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Is It ADHD, CAPD, or SPD?

Taking the journey toward a diagnosis can help your child overcome challenges and help them succeed in life.

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All parents want the very best for their child. Teachers feel the same way about their students. But when your child’s teacher is telling you that your child doesn’t pay attention in class, misbehaves, and doesn’t follow instructions, you start to worry. Their academic performance is poor compared to other students. You fear your child might get left behind. The first step toward resolution: seeking expert advice to help their behaviour in school. 

One path an expert will take is determining whether your child may have a processing disorder. They may explore the possibilities of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), Central Auditory Processing Disorder (CAPD), and Spatial Processing Disorder (SPD).

Getting the right diagnosis is key to knowing how to help your child move forward. Here’s a little more on what that journey may look like. 

ADHD vs. CAPD vs. SPD

When children struggle to pay attention in class, many teachers and parents consider the possibility of ADHD, which affects an estimated 8.4% of children. Symptoms of ADHD include not paying close attention to what’s going on around them, trouble focusing, not listening when spoken to, and struggles to follow instruction. 

However, ADHD can be mistaken for a processing disorder, such as CAPD or SPD. Both of these are considered auditory processing disorders, where the brain struggles to make sense of information delivered via sound. 

For example, a child with SPD may have trouble figuring out which direction a sound is coming from. A child with CAPD might have difficulty with processing certain words, phrases, or even letters that sound similar, such as B and D. In both cases, it can look like the child isn’t paying attention or focusing on their work.

Why an Accurate Diagnosis Is Key

Auditory processing disorders affect anywhere from 3% to 5% of school-aged children. But diagnosing these conditions is difficult because auditory processing disorders can look like other conditions, such as ADHD.

There’s a lot of overlap in symptoms, but there are also some subtle differences to look for:

  • Difficulty understanding speech in a loud environment
  • Trouble remembering details they’ve been told vs. information they read
  • Struggling with speech
  • Improved listening in quiet settings
  • Asking others to repeat themselves often
  • Mistaking two words that sound alike (e.g., pear and bear)

Going beyond the issue of distraction and an inability to focus or listen can help educators, experts, and parents alike understand the child’s specific challenges and how to properly address them. 

A checklist of symptoms can be beneficial, but the journey doesn’t end there. Diagnosing auditory processing disorders also involves an audiologist who can perform a variety of auditory tests. Audiologists can check to ensure that the issue doesn’t lie in a child’s ability to hear. When hearing in both ears is within normal limits, experts can turn to the possibility of a processing disorder, such as CAPD or SPD. They use additional tests to further investigate each child’s case.

One example is the Listening in Spatialized Noise —Sentences test (or LiSN - S). This test is designed to help diagnose Spatial Processing Disorder, where a child struggles to focus on sounds coming from one direction while suppressing sounds from another direction. For example, a child with SPD might get confused when everyone is talking at once and they cannot make sense of anything that is being said.

An accurate diagnosis is important so that teachers and parents can best prepare to help the child. For example, ADHD symptoms are often treated with prescription medications. But these medications will not be beneficial to a child whose symptoms are actually caused by SPD or CAPD, for example. When the root of the problem is uncovered, real progress can be made. 

After Diagnosis: Helping Your Child Succeed 

With the help of an expert, you can feel confident about your child’s diagnosis. From there, you can help your child get the right tools and help they need to learn and grow. 

Technology is being used in class rooms and at home to help students with processing disorders. Solutions like games and apps are designed to address the key challenges that children face where traditional methods of teaching fall short. They make remediation fun, more like playing than learning, and helps them in a way that isn’t easily called out by their peers.

Remediation apps like Sound Storm help children retrain their brain to listen and overcome SPD. Download the Sound Storm app and set the stage for learning success!