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Rosie and APD: A Primer

April 27, 2010

Little Known Disorder Can Take a Toll on Learning

Nicole Bengiveno/The New York Times

FROM N.Y. TIMES (Tara Parker Rope): “Parents and teachers often tell children to pay attention — to be a “good listener.” But what if your child’s brain doesn’t know how to listen?

That’s the challenge for children with auditory processing disorder, a poorly understood syndrome that interferes with the brain’s ability to recognize and interpret sounds. It’s been estimated that 2 to 5 percent of children have the disorder, said Gail D. Chermak, an expert on speech and hearing sciences at Washington State University, and it’s likely that many cases have gone undiagnosed or misdiagnosed.

The symptoms of A.P.D. — trouble paying attention and following directions, low academic performance, behavior problems and poor reading and vocabulary — are often mistaken for attention problems or even autism.

But now the disorder is getting some overdue attention, thanks in part to the talk-show host Rosie O’Donnell and her 10-year-old son, Blake, who has A.P.D.

In the foreword to a new book, “The Sound of Hope” (Ballantine) — by Lois Kam Heymann, the speech pathologist and auditory therapist who helped Blake — Ms. O’Donnell recounts how she learned something was amiss.

It began with a haircut before her son started first grade. Blake had already been working with a speech therapist on his vague responses and other difficulties, so when he asked for a “little haircut” and she pressed him on his meaning, she told the barber he wanted short hair like his brother’s. But in the car later, Blake erupted in tears, and Ms. O’Donnell realized her mistake. By “little haircut,” Blake meant little hair should be cut. He wanted a trim.

“I pulled off on the freeway and hugged him,” Ms. O’Donnell said. “I said: ‘Blakey, I’m really sorry. I didn’t understand you. I’ll do better.’ ”

And, as Ms. Rope continues to report, that was a turning point. This article and its accompanying video segment is a brief but informative primer on APD and its impact to young learners. Read the rest of the article and see the video at http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/04/26/little-known-disorder-can-take-a-toll-on-learning/?8dpc

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