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In the Classroom

Assisting a child with ADP at home and in the classroom

It is recommended that direct intervention for APD (eg. auditory training or speech therapy) be combined with improved environmental conditions and enhanced communication techniques to find ways to help children compensate for their difficulties. Compensatory strategies are not meant to cause avoidance of auditory learning but to enable the child to recognise situations where their listening will be challenged.

Repetition is not a helpful tool in dealing with children who have APD. The comprehension problems are not a result of not hearing the words but of having trouble using the words to interpret the message efficiently. Messages that are not understood must be rephrased slowly with reference to the guidelines below.

1. Eliminating environmental distractions

Anything that can shift the child’s focus from the required task should be kept to a minimum. Possible distractions include background noise (appliances, conversations, traffic, etc) and visual clutter (objects on table, crowded blackboard, etc). It is best to seat a child with APD towards the front of the classroom. Open-plan classrooms have been shown to cause more confusion for children with this condition, so a structured setting is preferable.

2. Improving listening comprehension

Teachers and parents alike tend to deliver most instructions through speech. These can be more carefully structured so that a child with APD has the best possible chance of interpreting the intended message.
Some strategies for presenting information to a child with APD include:

  • Making sure you have the child’s attention before speaking
  • Speaking clearly and slowly
  • Keeping instructions to 8-word sentences or less
  • Phrasing instructions as simply as possible
  • Using words like ‘firstly, then, after, before’ to give the child a sense of sequence
  • Rephrasing rather than repeating misunderstood instructions
  • Being explicit when the topic is changed

Spoken instructions can be enhanced by:

  • Presenting the same information in another medium (eg. pictures, writing)
  • Using physical gestures to demonstrate a point
  • Modulating the voice to emphasise the most important pieces of information

Checking a child’s progress in comprehension can be done in a number of ways:

  • Asking the child to reflect your information or instructions in his/her own words
  • Encouraging the child to ask questions
  • Revisiting material that was learnt earlier

The adult dealing with a child who has APD should make an effort to do the following:

  • Pay attention to the child’s demeanour – if he/she looks tired, take a short break where appropriate
  • Expect that the child will not comprehend messages immediately – if you are frustrated, try not to let this show outwardly to the child
  • Only ask the child to do one task at a time – if you are talking, make sure the child is only listening; if the child is writing, do not give further instructions [13].

3. Other techniques

In specific environments, other techniques include using ear plugs, which may help to reduce unwanted auditory stimuli. Teachers and parents can also actively simplify the child’s visual environment, especially in situations where learning may be challenging.