What the Heck Is Auditory Processing Disorder?

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Find out what Auditory Processing Disorder is, and the signs of it.

Don’t be fooled by the word “auditory.” APD isn’t a hearing problem; it’s about how well the brain is processing the sounds that the ear receives. Find out the signs, assessments, and options for children, teens, and adults with APD.

 Signs of Auditory Processing Disorder

Auditory Processing Disorder can easily be misdiagnosed because the resulting struggles may be attributed to other causes. For example, a child who is struggling to understand verbal directions in class may struggle with grades, appear to be goofing off, act out in frustration, withdraw from interaction, or experience low self-esteem from the feeling that everyone else in the class “gets it” better than he or she does. At first glance, a teacher or parent might assume that this child is unmotivated, has ADHD, has behavior issues, is introverted, etc.

Children and adults with an auditory processing disorder can also struggle with communication: confusing words with similar sounds, or mispronouncing words altogether. They can also appear weak in social skills: showing a lack of confidence, not grasping verbal directions, not being able to hear and respond appropriately to content of conversations, etc. A child or adult with APD may especially struggle when in a noisy environment, or appear to have poor hearing because they frequently ask for things to be repeated or clarified.

As mentioned, some of these behaviors can also be exhibited, for example, by people with attention deficits who don’t grasp what they are hearing the first time around because they are distracted. Because of this, diagnosing APD cannot be done by looking at a list of symptoms. It must be done by an audiologist who administers a series of assessments in a sound-treated room.

Options for people with Auditory Processing Disorder

If someone is diagnosed with APD, there are three main courses of action. The first is making accommodations in the environment, for example, creating a quieter place to work or study. The second course of action involves developing other resources to compensate for the auditory processing deficit. This might include strengthening other skills, like attention, or learning active-listening techniques.

The third course of action involves taking efforts to strengthen the weak auditory processing skills themselves.

LearningRx, a brain training company, does not diagnose or treat any medical conditions, including APD. What they provide are mental workouts that strengthen cognitive skills, including auditory processing skills.

In fact, the company’s unique approach—which puts every client with his or her personal brain trainer for fun, intense mental workouts—has shown dramatic results for past clients with auditory processing weaknesses.

LearningRx measures the cognitive skills of all incoming clients, and has found that it is common to find low auditory processing skills among clients with diagnoses. The good news is that auditory processing is also the skill in which, among this group, we see the largest gains after the completion of a LearningRx brain training program.

The following chart shows the average improvements of more than 12,000 children and adults who came to LearningRx with some kind of diagnosis, including ADHD, dyslexia, TBI, and more. You can see that, after brain training, auditory processing improved by an average of 14 standard points among clients with ADHD, memory loss, dyslexia, and autism. (Standard points, by the way, rank where a person is performing in relation to their peers, and are measured on a 100-point scale from 50 to 150, with 100 considered “average.”)

Auditory processing improved by even more—an average of 15 standard points—for people with learning disabilities, TBI, and speech and language issues. 

Start with a comprehensive Cognitive Skills Assessment

LearningRx offers a comprehensive Cognitive Skills Assessment that identifies weaknesses in the following cognitive skills: attention, long-term memory, short-term memory, auditory processing, visual processing, logic & reasoning, and processing speed. The assessment is not administered for the purpose of diagnosis, but for pinpointing cognitive weaknesses that can be targeted and strengthened through brain training. It’s a good place to start because, as mentioned, the symptoms of weak auditory processing skills may be shared by other conditions.

Typically, LearningRx brain training programs consist of about five hours of training a week, for a period of 12 to 32 weeks. Families often find that going through a LearningRx program once produces the results they are seeking, and that ongoing training is not necessary.

To schedule a comprehensive Cognitive Skills Assessment—which is reasonably priced and takes about an hour—contact a LearningRx Center near you.

Forget Fidget Spinners! (Yep! We Said It.)

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Check out our advice on holistic help for attention struggles.

You probably know that fidget spinners were originally designed to help kids with ADHD (specifically, the hyper part). But if you’re looking for other holistic help for your child or teen with attention struggles, read on. 

A growing number of research studies are revealing the impact that many of our choices have on how well we pay attention. Among these choices are what we eat, how we move, and even how we exercise our mental skills.


The impact of diet on ADHD

According to a study published in the international Journal of Attention Disorders, kids who eat a typical “Western” diet are twice as likely to have been diagnosed with ADHD by the age of 14. The study looked at the eating patterns of 1,800 adolescents, classifying diets into two categories: “Healthy” or “Western.”

