Who would have thought a tiny ear filter and handful of accommodations would totally change my daughter's life!
It was the spring before my daughter's 8th grade year that I first heard of Able Kids Foundation in Fort Collins, Colorado – an organization that specializes in diagnosing and providing solutions for individuals who have Central Auditory Processing Disorders (CAPD). It was only after my daughter was tested by the amazing staff at this renowned organization, that we learned the true extent of her CAPD.
Individuals who have CAPD typically have normal or excellent hearing – they aren't "hard of hearing." Instead, these individuals struggle with being able to process and understand speech in environments that have even minimal amounts of noise.
CAPD can occur in isolation or in combination with other disorders including brain injuries, SPD, ADHD, ADD, and other types of neurological conditions. It can affect the ability to focus and concentrate, which in turn, can impact academics and work performance. Busy and noisy environments can be especially confusing and difficult. Auditory processing delays are common as these individuals' brains need extra time to translate and integrate the fragmented verbal information being received into more meaningful messages. Some experts refer to Central Auditory Processing Disorders as being "dyslexia of the ears."
Behaviors commonly associated with CAPD include:
• Difficulty following and remembering oral directions – especially multi-step directions
• Hypersensitivity to noise and loud sounds
• Appearing to be forgetful and disorganized
• Appearing to have a short attention span
• School assignments being incomplete or incorrect
• Low self-esteem and/or a lack of self-confidence
• Missing subtle social cues
• Difficulty keeping up in conversations and understanding sarcasm
• Speech delays, often significant
• Easily becoming upset or frustrated in new situations
• Mispronunciation of words
• Articulation errors that persist beyond what's considered to be "normal"
• Limited vocabulary
• Being easily distracted by extraneous noises
• Difficulty discriminating where sounds are coming from
• Inappropriate, incorrect, and/or delayed responses to simple questions, instructions, and commands
• Difficulty rhyming words, being able to sing in sync with others, and understand song lyrics
Traditional learning curriculums often have a strong emphasis on auditory learning, which involves a lot of listening and reading. Schools' emphasis on auditory teaching becomes even greater as students move into higher grades; with an increased focus on class and peer group discussions, listening to lectures, watching and taking notes from videos, following multi-step directions, and answering teacher-initiated questions, etc. Students are expected to be able to focus, attend, and listen for increasingly longer times as they move up. They are also expected to be able to recognize and follow "school signals" like school bells and intercom announcements. Reading, being able to learn math concepts, memorizing spelling words, taking notes, retaining information from videos, and many other academic tasks can all be impacted by auditory processing difficulties. Sounds and words are typically muddled and jumbled together for students who have CAPD. If a student can't make sense of what they are hearing, they most likely will struggle remembering it. To learn how CAPD impacted Carrie's life – please see the article titled "Our Central Auditory Processing Journey" under "Sharing Our Journeys."
Able Kids Foundation advocates the use of compensatory management coupled with the use of technology. Carrie's testing revealed she was only processing and understanding approximately 36% of what was being said to her – which qualified her for a custom ear filter device. With the use of an ear filter, her understanding increased to 72%. With the use of a filter combined with an FM auditory system – her ability to understand and process information increased to 91%!
The accommodations below were recommended and implemented for Carrie thru a 504 Plan at her school:
• Being provided with a copy of the classroom notes and overheads with verbal discussions or lectures
• Use of an FM sound system at school whenever possible
• Simplification of verbal teacher instructions into single steps and a check for understanding
• Being provided with written directions for assignments
• School-initiated requests for accommodations on all standardized testing
• Alternate sites for quizzes, tests, and exams in a separate, quiet room previously identified by school staff
• Preferred seating in the front of the classroom or near where instruction is being given
• Leaving lunch 10 minutes early and going to a quiet setting for a short "sensory break" (which was designed to allow her nervous system to "reset" before afternoon classes)
• Carrie was also granted extended time on standardized tests as well as being allowed to take multi-subject standardized tests over the course of multiple days
All of these accommodations made a huge difference in "leveling the playing field" for Carrie at school and her ear filter was truly life-changing! The muddled sounds she had heard all her life – instantly became clearer. Carrie could keep up with conversations much better, understand more of what her teachers were saying, follow multi-step directions, focus better, and she even started talking on the phone a bit!
Carrie recently shared that one of the most important ways her custom ear filter helps her is being able to block out background noise, which in turn lets her be able to focus on what's she's trying to listen and/or pay attention to. She had no idea all she had been missing out on – or how differently she "heard" things compared to others all those years. Her filter definitely resulted in an entirely new appreciation for life!
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