What is a Processing Disorder?

Is there a difference between a language processing disorder and an auditory processing disorder? What are some red flags? Who makes the diagnosis?

There are many characteristics that overlap, but there are some core differences. Step 1 is being able to recognize that your child has a processing delay.

Auditory Processing Disorder

According to ASHA (American Speech and Hearing Association), an auditory processing disorder (APD) continues to be used loosely and not believed exists as a separate diagnosis from some. However, for those that do believe in APD, to help distinguish the difference between APD and other processing delays, ASHA states "...APD is a an auditory deficit that is NOT the result of other higher-order cognitive, language or related disorder".

For example, a child with Autism who may have difficulty with comprehending language or processing language is due to diagnosis of Autism and NOT a specific auditory dysfunction.

Red Flags of APD:

- Difficulty with spelling and reading

- Difficulty sequencing sounds together

- Difficulty following directions; does much better, and perhaps independently, when a task has a visual component

- Difficulty identifying pitch changes in a conversation and therefor may misinterpret what the person was trying to say

Diagnosing APD:

A multidisciplinary team is needed to assess the child, but in the end an audiologist is the one to make the diagnosis.

Language Processing Disorder

This is where my analogy comes in handy. When I wake up in the morning I check my emails, before coffee, and although I know I understand what is being said in the email it takes me a little longer to process the information. Someone will a language processing disorder (LPD) may experience the same thing throughout their day in when information is presented to them verbally (I know, my example was visual).

Someone with a LPD may understand the information but need a little extra time to process the information. They may respond faster when spoken to in shorter sentences due to it taking them more time to process a longer and more complex sentence.

I do think that if a child has a hard time processing the language and everything in their world is moving at a faster pace, they are bound to miss some information. [This is part of why it is important to get support early on in the child's life.] A LPD can occur with other language difficulties or disabilities, such as Autism.

Red Flags:

- Difficulty following multi-step directions

- Difficulty understanding and being part of a conversation

- Needing repetition of a direction or new concept

- Some difficulty formulating sentences with appropriate structure

- Taking a long time to respond to a question

- Having a hard time following along in a story

Diagnosing LPD:

Once you rule out hearing loss, a speech and language therapist can identify whether a language processing disorder is present.

To read the complete article from ASHA on APD:

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