Teachers & Educators

Extend your student’s capabilities

Do you have a student who finds it difficult to follow instructions or understand what is being said in a noisy classroom?

They may have an Auditory Processing Disorder.

The Teacher’s Role

Teachers are pivotal in understanding the signs of Auditory Processing Disorders in children, as the classroom is where the issue is often first noticed.
If the signs of an APD aren’t identified and managed, many students with the condition will face longer-term learning challenges. Therefore, early intervention is key.

Understanding Auditory Processing Disorders

Auditory Processing Disorders affect around 3-5% of school-age children. While these children are often thought to sense sound normally because they may hear sounds that are delivered one at a time in a very quiet environment, they usually have difficulty analysing, remembering and making sense of the information they hear. As such, they do not have a hearing problem, but rather their brains have trouble making sense of what is said to them.
For example, in noisier environments like a classroom or playground, they may have trouble recognising slight differences between sounds in words, even when the sounds are loud enough to be heard.

Children with Auditory Processing Disorders struggle with one or more of these auditory processing skills

Hearing the differences between sounds
(i.e. Auditory Discrimination)

For example, they may hear the word “seventy” instead of “seventeen.”

Filtering out unimportant sounds
(i.e. figure-to-Ground Discrimination)

Kids may have a hard time following the teacher’s instructions while other kids are talking in the background.

Remembering things they hear
(i.e. Auditory Memory)

Kids with Auditory Processing Disorder may have a hard time remembering song lyrics that other kids remember easily.

Signs of an Auditory Processing Disorder

These can range from mild to severe and can take many different forms. If you think a student might be having trouble processing sounds, ask yourself the following:

  • Does the student often mishear sounds and words?
  • Are noisy environments overwhelming for the student when they are trying to listen?
  • Are conversations hard for the student to follow?
  • Does the student’s listening behaviours and performance improve in quieter settings?
  • Does the student have trouble following verbal directions, whether simple or complicated?
  • Does the student have trouble with spelling or phonics?
  • Are verbal (word) math problems hard for the student?
  • Is the student easily distracted by background noise, i.e. does their attention to a task reduce with auditory distractions?

Are You Sure It’s an Auditory Processing Disorder?

Diagnosing an Auditory Processing Disorder can be difficult because it can look like other conditions – and often happens alongside other conditions – like language and reading difficulties and attention disorders.

According to the American National Institutes of Health, in children referred for learning difficulties, around 43% have an Auditory Processing Disorder (APD). 

Read more about the difference between Auditory Processing Disorders and Attention Disorders.

Unlike other more common hearing problems, Auditory Processing Disorders can occur infrequently. Children can have no problems processing different sounds one day, and the next day, they may struggle to make sense of the sounds that surround them.

If you suspect a child has an Auditory Processing Disorder, encourage their parents to take them to an Audiologist for a professional opinion. An Audiologist will use various auditory processing function tests to make a clinical diagnosis. 

If an Auditory Processing Disorder is diagnosed, there are a small number of clinically proven programs available for children that remediate the condition, if isolated early. Sound Storm is one of them. Studies have shown that 100% of children aged 6-12 years with Spatial Processing Disorder (a specific type of Auditory Processing Disorder) that complete the Sound Storm program, are cured of the disorder.

What Teachers Can Do?

A student with an Auditory Processing Disorder may feel embarrassed to tell you that they did not understand what you said or the directions you gave. To help these students, encourage them to write down any assignments and help them to stay organised. This may ease their frustration and boost their self-esteem in the classroom. It can also help to speak at a slightly slower rate with a clear voice. Louder does not always help.

The following tips may also help:

  • Use strategic (or preferential) seating so the child is closest to you and away from environmental sounds (e.g. open windows, fans, heaters etc.). This reduces sound and sight distractions and improves access to speech.
  • Pre-teach new or unfamiliar words.
  • Use visual aids.
  • Record lessons for later review.
  • Use a remote microphone system to increase the signal-to-noise ratio in a classroom. The signal-to-noise ratio is a measure that compares the level of a desired signal to the level of background noise – the signal being your voice.
  • Use trigger words to get a child’s attention, for example “take note now”.
  • Ask the child to repeat multiple-part instructions before they start a task, to ensure they have understood. Correct them where necessary.

How to Discuss Your Concerns With Parents

It can be difficult for parents/guardians to hear and accept that their child may have a learning disorder, as there is a stigma attached to it. When discussing the issue, be delicate and aim to use words with more positive connotations. For example, you might say that you suspect their child has an Auditory Processing ‘Deficit’ or ‘Issue’ rather than an ‘Auditory Processing Disorder’. The word ‘Deficit’ implies less permanence and seriousness than ‘Disorder’. The word ‘Issue’ is more vague and suggests it’s something that needs to be investigated further.

Since Auditory Processing Disorders can be remediated, you can describe it as a ‘hopeful diagnosis’. Once identified and diagnosed by an audiologist, there is something that can be done about it.

Mr Tom Mitton, Classroom Teacher, Acting Director of Curriculum - Junior School

Key Points

  • Actively look out for the signs of Auditory Processing Disorders in students.
  • Don’t wait! – some of the most prevalent Auditory Processing Disorders are easily remediated. 
  • Share information by talking to parents / guardians about how their child can improve their listening skills in the classroom. Explain that it’s not so much a ‘disorder’ as it is a ‘deficit’. With time and the right program, kids can catch up.
  • Adapt the learning environment to support a student with an Auditory Processing Disorder.
  • Encourage parents to take their child to visit an Audiologist.

Capd Checklist

The printable CAPD checklist acts as a screening tool to help determine whether auditory processing difficulties are evident in students

Download Checklist