Central auditory processing disorder (CAPD), also known as auditory processing disorder, refers to difficulties in processing speech or taking in verbal information when presented with noise. The brain fails to assign the correct meaning to the words an individual hears and does not identify the subtle differences in them. The condition is not related to hearing problems or intelligence. However, it may coexist and overlap with other disorders such as ADHD, language disorders, and learning disability.
Children with CAPD typically struggle to remember—or remember correctly—what they hear. Information expressed orally, such as when receiving instructions or directions, are often missed or misunderstood. What’s confusing is that CAPD is a different disorder than an expressive-receptive language disorder or also known as a developmental language disorder. Many of these symptoms overlap and can easily be misdiagnosed even among professionals. To learn more, read this article by the American Speech Hearing Association. In a nutshell, it takes the brain’s auditory cortex at least seven years to mature. CAPD testing should not be performed before a child turns seven years of age and should not occur in isolation. CAPD testing assessed by audiologists should be part of language and attentional testing performed by psychologists and speech language pathologists. Otherwise, you will not know the full scope of why your child is having difficulties processing sounds or words.
For a person with CAPD, struggling with one or more of the four basic skills of auditory processing can include:
- Auditory discrimination – This refers to one’s ability to notice, compare, and distinguish distinct and different sounds. A child with CAPD will often have trouble rhyming, mix up similar sounds, or drop syllables.
- Figure-ground discrimination – Identifying and focusing on important sounds in a noisy environment. Someone with CAPD will have difficulty filtering information from background noise. For example, a student with CAPD will find it hard to focus on the teacher’s instructions amid classroom chatter.
- Auditory memory – The ability to store and recall what one hears, either immediately (short-term) or in the future (long-term). A child with weak auditory memory will struggle with remembering lyrics, rhymes, recitation, and recalling information.
- Auditory sequencing – This refers to one’s ability to understand and recall the order of sounds and words. If a child lacks auditory sequencing skills, he or she may mix up numbers with the same digits (53 and 35), switch the sounds in words (saying anletope instead of antelope), and struggle to remember instructions in sequence.
Read about Listening Milestones and Questions Answering and Asking Milestones.