nay other kind of exercise like that, make you funnier or better at acting? No, of course not. You do those exercises to focus your mind. You know what exercise I can always do better than anyone? Zip zap zop...it makes no less sense to me than anything else!
    I hope that helps a little bit!

    1. Thank you so much; this is very helpful. Hailey loves "zip, zap, zop!"

  2. pls help, I have a 11 year old son who has only been diagnosed with CAPD this morning (at a recognised hearing centre !!!!!! How accurate are these tests as he ticks a lot of the boxes but he doesn't tick ALL of them for eg He is an exceptional reader (reading level of a 16 yr old) an amazing speller, writes well, speaks well and socializes without issues

    1. There are different aspects to APD as well as different severity levels. You should be able to get a more detailed explanation of where his difficulties lie and to what extent from the audiologist who tested him.