Auditory Processing Disorder—How Pediatric Speech Therapy Can Offer a Key to Unlock This Complex Issue

 June 1, 2022

It’s said that being a parent is like watching your heart walk around outside of your body. We share our children’s joy and excitement—and we also feel their struggles as deeply as if they were our own.


As a parent, you only want the best for your child. So, when you notice they’re having difficulty with their speech or language skills, you spring into action to support them (just like the superhero they already believe you are)Maybe you’ve noticed your child has difficulty understanding what’s said to them. At first, you thought it might be a hearing issue—after all, kids are always getting ear infections, right?

But once that was ruled out, you found yourself at a loss. 

What could be causing it? 

And how can we help fix it!? 

Maybe you’ve tried everything you can think of, but nothing seems to make a lasting impact. 

For a parent, there’s nothing so awful as feeling unable to help your child—to watch them struggle with an issue you don’t fully understand. 

For many parents of a child with an auditory processing disorder, this is how their story begins.

But it isn’t where your story has to end.

There is hope, help, and support available—for you and your child! 

We are here for you.  


The Therapy Tree team wants you to know—you’re not alone.

Many families come to us, confused and concerned about how they can best help their child overcome issues with auditory processing.  

It’s our mission to provide you with answers, offer you options, and collaborate with you on a plan to address your child’s unique needs. 

We believe knowledge is power, especially when it comes to making informed decisions for our children’s health and wellbeing.

In that spirit, we created this article for parents, like you, who have questions about auditory processing disorder. 

If you’d like more info about our speech therapy services in general, check out this article 

Let’s dive in, to learn more about Auditory Processing Disorder, and how our pediatric speech therapy services can help.


What is Auditory Processing Disorder?

Imagine it’s the brain, not the ears, having difficulty hearing. This is what occurs in an auditory processing disorder. 

Auditory processing is our brain’s ability to make sense of the information our ears take in.

Understanding what’s said to us not only involves hearing—it also requires our brain to make sense of what is heard. It’s a lot more complex than we may think.  

Remember the game of telephone? Where a whispered message gets passed along a line—usually ending up totally changed by the time it’s repeated by the final player

An auditory processing disorder is kind of like that. In it, a spoken message gets sent from the ears to the brain, but along the way it gets jumbled up. So it doesn’t arrive in the same condition it was originally sent.

The result is—the receiver doesn’t fully understand the intended message.

Children with Auditory Processing Disorder may experience difficulties with—

  • Remembering what they hear
  • Understanding what’s said to them
  • Tracking the order of sounds or numbers spoken 
  • Focusing and filtering out background sounds 

It’s easy to see how any of these issues can pose a problem—both for learning in school and interacting in everyday life. 

Sometimes, you’ll hear Auditory Processing Disorder referred to by the abbreviation, APD. You may also hear it called Central Auditory Processing Disorder, or CAPD. 

Auditory Processing Disorder is complex, because it doesn’t show up the same way in everyone who has it. This can also make it challenging to diagnose. 

Let’s take a deeper look at how APD can show up in children who experience it.


What are the symptoms of auditory processing disorder in kids?

As you know, the brain is a complex system. Many parts of it are involved in our language abilities. This can make determining the presence of an auditory processing disorder complicated, because the symptoms of APD don’t always present the same—they depend on which area of the brain is involved.

Let’s first break down four important auditory processing skills, so we can see how issues in each area might present—

  1. Auditory discrimination—this involves our ability to hear and distinguish sounds in spoken language. In school, kids learn auditory discrimination skills as part of their emergent literacy education. Think tasks like—separating sounds and syllables from whole words, and identifying and making rhymes. Remember the song, Bingo? That’s all about auditory discrimination skills.  
  2. Auditory memory—ever hear a song once and it gets stuck in your head forever? You’ve got your auditory memory to thank. Kids use this skill to remember things like nursery rhymes, the ABCs, and common children’s songs. It’s our ability to remember what we hear. 
  3. Auditory sequencing—This is our ability to order the sounds we hear. This comes in handy for activities like remembering items on a list, recalling and following directions, and accurately hearing words and numbers when they’re spoken.
  4. Auditory attention—Our brain needs to be able to focus on what’s important. For most of us, our ears take in the background noises in our environment, but our brain is able to focus on what’s needed. If you go to a crowded restaurant, you’ll use this to chat with your table-mates, while tuning out other voices and noise.

