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Auditory Processing Disorder – Changing Our Life
A few weeks ago I had never heard of auditory processing disorder (APD). Now I’m becoming something of an expert. Our 14-year-old son has just been diagnosed with it, and slowly my wife and I are realizing that it could mean some big changes in our lives.
Like many APD sufferers, our son has perfect hearing and a normal IQ. But he struggles to process large chunks of information – spoken or written – and he has trouble hearing properly in a noisy environment. The result is that he misses huge amounts of classroom teaching.
A particular problem with this condition is that someone like our son can see that he’s missing out on a lot at school but doesn’t understand why. He knows he’s as bright as others in the class, yet they understand what’s going on and so often he doesn’t. And though he believes he’s doing what the teacher requests, too often he finds he’s gotten it wrong.
Gradually people in this position start to give up. They find that no matter how hard they try they still have it wrong. They become withdrawn, cynical and rebellious. Embarrassed at continually making mistakes in class, they often become the class clown. At home they retreat into non-communication and computer games.
All this year our concerns had been steadily growing. Not only did our son clearly have no interest in his schoolwork, he was increasingly getting into trouble. A few months ago I even went to the open day at our local technical college, to enquire about courses for the time when, so it seemed, our son inevitably dropped out – or was kicked out - of school.
Matters came to something of a head at the end of last term, when seven of nine teachers wrote in our son’s school report that his work practices were unsatisfactory. He was not completing homework, was doing the wrong homework, arrived at school with the wrong books, didn’t observe safety instructions in the metalwork class, and so on. A school coordinator phoned and said I was expected to come to the parent-teacher day to talk to the teachers. Each one said our son was bright but didn’t try. “He doesn’t care,” sneered one rather unpleasant teacher.
We arranged for psychological testing through the school, but this revealed nothing. It was solely thanks to a friend who works at one of Melbourne’s elite private schools that we got an answer. She put me in touch with her school’s psychologist. After I described my son’s problems this lady immediately urged me to consult a specialist audiologist, who has just diagnosed the problem.
My wife and I are still digesting the implications. The audiologist says the condition may clear up over the next few years, but could last forever. Our son needs to be in a special learning environment, with teachers who understand his difficulties. It is possible that I will need to give up some of my other activities, in order to devote an hour or so each day to tutoring him. We’re still not sure what’s best.
Anyway, I’ve written all this because I’m not always sure who’s reading my website, and there could be other parents struggling to understand why their kids don’t learn. It seems that APD is not well-recognised. Several studies suggest as many as two or three per cent of all kids could be afflicted (boys far more than girls). One local expert suggests that around one child (or even more) in each class in Australia has APD, usually unrecognised.
I’ve also written this because this is a Christian website, and a lot of prayer has been devoted to our son over the past year or so. I want to praise God for this answer.
November 18th, 2003