ADHD vs. APD - Understanding & Managing Your Child’s Condition
When your child is struggling, emotions run high. Maybe you’re seeing your preschooler run out of the room at story time, your grade school learner keeps forgetting things, or your middle school learner never completes their chores. Whatever the issue, it can be frustrating and disheartening. Though the problem behaviors may look like a defiant child, it’s important to focus on the underlying causes of the issues.
As of 2016, 6.1 million children had been diagnosed with an attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. On average, every classroom of 30 students has 1-3 children with ADHD. As the prevalence of ADHD continues to grow, so too do the accounts of over-diagnosis, or misdiagnosis. There are a number of other conditions that could be mistaken for ADHD, including Auditory Processing Disorder. When faced with symptoms like not following spoken instructions, being easily distracted, often saying, “huh?” or “what?”, and trouble remembering details, it can be easy to jump to conclusions.
Getting the right diagnosis and proper course of treatment for the underlying condition is essential to the health and happiness of your child and family.
Understanding ADHD and APD
Auditory Processing Disorders: A child with an auditory processing disorder usually has normal hearing, but struggle to process what they hear. The slight differences of sounds in words are hard for them to recognize. This makes it incredibly difficult for them to follow conversations, speak clearly, and read aloud.
ADHD: A child with ADHD struggles with executive functioning. This makes it hard for them to sit still, pay attention, listen, and follow instructions. While all kids struggle to pay attention from time to time, a child with ADHD has more difficulty with these problems, and it significantly impacts their day to day life.
What are you seeing?
When symptoms overlap between conditions , getting the right diagnosis can be a challenge. Working with a trained specialist for a focused evaluation of your child is important. Understanding the similarities and differences between conditions is, too.
Signs and Symptoms
- Daydreams frequently
- Lack of impulse control
- Struggles to complete tasks
- Struggles with organization
- Is impatient
- Talks out of turn
- Acts without thinking of the sequences
- Play roughly
- Gets frustrated to the point of meltdowns or tantrums
- Struggles socially
- Fidgets and moves constantly
- Has trouble with nonverbal cues
- Seems to not listen, or as though they are “turned out”
- Is forgetful
- Has trouble following instructions
- Is easily distracted
- Struggles to follow instructions
- Struggles to respond when asked a question verbally
- Asks you to repeat yourself often
- Often responds with “huh?” or “what?”
- May have speech issues, and confuse similar sounds
- Struggles with rhyming
- Poor listening comprehension
- Prefers to read alone rather than listen to them aloud
- Sensitive to loud noises
Who can help?
Whether you’re still seeking a diagnosis, or looking to help your child at home or at school, there are a number of specialists that can assist you in finding the right therapy and services for your child.
Pediatricians: Your child’s regular doctor can be your go-to when you suspect there is a problem with your child. A pediatrician can diagnose ADHD, or refer you to a specialist for more conclusive.
Child Psychologists: These professionals can offer behavior therapies for children with ADHD or APD. The course of treatment and specific strategies will vary from child to child, but a child psychologist can help you set the best course. A child psychologist can also help diagnose any mental health issues that may co-exist, such as anxiety, depression, or learning issues.
Audiologists: These health-care providers test for hearing and balance issues.
A specialized audiologist can evaluate your child’s hearing, and rule out hearing loss as a reason for your child’s struggles. They can also diagnose an auditory processing disorder.
Educational Therapists: Different than tutoring, an educational therapist typically works one-on-one with a child outside of a school setting to help them master the skills and strategies they may be struggling with. If your child is dealing with an auditory processing disorder, an educational therapist can help them work on their reading and learning skills. For a child with ADHD, they may focus on organizational and time management skills, along with better studying skills and habits.
Speech-Language Pathologists: These specialists help children with many types of communication and language issues and can be a huge asset to children with an auditory processing disorder. Typically part of a special education team, they may see your child one-on-one or in a small group setting. They will work with your child on sound discrimination, active listening, and appropriate language.
School Psychologists: At school, these professionals can help develop a plan for support and appropriate interventions. They may work with your child directly, or as part of a larger support team.
Teachers: Whether or not your child qualifies for an IEP or 504 plan, your child’s teachers should be involved in creating a productive environment for your child. From extended time for reading and writing to the ideal seat in the classroom, you’ll work closely with teachers to accommodate your child’s needs.
What about at home?
There are countless resources, at school and with professionals to help your child and family. There are also home-based strategies, recommendations and interventions you can implement in your daily life.
What to do at home?
Provide structure and routine, and stick to them.
Give plenty of warnings about schedule changes and talk through what to expect.
Break up chores lists or complicated instructions into smaller chunks.
Use clocks and timers.
Simplify your family schedule, create a clear rewards and consequences policy.
Encourage exercise, healthy eating, and sleep.
Stay patient, your child isn’t being defiant or rude, but struggle with an underlying condition.
Research assistive technologies and intervention programs for home.
Create an organized, quiet work space for important tasks and conversations.
Coach your child on social situations, through role play and discussion.
Be cognizant of noise, your child’s hearing isn’t impaired, and may be more sensitive to background noise and sounds than you.
Rephrase things, instead of just repeating them.
Use visuals to keep your child on track, like checklists or sticky notes for reminders.
Turn on the closed captioning on TV.
Your child is looking to you for the support, love, and patience they need to succeed. That can feel like a heavy burden when you’re facing a diagnosis like auditory processing disorder or ADHD. Seek the resources and support you need from specialists to help you understand and manage your child’s condition.
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