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Auditory Processing Disorder: Understanding APD and Autism

Auditory Processing Disorder: Understanding APD and Autism

An auditory processing disorder (APD) occurs when an individual’s brain has difficulty processing and interpreting sounds, often leading to problems with language, communication, and social interactions. If a patient presents with both APD and autism spectrum disorder (ASD), suitable symptom management often requires a multidisciplinary approach, including collaboration between speech therapists, audiologists, occupational therapists, and ABA therapists, to improve treatment outcomes.

For many parents and caregivers of a child or teen on the spectrum, it’s helpful to understand the signs and symptoms of auditory processing disorders so they can seek immediate and appropriate support if they suspect they or a loved one may be facing these complex challenges. By seeking timely intervention, it’s possible to navigate these unique experiences more efficiently so neurodivergent individuals can reach their goals and live better-quality lives with the necessary accommodations.

In today’s blog post by ABA Centers of Florida, we will explore auditory processing disorders in the context of ASD while providing practical information for anyone who is looking to understand these conditions more deeply.

For more helpful information about our autism services and ABA blogs, visit us here at ABA Centers of Florida.

Understanding Auditory Processing Disorder

Auditory Processing Disorder, APD, or central auditory processing disorder, is a condition that hinders the ability of the person’s brain to understand and interpret auditory stimuli appropriately, according to the Cleveland Clinic. In the most general terms, individuals experiencing an APD have challenges differentiating or comprehending certain sounds but don’t have hearing issues. However, the symptoms are like hearing loss.

Common symptoms of APD include:

  • Difficulty processing speech or understanding verbal instructions
  • Trouble with phonics and reading comprehension
  • Struggles with following sequential instructions or multi-step tasks
  • Being easily distracted by or unable to tolerate background noise
  • Difficulty remembering spoken information
  • Poor listening skills, often resulting in misunderstandings or miscommunication
  • Challenges understanding rapid speech or the difference between words
  • Asking others to repeat themselves over and over.

Audiologists and speech pathologist most often offer treatment to help those manage their APD-related hearing deficits.

The Link between APD and Autism

There are many persons with auditory processing disorders within the autism population. However, many researchers suspect statistics don’t always correctly reflect the demographic due to difficulties related to diagnosis. According to the National Library of Medicine, experts theorize that APDs and autism correlate because of how the brain processes visual, auditory, vestibular, and or tactile stimuli. While those with APD struggle with auditory stimuli, those with autism may struggle with processing visual stimuli in addition to auditory processing.  

Furthermore, individuals on the autism spectrum often have difficulty understanding social cues and language, which APD can exacerbate. Those living with ADP describe the experience as trying to socialize in a crowded room where every sound is amplified and distorted, and you can’t make out which sounds are critical. This description alone sounds overwhelming and frightening.

APD can occur for various reasons. Generally, experts associate the condition with issues like:

  • Epilepsy, Alzheimer’s disease, Multiple Sclerosis, or central nervous system disorder like a stroke
  • Injuries to the head
  • Recurring ear infections
  • Genetics
  • Low birth weight
  • Premature birth

Some Neuroscience journals express that APD may be prominent in autism due to the hippocampus being less developed. Other research considers processing sound times in the auditory cortex of the brain to happen more slowly in those with autism.

Importance of Early Intervention and Diagnosis for Children with APD

For children with auditory processing disorders, early intervention and diagnosis are critical. APD’s impact influences a child’s functioning and can sometimes lead to tremendous obstacles in school, social situations, and later life. By identifying APD early on, children can work with professionals to create a customized plan of action that can help offset some of these challenges. In the context of autism, applied behavior may also be an integral component of treatment, improving outcomes in APD treatments by modifying behavior.

7 APD Tips for Caregivers

As any parent knows, raising children comes with ups and downs, joys and setbacks. However, when your child has a diagnosis of APD or/and or ASD, those challenges can feel even more daunting at times. Fortunately, some tools and tips can help many families navigate these conditions with more ease.

1. Utilize ABA Therapy for Better Outcomes in Autism

A tool that helps many families living with autism and APD is ABA therapy. Applied Behavior Analysis supports individuals on the autism spectrum by teaching them to use ABA techniques and strategies that are science-based to acquire new skills, enhance their existing skill sets, and redirect problematic behaviors. Over time, ABA can help individuals with APD and autism work better with accommodations and the providers who offer them various services.

2. Promote Effective Communication

As a parent of a child with an auditory processing disorder, it’s essential to understand that effective communication is instrumental to building solid relationships, which benefits neurodivergent individuals across their life span and today. A critical tip for improving communication with your child with APD and autism is to practice active listening and use clear, concise language. Avoid using complex phrases, and keep your tone warm whenever possible.

Lastly, remember to make communication fun! Incorporate games and playful activities that encourage your child to communicate so they feel motivated to continue engaging.

3. Support Your Child’s Social Skills Development

Encouraging playdates with understanding peers can also benefit communication and social skills training for many experiencing neurodiversity. Caregivers can optimize their loved one’s social skills training outcomes by collaborating with their teachers and ABA providers to compare strategies and progress. By finding creative ways to support your child’s needs, you can help them develop more vital social skills and build connections with others that will last a lifetime.

4. Allow and Expect for Processing Time

Delays and processing periods are natural for many with APDs. Pause and allow at least 15 seconds for the individual to respond to your request or demand. While it may feel like an unnatural period, barraging the person for more information will increase the processing time and worsen the response.

5. Consider the Environment and Always Offer Breaks

Noisy environments can be unnerving and, if possible, avoided. Additionally, it can be helpful to limit background noise or take breaks from audio stimulation as needed.

6. Keep Tools Nearby

Pack tools like noise-canceling headphones, visual aids, and earplugs if you realize your environment may be loud. Consider keeping them handy no matter where you go so you’re always prepared.

7. Address Misconceptions about APD and Advocate for Your Loved One’s Needs

When it comes to supporting your child, it’s essential to address any misconceptions some have about auditory processing disorder and autism. Some may think APD is a hearing problem or that the individual is defiant when it’s a disorder impairing their response time. APD impacts how the brain organizes and interprets sound. By educating others regarding APD and advocating for your child’s needs, you’re helping create a supportive atmosphere where everyone can be open about their differences.

Parents of Children with APD Are Not Alone in This Journey!

Parenting a child with auditory processing disorder and ASD can feel like an isolating journey. However, it’s important to remember that you, as a parent, are in the great company of many experiencing similar struggles. As such, there are countless resources available, including support groups and therapies that specialize in APD and ASD. It’s also important to keep in mind that your child’s condition does not define them, you, or the future. With education and proper accommodations, they can excel in all aspects of life in the best way for them!

As a parent, your love and support can make a world of difference in your child’s journey with APD. So, take comfort in knowing that you are not alone and that there is a community of parents and professionals who understand and are here to support you and your child every step of the way.

More About ABA Centers of Florida!

ABA Centers of Florida, located in Florida and serving regions like Tampa, Boca Raton, Melbourne, Kissimmee, Davenport, Orlando, Doral, Port Saint Lucie, and Bradenton, provides top-tier ABA therapy services for children and teenagers on the autism spectrum.

Our ABA team of highly trained and experienced providers, including Board Certified Behavior Analysts (BCBAs) and Registered Behavior Technicians (RBTs), work together to create custom ABA therapy plans for each client, addressing their needs and fantastic goals.

We understand the importance of early intervention and strive to provide our clients with the necessary skills and tools they need to reach their full potential, regardless of their processing abilities. We also prioritize collaboration with families, schools, and other providers to ensure a comprehensive approach to treatment. Should your child have another diagnosis, like auditory processing disorder, we can provide more support.

Contact us today at (772) 773-1975 or here to learn more about autism services with ABA Centers of Florida and how we can help your child with ASD succeed!

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