1 in 88 children are now affected by some form of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). Children with autism have significant problems with socialization and language development. One reason for problems with language may be related to an Auditory Processing Disorder (APD). This means that the child has a problem discerning sounds, like those in a classroom, or understanding sounds or language the way an average student might. Recognizing the signs and symptoms of this deficit of language and hearing is key to getting a proper diagnosis and the correct treatment for autistic students.
Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) may also have an Auditory Processing Disorder that makes it harder for them to discern and organize sounds the way an average student might.
Auditory Processing Disorder Examined
There are many different aspects of an ADP and symptoms for one individual might be different for another. Still, there are certain markers of this condition that a parent or teacher can learn to recognize. According to the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) children with an APD might, "have difficulty understanding speech in noisy environments, following directions, and discriminating (or telling the difference between) similar-sounding speech sounds. Sometimes they may behave as if a hearing loss is present, often asking for repetition or clarification." Further insight into what constitutes an Auditory Processing Disorder can be found in an article on the Hearing Journal, Pathways: Audiology Must Take its Rightful Place on the Autism Team by Carol A. Lau. The article states, "ASD children display auditory processing symptoms including difficulty tolerating noisy environments, distractibility from listening tasks, distractibility by noise, inability to process lengthy auditory inputs, excessive reaction to loud sounds, speaking with a loud, frequently monotone voice, and a lack of response to spoken language. Parents often describe an acute sense of hearing but an inability to understand or respond to speech…" These general symptoms of APD don't necessarily indicate the presence of an APD, but these markers should lead to testing which can conclusively diagnose the condition.
Diagnosing an Auditory Processing Disorder
Not all learning or listening or even language problems lead directly to a diagnosis of APD. Teachers, psychiatrist, and other diagnosticians can help a parent to recognize the symptoms and difficulties an autistic child is having within their learning environment, but they cannot accurately diagnose an APD. Diagnosing any child with an APD is done with a strict evaluation performed by an audiologist. According to the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA), "the actual diagnosis of APD must be made by an audiologist." Audiologist have the specialized training and sophisticated equipment necessary to evaluate the presence of an APD and to determine its exact nature. Listening and processing comprehension can occur at many different levels, thus ASHA also notes that, "it is necessary to determine the type of auditory deficit a given child exhibits so that individualized management and treatment activities may be recommended that address his or her specific areas of difficulty."
Testing Done by an Audiologist
Some of the test and audiologist will use to evaluate your child can be found below. This is a partial list that gives an idea of the complex nature of diagnosing hearing and listening problems.
• Aural Health Review: Checks ear anatomy, presence of chronic fluid; blood tests such as lead levels; metabolic functioning tests
• Tympanogram: Acoustic reflex measure of middle ear health; determines possible hearing loss (Aural Health Review and Tympanogram definition thanks to: Autism Sight and Hearing Loss)
• Behavioral Hearing Test—Patient is asked to respond to auditory stimulation. (Not appropriate for all ages or children.)
• Auditory Brainstem Response Testing—Comfortable earphones placed on the ears emitting a sound picked up by delicate equipment that measures how a child’s brain responds.
• Central Auditory Processing Evaluation—A series of tests designed to determine if a child has a problem with discerning certain sounds.
• Otoacoustic Emissions—A soft sponge earphone is placed in the ear canal to measure the presence or absence of typical “echo” responses to sound.
In addition to diagnosing APD an audiologist can also make sure that there are no issues with hearing loss. Obtaining the most accurate assessment of your child's speech and hearing problems helps to ensure that he or she receives the treatment options best suited for optimal development of language and communication.
If you'd like to learn more, see your hearing health provider. If you need help finding a hearing health provider click HERE to be connected with the largest network of trusted hearing health professionals in the nation!