Could Your Child’s “ADHD” actually be an Auditory Processing Disorder?

Does this describe your child?

  • Struggles to focus in a noisy environment
  • Trouble paying attention in class
  • Zones out in conversations
  • Has difficulty following directions
  • Fidgety and easily distracted
  • Delayed response to questions
  • Social, emotional, or behavioral problems
  • Lower academic performance

Sounds like ADHD, right?  But what if it’s not? 

Auditory processing is one of the many underlying learning/processing skills that are critical to learning and functioning efficiently at one’s potential.  When any of these underlying skills are weak, it can stress the attention system, mimicking ADHD.

This is particularly true with auditory processing problems.  Unfortunately, this causes many students to be misdiagnosed and not get the kind of help they really need.

An auditory processing problem is not a hearing problem.  There is nothing wrong with the ears.  But something is lost in translation.  Remember the Peanuts cartoon character who heard “Whaa Whaa Whaa” whenever the teacher spoke?  I had a student actually tell me that was what it was like for him when he tried to listen.

Auditory processing is how the brain perceives and thinks about the information coming in through the ears.  When the brain is not processing the information clearly and completely, it may be like having a bad cell phone connection.  The person is getting some of the information, but not all, so he is constantly trying to connect the dots.  He has to put an excessive amount of energy into listening and often the information does not quite make sense.

Result:  exhaustion, loss of attention, irritability or anxiousness, and confusion.

These students may spend a great deal of time feeling lost, insecure, and disconnected.  In spite of being bright and capable, they may show comprehension problems and trouble retaining information.  (Don’t we all, when we’re confused)!

Auditory Processing Challenges Can Be Corrected

Sara was pegged as having ADHD because she was constantly fiddling with things on her desk and staring straight through the teacher.  When it was time to start working, she always had to ask, “What were we supposed to do?”

Sara actually had an auditory processing problem. She started out everyday sitting tall and trying very hard to listen, but what she was hearing was spotty and inconsistent, She tried to fill-in the gaps, but pretty soon, it just didn’t make sense and she couldn’t keep her attention on it anymore.

Sara went through a program of Auditory Stimulation and Training to increase her auditory processing skills. Now, she is able to listen to her teacher and her friends without getting exhausted and missing information. She no longer feels lost and anxious and is able to be the good student she always tried to be.

Most learning and attention challenges can be dramatically improved or completely corrected.  The first step is identifying the real cause of the problem.  This almost always lies in the underlying learning/processing skills.  When any of these foundational skills (such as auditory processing) are weak, it can cause students to have to work harder, longer, and less successfully than they should.  These underlying skills can be developed.


“Helping smart but struggling students dramatically improve or completely correct their learning and attention challenges by developing the underlying learning skills that are not supporting the learner well enough.”
We serve children and adults with diagnosed or undiagnosed learning and attention challenges including learning disabilities, dyslexia, ADHD, auditory processing disorders, and autism spectrum disorders.
Jill Stowell, M.S.
Author:  At Wit’s End A Parent’s Guide to Ending the Struggle, Tears, and Turmoil of Learning Disabilities
Founder and Executive Director – Stowell Learning Centers

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