A few days after writing part one of this post series – I “coincidentally” came across a blog article regarding something called “Auditory Processing Disorder” after reading merely the name my heart felt a little prick, like I was finally able to put my finger on what it was that Treyton was experiencing. After spending an hour or so scouring the internet, I knew that this was a part of Treyton language struggles. I put several books on hold at the library and within a few days I was reading anything and everything I could about this more-popular-than-I realized disorder.
To try and simply explain, Auditory Processing Disorder (APD) is a breakdown in the second stage of hearing. While the child is fully able to “hear” sound vibrations through the ear (it is not a hearing impairment), there is a breakdown (somewhere) in the electrical “relay” in the brain that processes the sounds the child hears.
There is no formal/physical treatment for APD, there is only training and skill building for the child and learning to live with the disorder. There are different kinds of symptoms, I’m assuming based on where the breakdown occurs for the individual child, and so it looks different for each child.
I looked in to getting Treyton tested, calling around to several Audiologists in my area and after several phone calls found one physician who actually tested for APD (for $200), but the office actually dissuaded me from getting the test stating that there was no treatment but only training and skill building, things we could actually do on our own at home.
Like I mentioned before, APD can look different for different kids, for Treyton what this can sometimes look like:
~ Mispronunciation of words: the other day we were talking about the field next to our house and Treyton was talking about the smell of manure he said something along the lines of “If I rode my bike in there I would not smell relicious” (he meant delicious, a word he had recently learned but didn’t have all of the sounds)
~ Struggles following directions, particularly multi-step directions.
~ Decreased vocabulary or improper word use. After I said the word “hilarious’ one afternoon, Treyton had a look of confusion on his face so I asked “Do you know what hilarious means?” He said no, so I explained it to him, and brought it up several different times in the following two days. On day three I heard him say to Audrey “Audrey you are hairious, you are just too funny!” I gently corrected how he said hilarious, he said the same sentence (on his own) again, saying it correctly. Since then I’ve heard him use it twice correctly pronounced and in the correct context.
~ Inability to learn and remember people’s names, particularly when he’s meeting a lot of people at one time, or with people he doesn’t see very often.
~ Struggles listening to (and sitting through) prolonged lessons or lectures. Conversational pieces are not as bad, like reading, theatre and movies but even those he isn’t able to remember much of.
~ Entering a group, it takes Treyton a long time to warm up to new people. I thought that he was shy for the longest time, but he’s really not. Group conversation is one of the more overwhelming situations for Treyton, while noise in general doesn’t bother him, lots of different noises and tones are very overwhelming and hard to listen to. He’s a very social kid, and he wants to fit in, but it’s not easy for him because often times he doesn’t understand the other kids and misses common social cues. While this hasn’t caused him any serious problems, in the last year or two he has begun to pick up on it and feel more awkward in busy socail settings.
~ Frequently asks for clarification and for you to repeat what you said. Because he’s not always sure what he might have heard “Huh?” is a common question from him. Talking in the car is VERY difficult because it’s best to turn around and talk directly to Treyton face-to-face.
~ Prefers to talk rather than being talked to. If Treyton can control the conversation he has a better chance of figuring out what the other person is saying. Whereas if someone else starts a conversation with him or is carrying most of the conversation it is typical for him to shy away or look to me for clarification on what is being said or asked of him.
There are other ways that this disorder affects Treyton, but those are the things that come to mind now.
While APD has always been a part of Treyton’s life, he is now becoming more aware of his speech difficulties and lower language ability. In the past week Treyton has brought several situations to my attention in that he doesn’t feel like he’s doing or saying things right. One of the things he brought up this week was the fact he doesn’t say the number six correctly.
He said “I just don’t know mom, I’m just not that good at numbers.” (side note: he is INCREDIBLY smart with numbers and math, despite his language struggles)
I said “Yes you are! You’re great with numbers.”
“Think about it, I can’t even say sick. Listen sik, sik, You know, 4, 5, sik.”
“Yeah, I know what you’re saying, and you’re right, you’re saying it wrong, but you know that you say it wrong, so now you can learn to say it right, that’s a great job.”
“Yeah? How am I supposed to say it?”
We worked through it, and while he still says 6 wrong, it’s now a word that we are deliberate about him pronouncing right and I am certain he will catch on after a while. In fact, just today he was telling Lexie something and I heard him say the word “fix” totally right. That’s a huge step!
I mentioned before that I’ve been reading lots of books and sites on the disorder and I’ve learned lots of pointers, tips and games that I was grateful to see that Tim and I were already implementing. The truth is, despite what struggles our children face, God knows, more than we do, what they need. He is always in control and looking back I see His hand in our journey as a family, even in the times we didn’t know we needed it. There have been lots of times where He has revealed things to me about Treyton and his personality that I would pray about and from there we would try things (often times through trial and error) until they worked for all of us.
The more I learn about APD the more I realize the positive effect being at home with me has been for him. While we’ve managed to keep him in a healthy amount of social activities, we were also careful about not overwhelming him with over-exposure, which I realized early on was possible with him. I picked up on cues early on in his development and tried different things to try and make life easier on all of us - many of our defensive and offensive measures, though they were un-educated, were all the things that the professionals recommend.
The truth is Treyton is striving and continues to grow and learn despite his struggles. Like I said in my previous post, it’s not easy watching him struggle, particularly in watching him start to realize his difference from other kids his age. But it’s great to watch him learn, to watch him try and to know that despite what the world says (including some well meaning professionals) this disorder is not something we will allow to enable or excuse poor behavior – we haven’t up to this point in his life, and we won’t start now – and we won’t allow him to settle or be defeated by a label. Because in the end, that’s what this is – a label, a diagnosis of a struggle, but the fact is we ALL struggle, we all have things that we must overcome. Treyton is lucky enough to have started overcoming his before he realized he had the option of giving up.
He’s a fighter.
He’s a sweetheart.
And like he once told me not all that long ago “I’m special just the way I am, because that’s the way that God made me!”
Did I mention that he’s also wise beyond his years?