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Kids on the Autism Spectrum and Auditory Processing Disorder

Do loud noises annoy and disturb your high-functioning autistic child? If so, she or he may have APD.

Auditory Processing Disorder (APD) is an umbrella term for a variety of disorders that affect the way the brain processes auditory information. It is not a sensory or inner ear hearing impairment.

Kids with APD usually have normal peripheral hearing ability. However, they cannot process the information they hear in the same way as others do, which leads to difficulties in recognizing and interpreting sounds, especially the sounds composing speech.

APD can affect both kids and grown-ups. Approximately 2-3% of kids and 17-20% of grown-ups have this disorder. Males are two times more likely to be affected by the disorder than females.

APD can be genetic or acquired. It may result from ear infections, head injuries or developmental delays that cause central nervous system difficulties that affect processing of auditory information. This can include problems with:
  • auditory discrimination
  • auditory pattern recognition
  • auditory performance in competing acoustic signals (including dichotic listening)
  • auditory performance with degraded acoustic signals
  • sound localization and lateralization
  • temporal aspects of audition, including temporal integration, temporal discrimination (e.g., temporal gap detection), temporal ordering, and temporal masking

APD results from impaired neural function and is characterized by poor recognition, discrimination, separation, grouping, localization, or ordering of speech sounds. It does not solely result from a deficit in general attention, language or other cognitive processes.

As APD is one of the more difficult information processing disorders to detect and diagnose, it may sometimes be misdiagnosed as ADD/ADHD, Asperger Syndrome and other forms of Autism, but it may also be a comorbid aspect of those conditions if it is considered a significant part of the overall diagnostic picture. APD shares common symptoms in areas of overlap such that professionals unfamiliar with APD may misdiagnose it as a condition they are aware of.

Children with APD intermittently experience an inability to process verbal information. When children with APD have a processing failure; they do not process what is being said to them.

There are also many other hidden implications, which are not always apparent even to the child with the disability. For example, because children with APD are used to guessing to fill in the processing gaps, they may not even be aware that they have misunderstood something.

Characteristics—

HFA kids with Auditory Processing Disorder often:
  • have a preference for written communication (e.g. text chat)
  • dislike locations with background noise (e.g., a school lunch room)
  • have behavior problems
  • have sensitivities to loud noises
  • have difficulty with reading, comprehension, spelling, and vocabulary
  • have language difficulties (e.g., they confuse syllable sequences and have problems developing vocabulary and understanding language)
  • have low academic performance
  • have poor listening skills
  • have problems carrying out multi-step directions given orally
  • need to hear only one direction at a time
  • have trouble paying attention to and remembering information presented orally
  • may cope better with visually acquired information
  • having trouble paying attention and remembering information when information is simultaneously presented in multiple modalities (i.e., problems with multi-tasking)
  • need more time to process information
  • needing others to speak slowly

APD can manifest as problems determining the direction of sounds, difficulty perceiving differences between speech sounds and the sequencing of these sounds into meaningful words, confusing similar sounds such as "hat" with "bat", "there" with "where", etc. Fewer words may be perceived than were actually said, as there can be problems detecting the gaps between words, creating the sense that someone is speaking unfamiliar or nonsense words.

Those suffering from APD may have problems relating what has been said with its meaning, despite obvious recognition that a word has been said, as well as repetition of the word. Background noise, such as the sound of a radio, television or a noisy classroom can make it difficult to impossible to understand speech, depending on the severity of the auditory processing disorder. Using a cell phone can be problematic for a child with auditory processing disorder, in comparison with someone with normal auditory processing, due to low quality audio, poor signal, intermittent sounds and the chopping of words.

Many HFA kids who have auditory processing disorder subconsciously develop visual coping strategies (e.g., lip reading, reading body language and eye contact) to compensate for their auditory deficit, and these coping strategies are not available when using a cell phone

Those children who have APD tend to be quiet or shy – and even withdrawn from mainstream society due to their communication problems, and the lack of understanding of these problems by their peers.

One who fails to process any part of the communication of others may be unable to comprehend what is being communicated. This has some obvious social and educational implication, which can cause a lack of understanding from others. In grown-ups, this can lead to persistent interpersonal relationship problems.

Treatment—

Recent research has shown that practice with basic auditory processing tasks (i.e., auditory training) may improve performance on auditory processing measures and phonemic awareness measures. These auditory training benefits have also been recorded at the physiological level. Many of these tasks are incorporated into computer-based auditory training programs such as Earobics and Fast ForWord, which is adaptive software available at home and in clinics worldwide.

APD treatments include:
  • Auditory Integration Training typically involves a youngster attending two 30-minute sessions per day for ten days
  • Lindamood-Bell Learning Processes (particularly, the Visualizing and Verbalizing program)
  • Neuro-Sensory Educational Therapy
  • Physical activities (e.g., occupational therapy)
  • Sound Field Amplification

More resources for parents of children and teens with High-Functioning Autism and Asperger's:

==> How To Prevent Meltdowns and Tantrums In Children With High-Functioning Autism and Asperger's

==> Parenting System that Significantly Reduces Defiant Behavior in Teens with Aspergers and High-Functioning Autism

==> Launching Adult Children with Asperger's and High-Functioning Autism: Guide for Parents Who Want to Promote Self-Reliance

==> Teaching Social Skills and Emotion Management to Children and Teens with Asperger's and High-Functioning Autism

==> Parenting Children and Teens with High-Functioning Autism: Comprehensive Handbook

Kids on the Autism Spectrum & Lack of Demonstrated Empathy

“My son with high function autism is almost completely heartless when it comes to dealings with his younger sister. He’s rude and mean and sometimes aggressive with her. Is it common for a child with this disorder to have no empathy? Will this aggression become more violent over time?”

