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Auditory Processing Disorder and Music Therapy

Auditory Processing Disorder (APD) is a condition characterised as difficulty understanding speech in background noise, remembering and following verbal instructions, locating sounds and identifying speech sounds.  People with APD may have challenges communicating in classrooms, cafes and group situations.  Difficulties understanding speech leads to difficulties with spelling, reading and general literacy.  Children with APD may also appear distracted, inattentive or disengaged in group situations.  Around 3-5% of Australian children are thought to have APD.

APD is diagnosed by a thorough clinical assessment performed by an audiologist.  Often the assessment is spread over 2 appointments to ensure testing fatigue doesn’t affect the results.  

Children who have APD are no less intelligent or capable of success than any other child.  Rather, modifications to classroom acoustics and teaching methods are recommended and usually very successful in creating an environment where children can hear, understand and learn.  Modifications include reducing echo, reducing background noise, limiting group work, always using visual posters to support a spoken instructions, and in some cases the use of a personal listening device is recommended.

Therapies are also available to help children develop their auditory processing skills.  Whilst there are many apps available that children can listen to and play, research has shown that ‘top-down’, social activities that improve a child’s executive functioning skills are most effective.  Activities such as drama clubs, choirs and music ensembles train children’s listening skills through a fun, social forum.  Music has many qualities that overlap with speech: it is a complex, rich auditory signal, it requires the listener to differentiate pitches, rhythms, tempos and timbres.  Several studies have now provided evidence that children who participate in music training have improved auditory processing skills – but here is the critical thing – it must be FUN!  When activities are fun, children are motivated to participate and something magical happens to their ability to learn, develop and grow.  

The link between APD and Music Therapy is a fascinating area of research, and a particular interest of mine!  If you think your child may have APD, please come down to Mullum Road in Croydon for an assessment.  It might open up a new avenue of learning possibilities for your child.