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 27, 2014

I Don't Want To Be Cute - I Want To Be Heard (The Speaking Slip-Ups of APD)

Recently Hailey (my intelligent, well-spoken, teenage daughter with auditory processing disorder) and I had a discussion about being heard - truly heard by people.  She mentioned how she doesn't like it when people laugh when she says something "wrong" or substitutes the wrong word when speaking - like restaurant for restroom.  Everyone knows what she meant and so to point it out to her is really not very thoughtful.  However, when confronted by this, those same people always remark that they are not being unkind but they simply think it is "cute". 

I remember growing up and having the same experiences.  I was seven years old when my family moved from Massachusetts to Georgia in the mid-seventies.  Not only did I have to learn how to listen to people's thick southern accents and understand them, but people judged me based on my thick Boston accent; I was called a "Yankee" and teased and sometimes even ostracized.  So I immediately got to work on losing that Boston accent and learning the southern one.  It worked and within no time at all, people didn't even realize I was a "Yankee" and I was treated much better.

When I was eleven, my family moved from Georgia to California.  This time, I had no problem understanding the Californians and their non-accent, but again my accent - my southern accent this time, caused me some anguish.  Whenever I would speak, people would laugh and ask me to "Say that again."  It infuriated me that they weren't listening to what I was saying but rather how I was saying it.  I was continually told how "cute" my accent was and I didn't like it.  I wanted my words to be heard and my meanings to be understood.  I did not want to be "cute".  So again, I immediately got to work on changing my accent.

People with auditory processing disorder (APD) can't just change their accent; they can work hard at learning proper speech and yet slip-ups happen.  Hailey had private, very-expensive and very valuable speech therapy for eight years.  She has a tremendously good sense of grammar and a large vocabulary.  She no longer has any phonological issues.  However, her APD can cause her to substitute words or mispronounce a word - even though she knows it to be wrong when pointed out to her.  It's just the way it is with auditory processing disorder and using context, any listener can easily figure out what she means.

Like anyone - especially an intelligent young woman with a voice that wants to speak and be heard, people with APD don't want their voice to be dismissed lightly as "cute" or to be discriminated against as someone with less intelligence than they have.  They want you to listen to their meaning! Like the rest of us, they want to feel heard and respected.

So please remember to listen respectfully and keep any unwanted side comments to yourself. Don't make judgements based on how the person speaks but listen to what the person is saying.  And even if you think you are not being harmful by pointing it out, be aware that perhaps you are offending that person after all.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Let Your APD Kid Watch the Movie BEFORE Reading the Book

We had an interesting discussion today on our (Central) Auditory Processing Disorder Support Group about watching movies BEFORE reading the book.

Remember in school how the teachers always made you read the book first and then you got to see the movie; it was the prize after the book was read.  We were told how it was better that we use our own minds to visualize the characters and the scenes before some movie producer does it for us. Being a strong reader, I never questioned this and always did as I was told.  I visualized quite well in my head what I was reading and so didn't feel I needed the movie - it was just a simple pleasure at the end, like dessert after a good meal.

However, our kids with auditory processing disorder aren't usually what one would call a "strong" reader.  They struggle with language processing and often have more difficulty reading and comprehending larger pieces of fiction or non-fiction for that matter.  Their world often relies on visuals and experiences to make meaning.  That is why we give them multi-sensory learning experiences.  That is why we teach math visually.  That is why we incorporate kinesthetics into memorizing facts.

So it only makes sense that watching the movie BEFORE reading the book would aid tremendously in their comprehension and facility in reading the book.

I hadn't really thought enough about this before.  I just noticed anecdotally that my daughter enjoys and comprehends books better that she has previously watched the movie for.  Then when other parents were commenting on the same evidence in their own children, it clicked.

When I was a first grade teacher, I remember learning in my educator prep classes that the thought was children who don't have experiences with the subject matter have more difficulty comprehending the stories.  It has to do with what is called scaffolding and how the brain interprets and retains information. The more experience we have with a topic, the easier it is for our brains to understand and store new information related to that topic.  Think about it - the topics you know well you probably just breeze through learning more about while the ones you are unfamiliar with take a lot longer to read, figure out, and remember in the long run.

So keeping this in mind, we can utilize all we have to help our kids comprehend what they read better.  They can watch the movies.  They can watch documentaries on the topics like Ancient Egypt if that is what they are learning or The Great Depression if that is what the story in the novel is about. They can go to the beach and see tidal pools (if you live nearby) before studying about them in school.  All this multi-sensory exposure helps tremendously!

So to wrap up this rather longish post of me talking about the obvious of using visual and kinesthetic experiences and materials to help our children with auditory processing disorder learn best, I'll just say:

Let them watch the movie BEFORE reading the book!

(And if they are anything like my daughter, they'll watch the movie, watch it again, read the book, and then watch the movie again, and then want to discuss how the book and movie are different.  Along the way, they'll figure out how language and visuals connect, build their reading comprehension skills, understand how interpretation works, how time constraints play into productions, what is considered relevant to the plot and what is not  and therefore can be left out of the movie, etc.  All is good!)