A Western diet, as defined by the study, includes a lot of fast foods; sugary, fried, or processed foods; and high-fat dairy. A “healthy” eating pattern consists of a diet high in fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and fish.

The results showed an association between being diagnosed with ADHD, and a diet high in dairy, sugar, fast food, fried foods, and processed foods.

Associate Professor Wendy Oddy, leader of Nutrition Studies at Perth’s Telethon Institute for Child Health Research where the study was conducted, suggests that “a Western dietary pattern may indicate the adolescent has a less optimal fatty acid profile, whereas a diet higher in omega-3 fatty acids is thought to hold benefits for mental health and optimal brain function.”

Other studies support the idea that diets rich in fatty acids can improve ADHD symptoms. For example, a report released by the University of Copenhagen reviewed the scientific literature on diet and ADHD. According to Dr. Kim Fleischer Michaelsen, who is heading the study, research shows that “fatty acids from fatty fish moderate the symptoms” of ADHD. She also said that the review indicated that elimination diets are also promising.

While experts agree that more research is needed on this topic, it makes sense that parents of kids with ADHD should opt for the healthiest dietary choices possible. The Amen Clinic has published a list of the 50 best foods for the brain. You can find the entire list here, but here is a sample:

Bell peppers (yellow, green, red, and orange)
Chicken, skinless
Yams and sweet potatoes
Wild salmon
Almonds, raw
Turkey, skinless

And if you think that healthy cooking is time consuming, consider pulling out your crock pot. Preparing healthy dinners in a slow cooker is a great way to avoid all that cutting and slicing in the kitchen at the end of a long day. Try this recipe:

Slow Cooker Sweet Potato Chili

The impact of physical exercise on attention struggles

“Exercise turns on the attention system,” says John Ratey, M.D., as associate clinical professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School. When he talks about the “attention system,” he explains that he’s talking about the brain’s executive functions, including sequencing, working memory, prioritizing, inhibiting, and sustaining attention.

The author of the book Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain, Dr. Ratey says that, “On a practical level, [exercise] causes kids to be less impulsive, which makes them more primed to learn.”

He goes as far as to tell people to think “of exercise as medication,” adding, “For a very small handful of people with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD ADD), it may actually be a replacement for stimulants, but for most, it’s complementary—something they should absolutely do, along with taking meds, to help increase attention and improve mood.”

Dr. Ratey specifically mentions taekwondo, ballet, and gymnastics as activities that give the attention system a good workout, although he said that even walking for half an hour, four times a week, will make a difference.

The impact of brain training on attention skills

One-on-one brain training is a form of cognitive training that pairs clients of all ages with their own personal brain trainers for intense mental workouts. A one-on-one brain training program at LearningRx, for example, consists of working face-to-face with a personal brain trainer about five hours a week. Programs typically run for 12 to 32 weeks, depending on the program.

LearningRx is the largest one-on-one brain training company, with 80 centers in the U.S. and an additional 40 global locations. And while LearningRx does not diagnose or treat ADHD, it does strengthen the brain’s foundational cognitive skills, including the skill of attention.

One study measured the attention performance of 5,416 children and adults who came to LearningRx having been diagnosed with ADHD. On average, these clients scored in the 42nd percentile in attention, indicating that their attention skills were below the skills of 58 percent of their peers.

After completing a LearningRx brain training program, the average performance in attention for these clients rose to the 66th percentile. In other words, after brain training, attention performance went from “below average” to “above average.”

If your child is struggling with attention, changes in diet, physical activity, and brain training can make a difference.

To learn more about brain training, contact a LearningRx Brain Training Center near you.

Summer Adventures Ahead

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LearningRx Reviews Tips for Traveling with a Child with Special Needs

If you’re the parent of a child with special needs, you may have already found yourself wrestling with the transportation of wheelchairs or special medical devices, or dealing with sensory issues, restricted diets, or social fears. As you’ve probably learned, preparation is your best offense and defense. To help make your next trip a little simpler, we’ve put together a list of things to consider when planning your vacation.

