Guest Blogs

The Sound of Hope

I wondered whether my daughter has auditory processing disorder (APD) in addition to ADHD and learning disabilities. Upon reading The Sound of Hope, I’ve found some answers.

In a recent post, I discussed how hearing about The Sound of Hope, a new book about auditory processing disorder (APD), caused me to wonder if my own daughter, Natalie, also has APD. I shared my plan to talk with Nat’s psychologist about whether or not she should be evaluated for APD. Several people have asked since then, “What did Dr. Phillips say?”

The answer to that question is so me, the way I am these days. The truth is, I forgot about our last appointment with Dr. Phillips. One day recently, I brought a pile of appointment cards into the house from my car, and set about writing the times and places on the calendar, when I discovered the date to see Dr. Phillips had already passed. I was probably thinking, worrying, and wondering about Natalie and APD throughout the hour when I could have been talking to Dr. Phillips about those worries. Sigh. Goofed again! I’ll eventually schedule a new appointment (Why eventually? Come on. That requires a phone call!) and will ask him my list of APD-related questions then.

But in the meantime, I learned a lot about APD by reading The Sound of Hope. The book, inspired by Rosie O’Donnell’s struggle to help her son get an accurate diagnosis, is loaded with concise, professionally presented information. Early in the book the author, Lois Kam Heymann, a speech and language pathologist, describes how to differentiate between APD and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), information I found particularly interesting. I learned that listening troubles — such as misunderstanding what a person is saying or being distracted by background noises — can cause kids with APD to be inattentive and act out — similar to symptoms of ADHD. However, when their ability to process auditory input improves through successful treatment and/or use of assistive technology, their behavior also changes. They’re no longer inattentive or hyperactive, while kids with ADHD remain, well, ADHD.

But, what if the child has both ADHD and APD? The author goes on to focus on APD as a singular condition; “pure” APD, which clearly does not describe my Natalie — if she has a little APD, it’s one ingredient in her alphabet soup of ADHD, sensory processing disorder (SPD)…and so on. Also, both the factual information and the at-home treatment strategies in the book appear to be aimed at kids who are just acquiring language — infants through age 7 or 8. Nat is nearing 10. Those two factors limited the book’s applicability to our situation, but it was still definitely worth reading.

Resources and exercises for parents of APD children. Much of the book is devoted to teaching parents ways of interacting with their children that help the brain learn to process auditory information — strategies most parents use naturally, and which skilled teachers and librarians use deliberately. We teach our kids that a cow says “Moo.” We read aloud books that rhyme. We do finger plays along with songs like “The Itsy-Bitsy Spider.” These practices, among others, are encompassed in the six early literacy skills, or the foundation for learning to read, as presented by the Public Library Association, the Association for Library Service to Children, and the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. It turns out that they also help the brain learn to process auditory input. In retrospect, it does seem logical that all the processes surrounding language — speaking, reading, writing, understanding — would be tied together in many ways. Once again, I thank goodness for Nat’s wonderful preschool teacher, Audra Watson. I knew she was good, I just didn’t know how good! As I read the book, I realized that as Audra taught the kids the three R’s, her skilled methods helped kids develop their auditory processing abilities, thus helping to lower the risk of APD.

If you’re interested in learning more about APD, The Sound of Hope is definitely worth reading. And if what you read reminds you of your own child, don’t hesitate to make an appointment with a professional. (Showing up for said appointment is strongly recommended.) It’s time for me to make that phone call!