The lack of “demonstrated empathy” is possibly the most dysfunctional aspect of High-Functioning Autism (HFA). But I do use the term “demonstrated empathy” for a very important reason, and I want to be very clear about this: It’s not that these children have no empathy – they do. Rather, they often “give the impression” that they do not care about others. 
 
However, this is due to their “mind-blindness” and “sensory sensitivity” issues, and has little to do with their ability or willingness to have feelings for others.

Kids with an autism spectrum disorder experience difficulties in basic elements of social interaction, which may include the following:
  • lack of social or emotional reciprocity
  • impaired nonverbal behaviors (e.g., eye contact, facial expression, posture, gesture)
  • failure to seek shared enjoyments or achievements with others (e.g., showing others objects of interest)
  • failure to develop friendships

Unlike those with Autism, youngsters with HFA are not usually withdrawn around others. Instead, they approach others – even if awkwardly. For example, a child on the spectrum may engage in a one-sided, long-winded speech about a favorite topic, while misunderstanding or not recognizing the listener's feelings or reactions (e.g., the need for privacy or haste to leave). 
 
This social awkwardness has been called "active but odd." This failure to react appropriately to social interaction may appear as disregard for other’s feelings, and may come across as insensitive.

The cognitive ability of kids with HFA often allows them to articulate social norms in a laboratory context, where they may be able to show a theoretical understanding of other’s emotions; however, they typically have difficulty acting on this knowledge in fluid, real-life situations. 
 
Youngsters with the disorder may analyze and distill their observation of social interaction into rigid behavioral guidelines, and apply these rules in awkward ways (e.g., forced eye contact), resulting in a demeanor that appears rigid or socially naive. Also, childhood desire for companionship can become numbed through a history of failed social encounters.

RE: aggression. The hypothesis that children on the autism spectrum are predisposed to violent or criminal behavior has been investigated, but is not supported by data. More evidence suggests that kids with HFA are victims rather than victimizers. One review found that an overwhelming number of reported violent criminals with Aspergers ALSO had coexisting psychiatric disorders (e.g., schizoaffective disorder).

In a nutshell, what you’re dealing with may have more to do with good old fashion sibling rivalry than it does your son’s inability to empathize with others. But, having mind-blindness and sensory sensitivities does not give him a license to be aggressive with his sister. Aggressive behavior should be disciplined regardless of any autism-related deficits.


More resources for parents of children and teens on the autism spectrum:
 

My child has been rejected by his peers, ridiculed and bullied !!!

Social rejection has devastating effects in many areas of functioning. Because the ASD child tends to internalize how others treat him, rejection damages self-esteem and often causes anxiety and depression. As the child feels worse about himself and becomes more anxious and depressed – he performs worse, socially and intellectually.

Click here to read the full article…

How to Prevent Meltdowns in Children on the Spectrum

Meltdowns are not a pretty sight. They are somewhat like overblown temper tantrums, but unlike tantrums, meltdowns can last anywhere from ten minutes to over an hour. When it starts, the Asperger's or HFA child is totally out-of-control. When it ends, both you and your child are totally exhausted. But... don’t breathe a sigh of relief yet. At the least provocation, for the remainder of that day -- and sometimes into the next - the meltdown can return in full force.

Click here for the full article...

Parenting Defiant Teens on the Spectrum

Although Aspergers [high-functioning autism] is at the milder end of the autism spectrum, the challenges parents face when disciplining a teenager on the spectrum are more difficult than they would be with an average teen. Complicated by defiant behavior, the teen is at risk for even greater difficulties on multiple levels – unless the parents’ disciplinary techniques are tailored to their child's special needs.

Click here to read the full article…

Older Teens and Young Adult Children with ASD Still Living At Home

Your older teenager or young “adult child” isn’t sure what to do, and he is asking you for money every few days. How do you cut the purse strings and teach him to be independent? Parents of teens with ASD face many problems that other parents do not. Time is running out for teaching their adolescent how to become an independent adult. As one mother put it, "There's so little time, yet so much left to do."

Click here to read the full article…

Parenting Children and Teens with High-Functioning Autism

Two traits often found in kids with High-Functioning Autism are “mind-blindness” (i.e., the inability to predict the beliefs and intentions of others) and “alexithymia” (i.e., the inability to identify and interpret emotional signals in others). These two traits reduce the youngster’s ability to empathize with peers. As a result, he or she may be perceived by adults and other children as selfish, insensitive and uncaring.

Click here
to read the full article...

Highly Effective Research-Based Parenting Strategies for Children with Asperger's and HFA

Become an expert in helping your child cope with his or her “out-of-control” emotions, inability to make and keep friends, stress, anger, thinking errors, and resistance to change.

Click here for the full article...

My Aspergers Child - Syndicated Content