Autism and Auditory Processing Disorder (APD)

Greetings Earthlings! 🙂

Leading on from my previous post about autism and sound sensitivity, this week I’d like to take a look at auditory processing disorder or APD.

So what exactly is APD?

APD, also known as central auditory processing disorder (CAPD), is a condition where a person doesn’t fully process the sounds they are hearing. There is generally nothing wrong with your hearing ability, but a neurological issue in interpreting the meaning of that sound. People with APD often struggle to understand spoken instructions, sentences where they’ve missed words, thick accents, words that sound similar, and understanding conversations that place in noisy environments. For example, if someone said the word ‘dog’, you would hear the word perfectly, but might struggle to retrieve the meaning of the word.

So how is APD linked to autism?

APD’s are very common in autists, but the link is unclear. One of the leading theories however is that the hippocampus is immature and underdeveloped in the autistic brain. This part of the brain is responsible for processing auditory and other sensory information, so if the region is not properly developed, autists will struggle to process sensory input like sound. Other research suggests that autists are hearing and processing sound properly, however, they are processing this information at a slower level than their peers due to delayed development of the auditory cortex in the brain.

An interesting behavioural study proposed that autists are actually processing sounds correctly, however, they are choosing to not pay attention to certain sounds or speech due to variations in their attention span.

Some researchers have also linked difficulties in auditory processing to impairment and delays in language development in autism as the ability to process sound efficiently is critical to language formation.

To help autists struggling with APD to better process sound, it’s recommended that you:

  • Try to talk face to face
  • Avoid covering your face when speaking
  • Repeat or rephrase words if they are struggling
  • Reduce background noise in the environment
  • Avoid long and complicated sentences
  • Try not to speak too fast or too slow
  • Use pictures and text for younger autists

Hope you enjoyed this post dear Earthlings!

Have a lovely weekend! 🙂

Aoife

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