How to Find the Best School for Children with Auditory Processing Disorder

How to Find the Best School for Children with Auditory Processing Disorder

elementary child being tested auditory


Key Takeaways

  • Students with APD have a normal range of hearing but struggle to understand spoken language
  • APD affects about 5% of American students but most will grow out of this by the time they reach high school
  • The best schools to support this learning difference use IEPs and have a multi-sensory approach
    American Academy offers learning programs designed to assist students with APD


What is Auditory Processing Disorder?

Children with Auditory Processing Disorder (APD) have a normal range of hearing but have difficulty in understanding and decoding spoken language. They may struggle to understand a teacher in a noisy classroom. 

Here are a various challenges students with APD often face:

  • Students find it more difficult to learn to read, write, and spell.
  • Speech development may be delayed because they often confuse the sounds of different words. 
  • Students may fail to read visual and verbal cues, making it tricky for them to understand the meaning in conversations. 
  • Loud noises can overwhelm them, and they can appear distracted and off-task.

Choosing the right school for a child with APD

Before enrolling your child in a new school, you should ask the following questions:

  • How familiar is your school with APD?
  • What classroom modifications are made for these students?
  • Is there a speech therapist on staff?
  • Is there an Individualized Educational Plan (IEP), and how effective is it?
  • What are the standard class sizes?
  • What kind of reading program is used? (A sequential and multi-sensory approach is recommended for APD children).

These questions should be raised when you approach the school and interview the administration and teachers.

Diagnosing Auditory Processing Disorder

Of course, ADP will be officially diagnosed by a medical professional. There are signs parents can watch for that indicate there may be an issue, such as if the child:

  • Struggles to follow directions
  • Is unable to remember recent conversations
  • Appears to be listening but is not registering the meaning
  • Sometimes mixes up similar-sounding words
  • Becomes overwhelmed and struggles with understanding conversations in noisy environments (such as classrooms)
  • Struggles with reading and spelling
  • Appears unable to follow conversations
  • Finds it difficult to express themselves clearly
  • Often asks people to repeat conversations

Some of these behaviors overlap with other learning differences, such as Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) or dyslexia, and some of this is normal childhood behavior. Parents who notice any of these signs should take their child to an audiologist who will run a series of tests that measure the speed and accuracy of their auditory processing. Your child must be at least 7 years old for the test to be meaningful. 

Students with APD are typically deficient in one to four of the following areas:

  • Auditory discrimination
    This means the child cannot notice and distinguish between distinct and separate sounds. They might say “bat” instead of “pat” or “seventy” and “seventeen.” They appear to mishear words and sometimes drop syllables from common words.
  • Figure-to-ground discrimination
    This means the child cannot distinguish verbal instructions from background noise or identify different voices.
  • Auditory memory
    This means the child cannot remember sounds (speech, songs, and rhymes) both short and long-term. Students with APD frequently have poor short-term memories.
  • Auditory sequencing
    This means the child cannot understand and recall the order of sounds and syllables in words. The student might say “ephelant” instead of “elephant” and might confuse the numbers (84 and 48).

These learning differences create several challenges in the classroom. So, finding the right school to support your child’s learning needs is a must. Most students will grow out of this by the time they reach high school. However, it’s crucial the student is given a strong grounding in the educational basics before entering high school where the educational expectations are higher.

How teachers can create an effective learning environment

There are several things a teacher can do to help create an in the classroom to support children with ADP, such as:

  • Use seating arrangements, placing students with APD near the front of the classroom where they can both see and hear their teacher.
  • Use visual cues such as images (pictures, flow charts, or steps to follow) or by using hand signals and gestures to help students understand what is being said in the classroom.
  • Use verbal prompts and emphasize key words. Gain the child’s attention before beginning to speak or use a catchphrase indicating something important is about to happen, for example, by saying “Okay, let’s go!”
  • Help with sequencing by describing the order of events in a story or list of group activities. For example, “First we are going to read the chapters. Then we are going to answer some questions. Followed by discussing our answers in groups.”
  • Make room modifications to reduce reverberation by adding carpet, pinboards, or soft furnishings to muffle background noise.

The best school for a student with auditory processing disorder is one where teachers can use all the strategies listed above. The right school will focus on modifying the student’s learning environment and teach them higher-order skills to compensate for any areas where they are lacking.

The American Academy Program at American Heritage School

The American Academy Program at American Heritage Schools helps students with mild learning differences, including APD. The program has Exceptional Student Education certified teachers who are experienced in delivering a modified curriculum customized to your child’s needs.

Our teachers use a multi-sensory approach when teaching based on the latest learning theory about APD. We have smaller class sizes (12 students or less), one certified teacher, and one full-time teaching assistant on staff for all the lower grades.

If your child needs assistance or you have concerns, speak to a teacher or counselor. Contact The American Academy to discuss your child’s specific needs.