Auditory Processing Disorder: “God Opened the Right Door for our Daughter”
By Dasha Peipon
Anna Clare was a beautiful healthy baby. She was perfect in every way, but slightly delayed in her baby milestones: she sat up late, walked late, talked late. These weren’t the red flags a pediatrician typically looks for, because she was still developing within the normal range. At three, she wasn’t doing the things her older sister was able to do at her age, like putting the pieces of puzzles together or coloring. When her mom Tina shared her concerns with others, they said: “Don’t compare your children. Your girls are different and each will develop at her own pace”. Tina and her husband Rob didn’t feel right about this, but they listened to the advice of those more experienced, and tried to be patient. At four years old Anna Clare couldn’t name colors, say or even sing her ABC’s, and her parents started looking for ways to help their daughter improve academically. First, they found a preschool that offered one-on-one program. But there was no progress. Tina shares: “We learned that when your 4-year-old can’t say the whole alphabet, but can at least sing it – that’s normal. Some letters might come out jumbled and sounding funny, and that’s ok, too. But if you can’t identify any letters – that’s a problem. And that is what we were dealing with.”
This was just the beginning of their journey searching for a place where Anna Clare could fit in and thrive. Later, there was also a public school, and a private school. After two years of kindergarten (Anna Clare was held back) and almost one year of first grade, the 8-year-old had accumulated one month worth of school material. They later found out that Anna Clare was taking in only 31% of the information the teacher was giving and her memory capability was very low.
Anna Clare’s school helped guide the family to get more testing done and strongly encouraged them to look for a different facility. Tina and Rob took Anna Clare to Hattiesburg Connection, to Auditory Processing Center in Clinton and did some testing at Magnolia Speech School in Jackson. Among other things, Anna Clare was diagnosed with Auditory processing disorder (APD) – a hearing disability unrelated to hearing loss.
To a child with APD the sounds of speech are muddled together because the speech processing centers of the brain are unable to distinguish one sound from another. The problem is especially evident in situations with background noise. APD is an abnormality in the auditory neurological system which affects the way the brain interprets sounds. This interferes with how a child processes language, words, speech sounds and it affects the child’s listening comprehension.
The family needed to find another learning facility quickly. But every school they checked would only be able to work towards improving the auditory disorder, or the dyslexia, but not both. Tina shared: “We were hoping to fix one problem, and then move on to the next one. That meant Anna Clare would change schools two or three more times in the next couple of years.” Magnolia School had the whole package and could address all of Anna Clare’s needs. But all the classes were full, it was almost the end of the school year.
One day, when Tina was feeling particularly discouraged by this whole process, a friend, who has a daughter with special needs, said: “Tina, God will not leave you. He is going to open the right door for you.” That same day Tina got a call from Magnolia: they rearranged some things and made room for Anna Clare! Both schools made the transition quick and easy.
For the little girl, it wasn’t as easy. She was used to a class of 20 kids of the same age. But classes in Magnolia are much smaller and are divided not by grades, but by ability levels. In the past, Anna Clare was so behind academically she wasn’t required to do homework or take tests. At Magnolia, she had to start working really hard. She was mentally and physically exhausted. “She would fall asleep in the car on the way home from school. She cried a lot and was very moody,” remembers Tina.
Nancy Davis, Supervisor of Language Department and Dyslexia Therapist at Magnolia Speech School says: “When children start our school, their self-esteem is low and they feel defeated. Our method of teaching and therapies give each child the tools he or she needs to learn and comprehend language.” Davis explained that APD is hard to identify, and is often misdiagnosed. It requires a very specific type of assessment. The Auditory Processing Center in Clinton is a good place to start. The testing usually takes two days. A variety of skills are assessed to get a full picture of how a child is using auditory information, and to identify strengths and weaknesses. After that, individualized program may be created, aimed at the specific needs of each child.
In just a few months Anna Clare has improved academically. Every day she comes home excited about the things she learned at school. At church, she is now able to hear and understand the sermons. The first Sunday after she started therapy, she pointed at the preacher and said to her parents: “Did you know he was speaking up there?” She had no idea he was speaking at the pulpit all those years. Anna Clare now has a whole new world of opportunities at her fingertips. She has a lot of work ahead. But she is well-equipped to learn and grow at her own pace.
Editor’s Note: We hope the story Anna Clare’s parents kindly shared will help other families looking for answers. We are thankful to Nancy Davis and Magnolia Speech School for providing valuable information about Auditory Processing Disorder and for sharing advice that will help other parents of children with hearing impairments.
When the Brain Can’t Hear: Unraveling the Mystery of Auditory Processing Disorder by Dr. Terri James Bellis was a big help for Anna Clare’s parents while trying to understand APD and looking for ways to help their daughter. If you or anyone you know has difficulty comprehending spoken language, or if your child is struggling in school, perhaps this book may have the answers you need.
If you need help assessing your child’s hearing disorder:
Auditory Processing Center
541 Hwy 80 W c, Clinton, MS Tel: 601-488-4189
Children’s Hearing (Audiology) – University of Mississippi Medical Center
2500 N State Street, Jackson, MS
Hattiesburg Connections Clinic
2 Southern Pointe Pkwy #200, Hattiesburg, MS Tel: 601-261-5159
Magnolia Speech School
733 Flag Chapel Road, Jackson, MS