Auditory Processing Disorder (APD)

Also known as Central Auditory Processing Disorder, this is a condition that adversely affects how sound that travels unimpeded through the ear is processed or interpreted by the brain. Individuals with APD do not recognise subtle differences between sounds in words, even when the sounds are loud and clear enough to be heard. They can also find it difficult to tell where sounds are coming from, to make sense of the order of sounds, or to block out competing background noises.

Signs and Symptoms

  • Has difficulty processing and remembering language-related tasks but may have no trouble interpreting or recalling non-verbal environmental sounds, music, etc.
  • May process thoughts and ideas slowly and have difficulty explaining them
  • Misspells and mispronounces similar-sounding words or omits syllables; confuses similar-sounding words (celery/salary; belt/built; three/free; jab/job; bash/batch)
  • May be confused by figurative language (metaphor, similes) or misunderstand puns and jokes; interprets words too literally
  • Often is distracted by background sounds/noises
  • Finds it difficult to stay focused on or remember a verbal presentation or lecture
  • May misinterpret or have difficulty remembering oral directions; difficulty following directions in a series
  • Has difficulty comprehending complex sentence structure or rapid speech
  • “Ignores” people, especially if engrossed
  • Says “What?” a lot, even when has heard much of what was said


  • Show rather than explain
  • Supplement with more intact senses (use visual cues, signals, handouts, manipulative)
  • Reduce or space directions, give cues such as “ready?”
  • Reword or help decipher confusing oral and/or written directions
  • Teach abstract vocabulary, word roots, synonyms/antonyms
  • Vary pitch and tone of voice, alter pace, stress key words
  • Ask specific questions as you teach to find out if they do understand
  • Allow them 5-6 seconds to respond (“think time”)
  • Have the student constantly verbalise concepts, vocabulary words, rules, etc.