Rabbi Yehuda Adelist, MS SpEd, director of Cheder Darchai Limud, presents a 2 part series addressing a common learning challenge found in the classroom called Auditory Processing Delays (Disorder).
PART 1: What is Auditory Processing Delays (Disorder).
Why does my child not concentrate in School? Auditory Processing and the Classroom
“He just spaces out in class.” “Even when I talk to her, her mind is all over the place.” “Why can’t he just focus?”
Many reasons are given to explain this phenomena. Many times our first reaction is to judge such a child with an attention deficit. A common cause that is often overlooked and misdiagnosed are processing delays, in particular auditory processing.
While there are other types of processing delays such as visual processing delays, this article will only address auditory delays as that is the most common one. Throughout this article we will use the word ‘Delay’ instead of ‘Disorder’, as that is the more positive and accurate description. The effects of Auditory Processing Delays on reading and phonological awareness will not be addressed as a directional cause has yet to be proven in independent scientific research (Ferguson, M. A – Journal of Speech Language and Hearing Research 54 (2011)). Many children with APD do not have difficulties with reading, and the ones that do, may just have the misfortune to have more than 1 learning difficulty or a pervasive processing delay not limited to auditory.
Auditory Processing Delays, also known as APD affect a big percentage of children who do not appear to concentrate in class. It is estimated that approximately 5% or 1 in 20 children have APD.
Being that the symptoms overlap with ADHD, it is very easy to misdiagnose a child with processing delays with an Attention deficit. Becoming knowledgeable in the definition of APD and how it can be dealt with, can empower parents, teachers and the students themselves to successfully navigate these types of difficulties and prevent much suffering and complications from misdiagnosis. If a child with an auditory processing delay is given behavior therapy or medication for ADHD, this will likely be ineffective and complicate the problem by bringing unwanted side effects that wouldn’t harm someone with genuine ADHD. In this article we will discuss what Auditory Processing Delays look like, how they specifically affect Limmudei Kodesh classes and how they can be accommodated and treated.
Auditory processing disorder is a weakness/delay in the area of the brain that processes information entering through the sense of hearing. People with auditory processing delays may have perfect hearing. It is not the hearing per-se, rather the brain’s ability to process what was heard. Auditory processing delays become more pronounced with tasks that require processing multiple bits of information.
When we hear a simple instruction, our brain has to digest what we heard to understand the basic meaning. Most people do this in a miniscule of a second. A person with delays in auditory processing might take 3 or 4 seconds. This small gap becomes multiplied as the amount of information increases.
A simple example: “Leah, Please go drop this off at the post office, then go to the grocery store and buy a bottle of milk and a Danish. On your way home, check the mail.” For most of us, this errand is not too complicated. For a child with an auditory processing delay where it takes time to process each bit of information, 3 or 4 separate items can be quite an overload.
Effect on Classroom:
In the classroom where a big bulk of instruction is done orally, this phenomena becomes magnified. While the child with APD is still trying to digest Point No. 1 and 2, the class have already moved to Point No. 7 or 8. After a while, it doesn’t take much to imagine how long it will take for the child with APD to just give up. The following is a typical interchange between a child with APD and a teacher:
Teacher: “Yankel, Please open up your Chumash, we are up to Perek 5 Posuk 12”
Yankel (APD): “What?”
Teacher: “Please open your Chumash to Perek 5 Pousk 12.
Yankel (APD): “My Chumash? Oh, My Chumash! Perek? Perek 5. Ok, Perek 5. What posuk was it again?
Teacher: “Posuk 12!”
Yankel (APD): “Posuk 12. Got it!”
The above scenario makes it look like Yankel day dreams a lot. In truth, the amount of processing time needed for Yankel to participate like everyone else is too taxing on him. Everybody else processed the instruction in 1.5 seconds, and Yankel took 30 seconds with a trifold repeat of the instructions.
When children learn Torah in school, there is much emphasis on textual learning from text that carries a language different from our speech. This adds another complication for children with APD who have to spend time transferring the meaning of the text into a different language. Many children with APD may do ok in basic kriah decoding, but struggle in reading Chumash, mishnayos, or gemorro for meaning.
Some of the symptoms of APD overlap with other learning difficulties. When a child has difficulty concentrating in class as a result of a delay in auditory processing, the symptoms unique to other learning disabilities will not be present. For example, children with APD may be highly organized or calm unlike the hallmarks of children with ADHD who can be very disorganized or hyperactive.
The following are classical symptoms unique to APD:
· Frequently asks, “What?” and needs verbal information to be repeated
· Finds it difficult to concentrate on what the teacher is saying even when trying
· Classes that have substantial amounts of oral information being taught are more challenging than classes that require hands on work
· Finds it difficult to perform tasks that carry multistep directions
· Has difficulty remembering 3 or more chunks of items in a list
· Puts instructions or information into a incorrect sequence or order.
A child who has difficulty paying attention in auditory tasks only without the hallmarks of attention deficit in other areas as well and is not impulsive or hyperactive, is likely to have weakness with Auditory Processing. If a parent or educator notices the above symptoms clearly present, there is no harm in implementing the suggestions for management of APD listed below. Nevertheless, Auditory Processing delays can only be officially diagnosed by an audiologist. It is also wise to see an audiologist as they can properly rule out hearing loss R”L.
In part 2 we will address how to manage APD B’Ezras Hashem.
Rabbi Adelist MS SpEd has been working with children with learning difficulties for over 10 years and is the Director of Cheder Darchai Limud, a program for boys age 6 and up that teaches children to learn how to learn. For an evaluation and consultation contact 347 743 6132.