Do children grow out of auditory processing difficulties?

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Why deny a child the training they need?

Can children grow out of auditory processing difficulties (APD/CAPD)? Yes and No. Because our brains have the amazing capacity to change (neuroplasticity), children can ‘grow out’ of anything – with the right stimulation and training. The act of listening itself improves auditory processing (if the child is listening!)

Children with APD lack the skills to improve their own listening

On the other hand, what often happens with Auditory Processing Disorders is that a student isn’t listening to their teacher, the teacher considers the child to be a problem, and so the teacher says “I’m not going to move you to the front because you interrupt other kids” and keeps that child in the back of the room. That child then starts tuning out more and discovers, because he can’t hear the teacher very well, that it’s much more fun to throw spit balls and find ways to tease the girls around him. That student’s auditory processing isn’t going to get better because he isn’t getting any auditory training in the classroom. So yes – children can outgrow anything if the stimulation is right, if what the child is doing with their brain is doing it in a way to move the brain in a different direction.

How educators and parents can help

The question we need to ask is: what do we need to do to make that happen? It depends on the child. One thing we can do is move that child to the front of the class, so when the child’s in school for five hours, they’re getting the best auditory signal they can. The other thing we can do is talk to that child a lot in quiet environments (this should be done at all ages, and is especially crucial before age 5). Turning the TV off, getting out a book and reading to a child is very important for auditory processing development.

However, it might not be enough. Some parents talk, talk, talk, read, read, read, bombard their children with language and auditory processing difficulties are still identified when they reach school age. These children need direct training to get the most out of the classroom environment and to avoid the enduring negative impact of processing problems on through adulthood (read Robyn’s perspective on this as an adult with APD).

Is Auditory Processing Difficulty a lifelong problem?

For most children, direct intervention improves processing. It is for this reason that neuroscientists have developed programs to improve auditory processing skills. Many children need this specific stimulation, this extra brain training, to develop age appropriate auditory processing skills.

So can children outgrow it? If it’s not too severe, yes – if they have the right kind of stimulation, yes, and that more often than not involves an auditory training program specifically designed to improve that part of the brain. As neuroscientist and speech pathologist Dr Martha Burns put it: “Why would you ever deny a child that and say ‘let’s wait to see if he outgrows it?’ I certainly wouldn’t now.”

Also see:

How we help listening and Auditory Processing