The Home School Court Report
No. 1

In This Issue

Due to space constraints, Doc’s Digest did not appear in the January/February 2010 issue. Doc’s Digest will resume publication on a new rotating schedule beginning in the March/April issue.

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by Lynn Carahaly, MA, CCC-SLP
- disclaimer -
Difficulty with Schoolwork could be Result of Auditory Processing Problem

Are you having a hard time putting your finger on why your child is struggling academically? The questions begin to stream: Was he not paying attention? Is he disinterested in school? Is it a lack of motivation or just poor behavior?

Often, however, the struggle is not a lack of interest or a behavior issue: it is the result of a Central Auditory Processing Disorder which makes a child unable to understand spoken language in a meaningful way. Central Auditory Processing Disorder, commonly referred to as CAPD or Auditory Processing Disorder (APD), is the inability to attend to, discriminate among or between, recognize, or understand auditory information. This sensory processing deficit can negatively impact listening skills, spoken language, comprehension, learning, and even social skills. Auditory processing skills not only help us understand what is said to us, but they also help us suppress the background noise that we don't want to hear.

A Message from Our Coordinators

If you are homeschooling a child who is struggling academically or having difficulty comprehending spoken language, the HSLDA Special Needs Coordinators recommend that parents work with their family practitioner or pediatrician as a critical first step. The fact that there are many types of Auditory Processing Disorder (APD) make it complex to diagnose. Adding to the complexity, many other disorders can either coexist with or mimic APD. As with any special need or learning difficulty, careful and accurate diagnosis is the first step in choosing, planning, and implementing the most appropriate treatment or intervention plan.

In addition to consulting with their family practitioner or pediatrician, parents should obtain a comprehensive hearing evaluation from an audiologist, and other possible speech and language difficulties should be assessed by a trained speech/language pathologist.

For further information on Auditory Processing Disorder and other learning problems, as well as valuable teaching tips and strategies, please go to the Homeschooling Your Struggling Learner website. HSLDA members may contact coordinators Faith Berens, Dianne Craft, and Betty Statnick for counsel and suggestions. Call 540-338-5600 or visit

Even if hearing is intact, poor listening skills may be a result of auditory processing or related deficits. Because people with CAPD can usually pass ordinary hearing tests, the disorder frequently goes undiagnosed. Often it is misdiagnosed as ADD or ADHD. Children who have difficulty processing auditory information will often appear inattentive, but, similar to a cell phone with a bad connection, they simply do not have a “good signal” and are unable to receive all of the information. In fact, CAPD may coexist with ADHD or with other learning disabilities.

How does CAPD disrupt learning?

Although CAPD is not considered a learning disability itself, research suggests it may be the underlying cause of some learning disabilities, especially those associated with language processing and reading disorders.

Some children have a hard time with letter reversals; they may flip /b/ and /d/ for example. It is not that the letters are blurry; the brain is not perceiving or visually processing the information accurately. The same analogy can be applied for CAPD. A child may be able to hear just fine, but the brain’s ability to process what it hears is not functioning properly. That is why it is critical to identify and treat the root of the problem and not just the symptoms.

Children with CAPD exhibit several of these symptoms:

  • Difficulty listening in the presence of background noise
  • Hearing words incorrectly
  • Difficulty learning to read
  • Poor reading and spelling skills
  • Difficulties with phonics and speech sound discrimination
  • Difficulty telling sounds apart—particularly vowels
  • Saying “Huh?” or “What?”; “I didn’t hear you,” or “I didn’t understand what you meant”
  • Problems following directions, especially when complex
  • Poor auditory memory skills, not remembering what he heard
  • Being distracted by background noise
  • Poor organization of verbal material
  • Responding inconsistently or inappropriately to auditory information
  • Difficulty attending to oral messages
  • Difficulty learning songs or nursery rhymes, and poor music, rhythm, and singing skills
  • Delay in responding when participating in oral communication
  • Tiring easily when listening for extended periods

©HSLDA/ Michelle Thoburn
CAPD can occur in a variety of circumstances: in children with a history of chronic ear infections; with learning disabilities such as dyslexia, developmental language disorder, or attention deficit disorder; or with a brain lesion. It can also occur in one who has suffered a traumatic brain injury, experienced extremely high fever (over 105 degrees) as a very young child, was born prematurely or past due date, or has a genetic history of CAPD.

Students with poor auditory processing skills often exhibit poor auditory memory skills. Auditory memory involves the task of attending, listening, processing, storing, and recalling. Many students—even those who are not learning disabled—find this an extremely difficult task. Often students with auditory memory problems appear to be trying very hard to listen and can fatigue quickly. Their eyes are focused on the speaker/teacher and they appear to be attentive, however, in reality, they often absorb and make sense out of very little of what is being stated by the speaker/teacher. As a result, these students recall a minimal amount of what is being said.

Students with related auditory memory deficits frequently experience problems comprehending orally presented sequential directions, developing a solid understanding of words, and remembering terms and information that has been presented orally. These students will also experience difficulty processing and recalling information that they have read to themselves. When we read, we must listen and process information we say to ourselves, even when we read silently. If we do not attend and listen to our silent input of words, we cannot process the information or recall what we have read. Silent reading involves active listening. Reading comprehension problems are often associated with auditory working memory, processing, and attention. Being skilled in recalling a series of items is essential for all students.

Interventions are key


Often, students may assume that they know what they have heard or read orally, when actually, they have processed and recalled very little of the material. Therefore, students should be encouraged to restate passages including the main idea and supporting details, in order to demonstrate working knowledge that they have comprehension.

A vast amount of information is lost by students with auditory difficulties. These students need remediation in auditory processing skills. Interventions that stimulate children’s cognitive skills, such as memory, processing speed, auditory and language processing, logic and reasoning, listening, and reading comprehension, can get them on the track to academic success.

About the author

Lynn Carahaly, MA, CCC-SLP, is an American Speech and Hearing Association (ASHA) certified speech-language pathologist specializing in CAPD and related learning challenges. She is also the director of Foundations Developmental House, LLC,