Special Needs: Central Auditory Processing Disorder


Children just seem to not listen or pay attention as much
anymore. This could be due to the noisy environments we now live in
that make it difficult to listen. Or it could be caused by what
many consider the attention deficit disorder of the new
millennium-central auditory processing disorder (CAPD).

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What is CAPD? It’s a disorder that causes children to have
trouble processing information they take in through their hearing
even though they may have normal hearing (acuity) and average or
above average intelligence.

Often the cause isn’t known, but the prevalence of this disorder
is increasing dramatically. It’s critical that children are
diagnosed at a young age, because of the fast rate at which the
brain is developing and creating auditory pathways. Early diagnosis
helps reduce the effects of CAPD on the child’s expressive
language, self-image, and ability to learn compensatory strategies
at a young age.

What does CAPD look like? The child has trouble following verbal
directions, may appear to be daydreaming, talks louder, ignores
people, usually is sensitive to sounds, needs information repeated,
is a poor communicator (delayed or unclear speech), and has
problems memorizing.

The child may also confuse similar sounding words, has trouble
following a series of directions, and has a short attention span.
Sometimes the child has a history of ear infections (otitis

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What are practical ways to minister to children with CAPD? There
are many things that children’s ministers can do to help a child
with CAPD. Most important is to assure the child that he or she is
wonderfully made by God.

In addition, use these strategies:

  • Decrease background noise when you’re talking, maybe even
    finding a quiet place to talk.
  • Give shorter and specific directions with visual aids.
  • Have the child repeat directions back to you to help ensure
    that the child heard what you said.
  • Give the child extra time to think about answers to
  • Face the child when you’re speaking.
  • Consider placing the child near you in the classroom.
  • Give lots of praise to the child.
  • Be patient.
  • Don’t allow other children to make fun of the “silly” mistakes
    the child sometimes makes.
  • Have the child use earplugs or ear muffs during study
  • Slow your speaking patterns so the child can keep up with
  • Break down new information into steps.
  • Use activities that involve repetition.
  • Begin your lesson with a review of what has already been
  • Welcome the child into your class.

[Q]: We have a child in our ministry who can’t keep up with the
stories and activities we do in class. Do we put the child in
another classroom where he can keep up or keep him with his

[A]: Many things need to be taken into consideration when making
this kind of decision. The decision needs to be made with parental
involvement as you consider sibling situations, curriculum,
staffing, and the classroom environment. The most important factor
is where the child feels most comfortable. If the child prefers to
stay in a class with same-age peers, look for a volunteer to help
the child in those times he can’t keep up with the class. You’ll
need someone with patience and sensitivity to fill this role.

Sally Castle is associate professor of special education at
Cedarville University in Cedarville, Ohio
Please keep in mind that phone numbers, addresses, and prices
are subject to change. Originally published in March-April, 2003 in
Children’s Ministry Magazine.


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