Lost In the Crowd

How I Discovered My Child had APD

When Ryan was about 9 months of age I started noticing that my baby boy was not so happy in certain situations.  When I took him to the gym daycare he would cry.  Sometimes he would sit in the corner, and every once in a while, rock back and forth against the wall.  At birthday parties he seemed to be in his own world. There were never any red flags about Ryan’s behavior at his doctor visits in the quiet examination room when I would take him and my daughter to their well exams. At home he was just like other toddlers.  However, he was a different child in a crowd.

By the time my child went into preschool, his teachers told us that there definitely was something wrong with him. He couldn’t play appropriately with all of the other kids.  If there was more than one kid in the room, he was lost.  He was preoccupied with sounds that no one else would pay any attention to such as tapping of pencils or lights bussing above him.  He would say things that were off topic and not be able to understand the rules to games.

He went through several preschools until the school district diagnosed him with developmental delays in the social/emotional and behavioral areas.  After that, he was placed in the developmental preschool. Still, he could not sit in his seat for very long or follow oral directions and still had a hard time making friends.

The next school year did not go so well either, to say the least. By now, the school psychologist was trying to get my son to see a psychiatrist, she said over the phone something about there being medications for these issues. I told her “No way! I will never medicate my son!” She also told me that they wanted to change his label from Developmentally Delayed to Emotionally Disabled. I just knew that it had something to do with the sounds that he heard, or crowded places. I knew that my son did not have any type of mental illness.

Meanwhile, he was a good sight reader, for a five year old, and he was good at memorizing things and was also a wizard on the computer at home.   However, Ryan was still not making many friends. He got in a few fights. He was not able to join in on the conversations in class, the lunch room, or the playground.  He also would say a few bad words here and there.   I guess he felt that at least the other kids would laugh or smile when he would say or do silly things. He mentioned to me that the other kids thought he was funny. Any where there were more than a few people, he would act lost.  During “one on one,” at home or in the principal’s office, he would behave like any other kid.  The only explanation he would give me for his behavior was that he could not listen. “What was I supposed to do with that information,” I thought.

After months of phone calls home from the principal’s office regarding my sons’ weird behavior and pressure to get my son evaluated for his mental issues I ended up calling theArizonaCenterfor Disability Law and told them that I felt like I was being pressured by the school system to medicate my kid.  They said that was not legal and sent me a book.  I also forgot to mention that Able Child, my son’s Naturopath and CCHR was also helping me through this process; telling me that it sounds like my son has a learning disability and not a mental problem.

I received the book fromArizonaCenterfor Disability Law. I went through the list of disorders and researched every single one on line. When I got to Central Auditory Processing Disorder I looked it up on the internet just like the other disabilities. OMG!! This is it!!! I showed my husband and he said calmly, “This is what wrong with our son.”

From there, I called many audiologists in the area. I found out that only a couple places diagnose this problem, however, not until the child turns 7. I knew that if there was a will, there was a way. After a few days an audiologist office referred me to Arizona Balance andHearingCenter. They have the technology there to even diagnose babies.  I made an appointment for the next week.  After 3 hours of testing the staff came to get me and informed me that “Ryan meets the criteria set forth by the American Speech –Language-Hearing Association for an Auditory Processing Disorder.”  They gave me a list of recommendations, from an FM system in the class room to working with an audiologist. They referred me to Susan Van Wie.   That is where the healing began.

Ryan was diagnosed a few days before summer vacation. We saw Susan for one hour of therapy every Sunday that summer. Ryan did about 45 minutes of therapy work about five days a week, mostly with auditory computer programs made for children with auditory processing issues. As a team we made alleviating his APD our mission.

Little by little, I noticed my son was not turning up the television so loud. He was able to play more with his sister’s friends. He was not so “off topic” and he was saying “what,” and “huh” a lot less. He was turning into a happier kid and we were slowly becoming a happier family.

We ended up changing elementary schools for my son so he could have a fresh start. Susan would meet me at the IEP meetings at his school in order to make sure the staff was educated about APD and for support on my behalf.  She informed the school what APD was, how to elevate it, and helped the school get an FM speaker in Ryan’s class in order for him to hear speech in noise.  An FM system is where the teacher speaks into a small microphone that is attached to her shirt, or around her neck, and her voice can be heard without the background noise of other kids. His classroom has one big speaker so it is beneficial to every child in his class.

We kept seeing Susan for the next 7 months. He diligently did his daily auditory lessons that Susan prepared for us.  By the end of that school year, my son made Student of the Month!  I have to also mention that his new school has done a great job helping Ryan catch up on his social skills and understanding and working with his condition. Now Ryan could correctly hear what his friends and his teacher are saying to him. Susan was wonderful. Ryan just loved her. She is kind and patient and always treated Ryan and I with respect.  Ryan, Susan and I were a team.  In ten months my son went from a confused outcast to a well adjusted Student of the Month.

It has been about 18 months since Ryan was diagnosed with APD. He can now hear most speech in noise and has tested well in most of the age appropriate categories.  He will need a re-evaluation every year to make sure he is still doing well. Our days are not always perfect. He still needs directions repeated here and there at school and sometimes gets in trouble for not keeping his hands to himself while in line. Although, he still needs a FM System in his class, for now, to help him stay focused. He is a pretty good student who now just has age appropriate issues at school and at home.

I feel so blessed to have been able to help my son and I hope his story will help other children who are misdiagnosed.  I know that Auditory Processing Disorder will become recognized more by the schools and pediatricians.  I was grateful that I stumbled across it under the learning disorders in the book sent to me.  I cringe to think what could have become of my boy’s self esteem if he kept suffering with the confusion of his brain not processing sounds and words correctly.  Ryan is proof that this disorder can be overcome with the right intervention and a lot of hard work.

–Ryan’s Mom