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What is Central Auditory Processing Disorder (CAPD)

Updated on July 6, 2014
Connor using Inspiration, a mind mapping program that is part of his assistive technology arsenal.
Connor using Inspiration, a mind mapping program that is part of his assistive technology arsenal. | Source

I recently completed a hub concerning Learning Disabilities focusing on my oldest son who manifests a visual processing speed disorder. In the present system of education, this ‘learning difference’ presents Connor with some very real academic challenges addressed in that particular hub. To compound matters, Connor also faces another hurdle in his academic success known as Central Auditory Processing Disorder. It is a complex problem which affects about 5% of school-aged children in the United States [1]and probably a similar percentage in Canada. It seems to primarily affect boys.[2] Children with CAPD have a coordination problem between their ears and brain which affects the way in which primarily speech sounds are interpreted by the brain. These children cannot recognize small differences between sounds in words regardless of their clarity when spoken and the volume of delivery. When their hearing is tested, children with CAPD are able to register normal hearing of pure tones given in a very quiet environment. So, although their hearing registers as normal, their perception of the spoken word is not accurate and leads to significant difficulties in a multitude of academic and social areas.


Signs and Symptoms of CAPD

There are a number of signs and symptoms of CAPD which coincidently are similar to those in a child having other learning disabilities such as slow visual processing experienced also by my son Connor.[3]

  1. The child may have difficulty processing and remembering language –related tasks but have no trouble interpreting or remembering non-verbal sounds such as music.
  2. The child may have delayed processing of thoughts and ideas and have trouble explaining them.
  3. Similar-sounding words are often misspelled and mispronounced and/or syllables are omitted; similar sounding words are easily confused (celery/salary; three/free).
  4. Figurative language such as metaphors and similes are not easily understood while puns and jokes are misunderstood because of a tendency to interpret words literally.
  5. Background noises and sounds are very distracting.
  6. Staying focused and remembering a verbal presentation or lecture is very difficult.
  7. Oral directions can be difficult to remember or are easily misinterpreted and directions in a longer series are especially hard to follow.
  8. Complex sentence structure and rapid speech present comprehension difficulties.
  9. The child may “ignore” people, especially if focused on another activity.
  10. The child may say, ‘what’ a lot even if he has heard most of what was said.

More Symptoms of CAPD

Children may also have difficulties in the following:[4]

  1. Trouble understanding phone conversations.
  2. Trouble learning a foreign language or challenging vocabulary words.
  3. Trouble taking notes.
  4. Organizational skills.
  5. Extreme difficulty maintaining focus when a lot of background noise is present (i.e. in a busy, noisy classroom which is the norm in today’s ever larger classroom sizes).

Most of these signs were and are displayed by my son Connor. In grade 11 he still has trouble with similar sounding words and often says ‘what’ when given complex instructions. He had more difficulty at a younger age understanding jokes and figurative language. Exposure to high school English has given him more exposure to figurative language and complex reading, leading to a greater comfort in those areas. He still suffers from thought process delays and oral speaking but his difficulties are compounded by his problems in visual processing.

Why does my Child Have CAPD?

There is no one definitive cause of CAPD. In some children, it may be due to maturational delays in the development of the auditory centers of the brain. For these children, their difficulties subside with age and maturity. For some children, a difference in the way the brain develops creates the perception problem and for these children life-long adaptations are necessary. CAPD can also be caused by neurological disorders or disease such as from tumors, trauma, viral infections, lead poisoning, oxygen deprivation or surgery.[5]


Strategies to Reduce Frustration for a Child with CAPD

Children become easily frustrated when they do not understand what is expected from them and CAPD can result in misunderstanding on the part of both the child and the parent. Once the parent understands the problem, strategies can be implemented to reduce stress for both parent and child. We have used the following strategies successfully with Connor.

  1. Background noise is a big issue for him and concentrating on home work so we aim to reduce the background noise at home during the early evening when homework is a priority.
  2. When I’m giving instructions to Connor, he understands best when he is looking directly at me and can see my lips moving.
  3. I try to use simple but instructive sentences when giving him directions to perform an activity. If I give him a second activity before the first is completed, generally neither are accomplished or accomplished well.
  4. I speak slowly and clearly at a slightly increased volume.
  5. If I really want the activity to be accomplished, I make sure I have him repeat the instructions back to me (although I find this last one handy for all three of my boys!!).

Implementing Strategies for CAPD in a Child's IEP

The following strategies are also included in Connor’s IEP (Individual Education Plan).

  1. He is to be provided with preferential seating which usually means a front row seat.
  2. He is not to be penalized for spelling, especially when computer assistance is not used.
  3. An FM system is to be used in each of his classrooms meaning each class is outfitted with a speaker system and the teacher wears a microphone which amplifies his/her voice.
  4. He is provided with extra time for assignments and tests when needed and tests may be written using Kurtzweil which reads the test to him.

Finally, it is vital for Connor’s academic success to track his assignments and schedule his time using a calendar system. This area of organization is the hardest for Connor to maintain although as he gets older he slowly makes gains in this area!

Success in School and Society is Possible with CAPD

Although the double whammy of slow visual perception and CAPD have made school a more challenging activity for Connor, parental and school support have contributed to an overall happy and successful teenager. However, the implementation of the above strategies is essential to success. Children with CAPD and other learning differences will usually have to work harder to achieve in school and sometimes in society but those same work habits will pay off in later adult life. Hard work that becomes second nature in school will often transfer to the same hard work ethic in post- secondary education and in their chosen career. Children with CAPD can become successful adults, perhaps even more so than other classmates by using the coping strategies learned and by virtue of the hard work necessary to achieve.

Works Cited

[1] Kids Health from Nemours. Auditory Processing Disorder. . Feb. 7, 2012.

[2,4,5]Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired. Central Auditory Processing Disorders - An Overview of Assessment and Management Practices. Feb. 7, 2012.

[3] LDA Learning Disabilities Association of America. Central Auditory Processing Disorder.


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    • Teresa Coppens profile imageAUTHOR

      Teresa Coppens 

      6 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      aviannovice, it was a little of both I guess but I have to say the Catholic School Board in our area is very good in how they implement special education for the most part. But there were battles and sometimes still are but Connor seems well equipped to advocate for himself now. Thanks for your comment!!

    • aviannovice profile image

      Deb Hirt 

      6 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      More and more info is coming out on learning disabilities NOW, finally. Are teachers also learning about these things in their school curiculuum, too? Or did you have to teach your son's teachers about his learning disabilities?

    • Teresa Coppens profile imageAUTHOR

      Teresa Coppens 

      6 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      Yeah he is a pretty amazing kid. Thanks for the comment Rebecca. CAPD is one of those conditions that is not always discovered. But it was a help when Connor was diagnosed. Forewarned is forearmed!

    • rebeccamealey profile image

      Rebecca Mealey 

      6 years ago from Northeastern Georgia, USA

      You have provided clear definitions for CAPD and strategies. Conner proves that with support and strategies the LD student can make it!


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