My daughter looked just like the girl in the image above when we first found out about her A.P.D.. Following directions was never easy for her. She desperately wanted to do what we said. Obedience was not the barrier. She simply didn't understand what we were asking her to do. I can still hear her little voice asking, "What you said, Mommy?" over and over again. We did our best to be patient and give her one direction at a time. Then, she started preschool. She began to really struggle with following directions. One day, we sat down to look at her papers together. Across the top of many sheets the teacher had written in all caps, "DID NOT LISTEN!". My daughter had clearly not followed directions. I asked her what she thought the teacher had written on her work. She said, "I think it says 'You're dumb.' because that is what the teacher said when she gave me back my papers." That BROKE-MY-HEART, y'all! She was not dumb! She was exceptionally bright! So, why couldn't she follow simple directions?!?
In Kindergarten, her teacher wondered if it was a hearing issue. So, we had her hearing tested by the nurse. She passed! They brought in an audiologist. Again, she passed! However, the audiologist also asked her some questions and gave her a set of directions to follow. She failed- BIG TIME! Finally, we were onto something. The audiologist did some further testing and gave us the answer that had been eluding us: Auditory Processing Disorder.
Life with A.P.D. is NOT easy! Furthermore, research has shown that it is largely genetic. So, from this point on, I will give you examples of A.P.D involving my husband, my daughter, and my son. All three of them have A.P.D. in various forms. Some days are better than others. This morning was rough. Therefore, I am blogging about it as therapy for myself. :)
What is A.P.D. and how can you identify it? We hear with more than just our ears. Our brains have to process or interpret what we heard, too. That is where this neurological defect kicks in. A.P.D. is not ADD or ADHD. People with those disorders cannot focus well enough to listen. A.P.D. is not autism. Their language issues are unique to that disorder. This is a specific auditory issue. It affects people of all I.Q. levels. I have RtI students with A.P.D. My own kids are gifted and have A.P.D.. Their brains just have a minor malfunction when it comes to understanding what they heard.
There are some obvious symptoms. Here's a quick list of some red flags to watch out for.
Here are some scenarios involving my family that may help illustrate these symptoms.
- Anxiety reigns in my home! Imagine how you would feel if you were in a constant state of confusion. You would always be wondering, "Did I hear my teacher, right? What if I do this wrong and the kids laugh at me? What if I ask her what to do AGAIN and she gets angry AGAIN?"
- Difficulty remembering things: Oh, boy, I could write a book about this one! Life sometimes feels like a constant game of 20 questions. I am always trying to figure out the meaning of that lady, that man, that thing, that place we went, etc.
- They need directions over and over again. Often, I give them one task, have them repeat it to me, and then come back for the next step when it's done.
- My husband and I call this one "the deer in the headlights look". We ask a question or give directions and the kids just stare at us wide-eyed in panic and confusion.
- Incomplete or incorrect task completion is abundant. They will often do part of what we said (usually the last part) or do the opposite of what we said. For example, if I said, "Son, that toilet is not working correctly. Someone filled it with too much toilet paper. Please do not use this stall." This otherwise brilliant boy will stare at me and walk directly into that stall! When I ask, "Where are you going?" He will look confused and say, "You said, 'Use this stall'." True! I did. Those were my last three words and that was all he was able to process quickly.
- Difficulty summarizing: Wow, again, this one is super tricky! Mentally organizing information for a summary of a long conversation or a book report is extremely challenging. Guiding questions definitely help!
- Exhaustion: Do you remember how you felt during a job interview? Trying to listen carefully to the questions, interpret them, and answer coherently is draining! Now, imagine feeling that way for 7 hours a day! That is how school feels for kids with A.P.D.. Every moment is taxing as you try to make sense of what is expected of you. My kids cannot participate in sports or other extracurricular activities because they are simply worn out from thinking at school. We have tried several activities, but it overwhelmed them. So, we use our evenings as a time of rejuvenation at home.
- Reluctance to go first or watching what others are doing is a MAJOR indicator of A.P.D. and it is SO EASY to miss! My son tried taking classes in Parkour. He would stand right next to the coach, stare intently at his face, and listen as the coach explained the five obstacles he wanted them to run. The boys would line up for the obstacle course and my son would quickly run to the end of the line so that he could watch to see what the other boys were doing before it was his turn. Even after hearing the directions, he needed to SEE what the coach expected him to do.
- Maybe you like playing music in your classroom or allow kids to talk among themselves as they work. This can be a terrible distraction to students with A.P.D. These students are working hard enough to filter out what is important in what you are saying. Crowded places, noisy restaurants, and loud conversations are a definite no-no for us, too.
So, what can you do to help in your classroom or even in your home? Here is a little advice that I have found to be tried and true.
Most of these are self-explanatory, but I would like to emphasize the importance of visuals and gestures. Please take the time to write down the page number, the due date of the project, make an exemplar of the finished art project, anything that will make the directions more visual than auditory. Please do not underestimate the power of gestures. Sometimes I feel like one of those workers at the airport who guide planes in with those orange light stick thingies, but it does help. Move your fingers like scissors if they are expected to cut something out. Shake your head and hands back and forth if they are NOT supposed to do something. Every little visual cue helps!
Above all, please avoid doing the following things. These students should never be made to feel inferior or even stupid for something that they cannot help!
If you made it this far, thanks for reading! I hope that this information is helpful to you. I love my family! Overall, my home is a joyful place filled with the three most compassionate, intelligent, and hilarious people I know. However, I am tired of feeling like we are hiding a secret. My kids aren't perfect. (GASP!) I am not perfect. (BIGGER GASP!) But no matter what we face, we love each other and we're here to help each other on this wonderful, crazy journey!
Do you know anyone with A.P.D.? Got any tips to share? I would appreciate hearing your thoughts.