Now that you understand how our brain processes what we hear, let’s take a look at how auditory processing issues can show up. 

Children with APD often have issues with—

  • Understanding and following spoken directions 
  • Rhyming 
  • Discriminating and manipulating word parts
  • Interacting in noisy environments
  • Correctly hearing similar sounding words 
  • Recalling details of what they’ve heard
  • Remembering nursery rhymes and songs 
  • Understanding things the first time they’re said 
  • Learning to read and spell 
  • Following conversations between multiple people
  • Picking up on vocal inflection and tone

Your child with APD may even be listening intently, but their brain is not accurately processing what they hear.

If any of these sound like what your child is experiencing, they may have issues with auditory processing. 

The problem is—the issues described above also occur in other speech and language disorders. So, how do you know if your child is dealing with APD, vs. another issue—like dyslexia, or ADHD? 

That’s where we come in! Let’s take a look at how APD is diagnosed and treated.


How is an auditory processing disorder diagnosed?

It takes a team effort to diagnose an auditory processing disorder. But don’t worry—you made the team! Because you’re their parent, you’re the expert on your child. Parents are valued members of the diagnostic and treatment team.

Professionals on your child’s team may also include—

  • An audiologist to perform hearing tests and screens 
  • A speech and language pathologist to assess language and communication skills 
  • You child’s healthcare provider or a psychologist to assess cognition
  • Your child’s teacher to provide feedback on any classroom challenges 

If you’re interested in learning more about what an evaluation by a speech and language pathologist looks like—check out this blog about our assessment services.

Most children with APD aren’t able to be diagnosed prior to age seven. This is because many speech, language, cognitive, and auditory skills are still developing, prior to that age. 

We understand—getting a diagnosis for your child can be difficult for a parent. But a diagnosis can help secure access to treatment and support services, to help your child thrive. And, when you work with us at Therapy Tree, we would never reduce your child to a mere label. 

If your child is diagnosed with APD, they can begin treatment with a speech and language pathologist to address the issue. 

Let’s take a look at how an auditory processing disorder is treated.


What is the treatment for Auditory Processing Disorder?

Treatment for APD typically involves connecting your child with a Speech and Language Pathologist. Here at Therapy Tree, we have a team of highly qualified Speech-Language Pathologists (or SLPs as they’re also known), who’ll provide individualized treatment to help your child succeed.  

Our SLPs offer evidence-based, quality therapy for children with APD, and they’ll involve you in therapy, too! 

We know parental involvement is important to children’s outcomes in therapy. We value your input and participation whenever possible. We’ll also give you strategies to work on at home, to benefit your child both in and out of therapy. 

If you’re curious about what therapy with an SLP involves, you can check out our blog post about all things speech therapy! 

Your SLP will train you and your child in strategies to help your child better understand what they hear. The specific treatment will be tailored to your child’s unique needs, but may include—

  • Auditory training—teaching your child to improve their focus, listening, and ability to analyze what they hear
  • Compensatory strategies—to help your child counteract processing issues with the use of cues, visual aids, and other supports

Environmental modifications—setting your child up for success by making adjustments to their surroundings (both in school at at home)

Your SLP will likely use a combination of these methods, as well as others—designed to connect with and support your child. Your SLP may also work closely with an audiologist and your child’s teacher, to promote a holistic approach to therapy. 

Our therapy plan will be created specifically for your child. Our approach is to offer specialized treatment that is tailored to your child vs. a one-size-fits-all model. 

So, while we can’t say before meeting you exactly what your child’s treatment will look like—we can promise that our therapists love selecting fun, motivating activities that capture your child’s interests. It’s our goal to make therapy both a fun AND beneficial experience!

There’s no denying—auditory processing disorder is a complex issue. But you’ve already taken the important first step—seeking information and treatment for your child. 

We’re honored to be a part of your team. Together, we’ll turn the key to unlock your child’s full, vibrant potential. 

Like a tree with many branches, all connected to a rooted foundation—we’re Therapy Tree. We offer person-centered, multidisciplinary, family-focused therapy services. Our team of therapists are skilled at identifying and treating a wide range of issues, including APD. 

Reach out today to find a location near you or to learn more about how we can help you! 

You can catch us at, or call (480) 462-0747.

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