Autism and Central Auditory Processing Disorder – Lost in Translation!

Embarrased (552x570)Does your toddler mispronounce words, confuse similar sounding words or say ‘what?’ time and again? Does he get very restless when stories are read, preferring to watch a video or do a puzzle?

Or do you have an older child who dislikes anyone talking (even quietly) when he is listening to the television? Or a child who dreads the embarrassment of reading in front of others? One who is often forgetful or finds it hard to verbalize his ideas and emotions?

If so there is a chance that he has CAPD (central auditory processing disorder). Also known as Auditory Processing Disorder (APD) this umbrella terms covers a variety of disorders that affect the way the brain processes auditory information: and is often left undiagnosed because it does not show up on routine screenings or an audiogram.

Usually when we hear sound, that sound goes via the inner ear into the brain where it is translated. CAPD adversely affects the child’s ability to correctly process and interpret auditory information (especially in noisy situations) so that although he hears the sounds, the end result is distorted or incomplete.

This is the child who finds it very difficult to recognize subtle differences between sounds or interpret speech correctly. That makes it very hard for him to follow or keep up with a conversation; something mirrored in his own speech which is often delayed or unclear.

At school he will find it exceptionally hard to learn things orally, have difficulty sounding out words or in learning to read, spell, write or do verbal problems. He may also find it very hard to follow auditory instructions, especially when several are given at once. Sometimes too he will just guess at words and that can lead him to misinterpret situations.

This is also a child who is unusually sensitive to sounds and/or finds loud or unexpected sounds difficult to cope with. A child who tends to interpret words literally and finds it hard to understand abstract information.

Unsurprisingly the child with CAPD will often lag behind his peers at school and, although generally of normal intelligence, if left untreated such auditory problems will eventually result in academic difficulties. To make matters worse such things are often compounded by the fact that such a child is often easily distracted, disorganized and/or forgetful which can sometimes get him into trouble with his teachers who may think he has behavioral issues or simply lacks intelligence (neither of which are true.)

Interesting to see how many aspects of CAPD clearly overlap with some of other auditory differences already discussed and some facets of ASD. Perhaps it is no surprise that, like other developmental differences, the causes of CAPD are very varied. Thus it can sometimes run in families or result from a difficult birth or illness or even a head injury, while in some instances the exact cause remains unidentified.

Top Tips

* Use simple sentences emphasizing key words.
* Slow your speech and, where appropriate, increase the volume slightly.
* Only give him one or two directions at a time and where feasible ask him to repeat them back to you.
* Where possible reduce the background noise – using sound-absorbent partitions, felt on chair feet etc.
* Provide him with a quiet place in which he can do homework.
* Encourage good eating and sleeping habits.


By the time this article is published Autism Awareness week will have passed: a week intended to highlight inclusion and self-determination whilst focusing on the positive talents and gifts associated with ASD.

Yes, people do need to understand the positives but please remember that awareness needs to be balanced by an understanding of the difficulties and challenges that the majority of children with ASD face – for unless that happens it will be hard to convince some people that such children are not just badly behaved brats.

Before looking at ways in some of those difficulties can be alleviated there are other differences that need exploring so I hope you’ll join me next week. Meanwhile please feel free to share your own tips at

Autism Decoded Autism – A visible difference

Editor’s Note: The male pronoun is used to cover references to both the male and female. No gender preference is intended.

One Response

  1. Joel Sampson October 1, 2015