Q: What is an auditory processing disorder and what can be done to improve it?
A: Auditory processing skills are a hierarchy of skills that are basic to the listening and communication process that affect the acquisition and mastery of both spoken and written language skills. These skills are sequential in development. However, the boundaries of each are not well defined resulting in overlap and are, essentially, inseparable. (Bellis, 1996; Educational Audiology Association, 1996)
Jerger and Musiek (2000) state that "Children and adults with Auditory Processing Disorder (APD) are a heterogeneous group of people who have difficulty using auditory information to communicate and learn. APD is a set of problems that occurs in different listening tasks. It is a deficit in the processing of auditory input which may be exacerbated in unfavorable acoustic environments and is associated with difficulty listening for speech-language understanding, language development and learning."
Simply stated auditory processing is what you do with what you hear.
Q: My two year old child isn't talking and my doctor says not to worry because he is a boy and boys always talk late. Should I be worried?
A: Whether your child is a boy or a girl, all children should be talking by the age of two years. At two years children should have a vocabulary of 50 or more words and be forming short sentences. Children as young as 12-18 months, whose parents have concerns about communication skills should probably be seen by a speech-language pathologist. When delays are present it is not a good idea to take the "wait and see" approach.
Though late talking children tend to catch up with their peers, research has shown that they often have difficulty with reading and spelling and overall learning skills. Early intervention is the key to developing age level appropriate communication skills.
Q: My 2 1/2 year old child was just diagnosed with autism and isn't talking. What should I be doing to help her learn to talk?
A: Early intervention is very important when it comes to children with a diagnosis of autism. You should have your child evaluated by a speech-language pathologist who can determine specific areas of strength and weakness in terms of social, behavioral, and communication skills. Individual sessions of speech-language therapy should be scheduled 2-3 times weekly and you, as the parent, should be instructed in a home program that can supplement and enhance the therapy.
Your speech-language pathologist will create and implement a program that will enable your child to develop skills necessary for communication. Other professionals working with your child may include a psychologist, behaviorist, and occupational therapist.
Q: At what age should my child be speaking?
A: Most children produce their first "meaningful" word around 12 months of age. However, there are children who speak earlier and some who speak later. By the time a child is 18 months of age he/she should have a speaking vocabulary of 25 or more words and appearing to learn new words on a daily basis. By the time a child is two years of age he/she should have a speaking vocabulary of more that 100 words and putting two words together. If your child appears to be delayed it is wise to request a speech and language evaluation to determine if a problem exists.
Q: Will my child "out-grow" the problem?
A: Very often, left on their own, a child will develop speech and language skills and be speaking by the time they go to school. However, during the time that these skills were delayed his/her peers were developing broader use of language and will continue to be ahead of your child. In addition, your child may have difficulty with the more subtle aspects of language that can interfere with social skills and create behavior issues. Finally, delayed speech and language skills place children at risk for learning disabilities when not treated.
Q: My second grade child is not reading. Is he dyslexic?
A: Possibly. In many cases the cause for reading problems is a language disorder that has not been diagnosed or has been mislabeled. The language problem is called an auditory processing disorder or phonemic awareness impairment. A definition for dyslexia, taken from the International Dyslexia Association is: Dyslexia is a specific language-based disorder---usually reflecting insufficient phonological processing abilities. It is constitutional in origin and is characterized by difficulties in single word decoding.