Tips for booking your trip:

  1. Consider using a travel agency that specializes in helping people with special needs. Flying Wheels Travel (com), for example, helps people with physical disabilities or chronic illnesses experience accessible travel around the world. Autism on the Seas (www.autismontheseas.com) offers cruises for people with autism, Down syndrome, and other related disabilities.
  2. Choose a destination that caters to people with disabilities. Morgan’s Wonderland (com) in San Antonio, Texas is a theme park designed to accommodate children of all abilities. Every ride is accessible to guests with disabilities. Many major state beach destinations now offer free or low-cost beach wheelchair rentals.
  3. Check out your seat options on Seat Guru (com). This site lets you evaluate seating based on legroom, seat width, and overhead storage capacity, as well as DC power, food, and internet accessibility. This will help you determine where your child might do best on the plane. You’ll also want to consider proximity to the restroom and whether a window, middle, or aisle seat will work best.
  4. When figuring out the best time of day to travel, weigh as many factors as you can. It’s important to identify the time of day your child travels best, but don’t forget to factor in other dynamics. For example, if flying at night when your child is normally asleep sounds like a good plan, will you be more exhausted? Will you need to wake your child to deplane for layovers? Will a later flight be more susceptible to cancellation or overbooking?
  5. Get a note from your doctor. A letter from your pediatrician explaining your child’s condition/disease/disorder can be helpful when you’re asking for special accommodations (e.g., being seated together when a flight is nearly full) or upgrading. Offer to fax or email the letter to the airline or travel agency, and carry a copy with you as you travel.

Before your trip:

  1. Review the airline’s (and TSA’s) rules in advance. You don’t want any surprises if you’re traveling with assistive devices or wheelchairs, and you may even learn that there are special baggage claim areas or check-ins, like the TSA’s Precheck lane. Check-in online at home if possible.
  2. Evaluate medications. Plan so you won’t run out of medications while you’re on vacation or immediately after returning home.
  3. Identify pediatricians, specialists, or urgent care facilities in your destination city before you need them. If you suddenly need to seek medical assistance for your child while on vacation, it’s best to know in advance where you can go—especially at night or on weekends.
  4. Practice the travel routine at home. You can read a book about going on a plane, practice the procedures at home with a “mock flight,” or even visit the airport in advance to get your child used to the sights and sounds.

Make your packing list far in advance. Include five or so things you HAVE to bring (e.g., medications, passports, tickets) with the assumption that other things can be purchased on the trip if necessary. The more preparation you put into the trip, the more you and your family can enjoy it!

The Season of Brain Drain

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Don’t push your kids down the Summer Slide

The average student loses approximately 2.6 months of grade-level equivalency in math computation skills over the summer months, and teachers spend about four weeks reteaching materials that students have forgotten over the break. What’s a parent to do?

One way to target weak mental skills quickly and effectively is through an intensive LearningRx brain training program, says Tanya Mitchell, Chief Research Officer for LearningRx (www.LearningRx.com). “With our intense game-like exercises, we work on brain skills like logic & reasoning, attention, memory, processing speed, and visual and auditory processing. But, to help prevent the summer slide, parents and kids can use free, fun games and exercises at home, in the car, and even online.”

Here are just a few of the free and fun brain training games Mitchell recommends:

  • Mental Tic Tac Toe: Similar to traditional Tic Tac Toe, this game uses a “mental” grid numbered 1 to 9. Players remember where their opponent has already been and call out an unoccupied space. The player who calls an occupied space loses.

          What it helps: Attention, logic & reasoning, and working memory

  • Needle in a Haystack: Take a page from a newspaper and time your child as she circles all occurrences of a specific letter. Focus on increasing both accuracy and speed.

          What it helps: Visual processing speed

  • 20 Questions: Think of a person or object and give your child 20 chances to narrow down what you’re thinking of by asking yes or no questions. To help them improve their logic & reasoning, teach them to strategize by using questions that will significantly narrow down the categories, such as, “Are they alive?” or, “Is it bigger than you?”

          What it helps: Logic, reasoning, memory

  • Poetry: Have your child choose four words that rhyme and then ask them to use those words to create a poem or a rhyming song. Or say a word, then have them come up with another that rhymes. Keep this pattern going as long as possible, then start with a new word.

          What it helps: Auditory analysis, verbal rhythm, memory

Simply getting your child to read every day is another powerful way to slow the Summer Slide. According to Scholastic Parents Online, research shows that reading just six books during the summer can keep a struggling reader from regressing.

Earth to Space Cadet!

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How ADHD manifests differently in girls

Just because your daughter doesn’t “act out” in school doesn’t mean she doesn’t have attention struggles. While boys’ ADHD symptoms tend to be more “external,” girls’ symptoms tend to be more “internal.” Check out this handy infographic about ADHD:


Speaking of ADHD …

Over a six-year period, 5,416 children and adults (mean age 12.3) diagnosed with ADHD went through LearningRx programs. The cognitive performance of these clients was measured before and after brain training, and the largest gains were seen in IQ, auditory processing, long-term memory, and broad attention. After LearningRx brain training, IQ scores improved by an average of 15 standard points, and broad attention skills improved an average of 24 percentile points. Want more proof that your child’s brain function can improve? Read the full article with 10 scientific resources to give you hope: