Imagine sitting in a classroom and hearing all the noises in the room as if they were in an amplifier next to your head. And then imagine trying to follow the teacher's directions through all that noise. Imagine trying to figure out what the teacher said when you miss 30% of the words or the words themselves become garbled in your mind. Imagine you cannot quickly recall what someone just told you.
Sounds miserable, right?
In fact, after 10 minutes of experiencing these things in a simulation, I had a splitting headache and felt homicidal. It was exhausting.
It's my son's life.
A year ago, testing showed my son had an auditory processing deficit - and that his ability to process auditory information was dramatically lower than all his other intellectual abilities. It wasn't until a chance conversation with an Otolaryngologist that we realized we could understand the details of this deficit and potentially help. We had him screened by a pediatric audiologist who diagnosed him with Central Auditory Processing Disorder - CAPD - a disorder that impacts 2-5% of the population with twice the incidence happening in boys. It's often undiagnosed because the children can hear well. In fact, many children with CAPD act out in school because they are so frustrated by what they hear or they just need the sound to stop - leading to being designated a "bad" or "wild" child, "willful" or "ADHD". ADHD can exist with CAPD - but they aren't the same thing.
We are very lucky. Our son's CAPD did not coincide with reading dyslexia or speech issues. In fact, so far, it's only really impacted his behavior. As soon as we received the diagnosis, it was recommended that he complete Auditory Integration Training. This therapy was developed by Guy Berard, MD and consists of frequency optimized 30-minute intervals of music where they modulate the treble and bass as well. The sounds train the brain stem - and help address imbalances in processing sound. My son's AIT focused on reducing the volume of sound at 4000 Hz - the frequency of crowds. He diligently listened for 30 minutes every morning before school or sports and 30 minutes every evening.
The results from the mid-program audiogram were amazing - and when we drove to Montana after he completed the program, he sang on key for the first time in his life.
It will take anywhere from 1-6 months for the full impact of AIT to be seen. In the meanwhile, he has to learn to restate what he hears, advocate appropriately for himself when the sound is too loud and we have to work with his teachers to have compassion, provide him information in visual modalities, and help him unlearn the behavior patterns he developed out of frustration. The coping mechanisms that he uses to excel academically must be reinforced as the work becomes more challenging - CAPD is a lifelong disability, but it doesn't need to hold him back.
To learn more about identifying and treating CAPD - here are some resources.
- Recognizing and Treating Children with Central Auditory Processing Disorder
- Central Auditory Processing Disorders - An Overview of Assessment and Management Techniques
- What are Central Auditory Processing Disorders in Children?