On Learning Differences

Vol. 2, No. 2 - Information on Learning Differences Online Spring 2003


In This Issue

Auditory Processing: Potential Effect on Learning

On the Path to Remediation

A Technology Breakthrough for Educators and Students

Overcoming Fear and Shame:
It is Never Too Late to Learn

Book Review


An Editorial Consultant and Writer Extraordinaire

Conference Information

About the Editor

Sharing Ideas

Permission to Copy from Visions on Learning Differences

Please see other issues

Hilda Coyne, Editor


As the academic year ends, some will have more time to review the information in this issue. Many educators and allied professionals will find the following articles of interest, since 20% of the population has a learning difference. In a highly informative article, the audiologist Dr. Stephen Seipp lists some of the subtypes of individuals challenged by these deficits. This is important to educators, for instance, knowing that a student struggles with fast sounds allows the educator to implement appropriate strategies such as slowing speech for better reception of verbal instruction.

Then, those who wish to strengthen their communication with students will find the article by Rehan Ahmad valuable. Next, educators who tutor in a one-to-one setting or in a learning center will gain useful information from the article by Lisa B. Lee Sang. Many of you will empathize with the triumph of overcoming a learning deficit, and you also will enjoy meeting Marcel Pinto Picasso in the article about his extraordinary skills. In addition, you may welcome information on conferences, a book review, and resources. Please continue to share this newsletter with colleagues, and your interesting information and articles with the editor. Have a great summer!


  by W. Stephen Seipp, Au.D.

When trying to determine the various aspects of a learning disability underlying the academic, emotional and social components, there could be a subtle neurologic difference in the way individuals with learning deficits process auditory information. The terms Central Auditory Processing Dysfunction (CAPD), now called Auditory Processing Dysfunction (APD), represent a variety of problems in the auditory system, which can contribute to a learning deficit.

Hearing is not all at the ear, which actually acts like a microphone - it picks up sound waves and changes them into electrical (nerve) impulses. However, just like a microphone, if it is not connected sufficiently well to the other components which process the sound, the auditory system will fail to function as it should. Similarly, even if a microphone is functional, if the amplifier or loudspeakers are not working properly the sound may be jumbled. Our hearing is like that - the entire system has to work properly - the ears and the other (neurologic) components of the auditory pathway.

Individuals may have a hearing impairment, APD, or both. Some of the typical problems with APD are:

  • Background noise may cause sounds to be distorted, creating difficulty hearing accurately in some group settings.

  • Background noise perceived as too loud may result in sensitivity to loud sounds.

  • Slowed auditory processing speed may cause problems with phonemics, phonics, reading and understanding rapid speech.

  • Weak auditory processing may create the need for frequent repetition of verbal information.

It is not always that persons do not hear but rather that they misperceive what they hear. The persons may think they heard one thing but what was said was different. Obviously, this causes problems in the classroom. The student may appear not to understand the concept but in fact may not have been able to process the information accurately. In addition, this problem may create difficulties in taking notes accurately.

APD has an effect on behaviors as well. Trying to hear when everything is jumbled is hard work. It may lead to distraction by background noise, then loss of focus, and next an increase in fidgeting and other inappropriate classroom behaviors. APD may present as an attention deficit disorder, or co-exist with other learning differences. Generally, behaviors are symptomatic of a cause or causes that require identification and addressing. The solution to such problems is to determine diagnostically their specific underlying cause or causes and design the appropriate remedial treatment program to alleviate them.

Practitioners may use a battery of auditory tests that challenge the auditory system to diagnose APD. These tests allow the practitioners to review the level of resistance an individual may have to background noise, as well as assessing auditory processing speed/timing, auditory focusing abilities, neural pathways, and other auditory data.

Once the testing is complete and if a practitioner makes a diagnosis of APD, recommendation for compensating techniques or remedial methods may follow. Since APD is a term which applies to a number of different types of auditory processing problems, the practitioner must determine the individual type or classification in order to select the best approach to remediation. It is important to find the appropriate methods for the specific auditory processing type or types of deficits. With interventions, the brain functions may change, and with appropriate therapeutic techniques, the brain can improve significantly in auditory processing.

Dr. Seipp is a Fellow of the American Academy of Audiology, and a clinical audiologist who has practiced for 30 years. In private practice for the last 20 years, he sees patients of all ages at the Hearing Assessment Center in Baltimore, Maryland with a variety of hearing disorders, but specializes in Auditory Processing and Hearing Conservation. The author of numerous published articles, Dr. Seipp has presented talks, seminars, and courses locally and nationally to parents, teachers, health care professionals, and the community on a variety of hearing issues.

2003 W. Stephen Seipp. All rights reserved