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Q: My ten-year-old daughter was diagnosed with a Learning Disability three years ago. Now after seeing an audiologist and doing other testing, we have been told she has Central Auditory Processing Disorder. I agree with what they have said and they have mentioned her wearing an FM. We will be moving this summer to a civilian school; we are currently military and using DODDS as school services. Will the civilian schools be able to meet her needs? Is this very uncommon? She does have an IEP with this on it. I want to know what I can do as a parent to help her with schoolwork. She is two years behind. Please if you have any suggestions, let us know. Thank you.
A: If you have a valid IEP, then the school is required by law to provide the services called for in that document. The use of an FM receiver is often helpful with kids who have difficulty processing auditory information, as they do when they have central auditory processing disorder (CAPD), and most schools should be able to integrate this technology into the classroom. I have consulted to DODDS schools as well as public schools and the same thing is true about both: it depends on the teacher and the administration. If you move to a school that is truly inclusive, teachers and principals will find a way to make this work without making your daughter feel different from the other kids. Excellent teachers will integrate information about different learning styles into each unit of instruction, and do creative things like giving the other kids the chance to use the FM device to see how it helps them learn.
Talk to the folks who made the diagnosis of CAPD. Typically, this is an audiologist or a team made up of an audiologist and a speech and language pathologist. Ask them for a list of suggestions of things you can do at home and that the teacher can do in school.
In general, you need to help your daughter learn how to pay focused attention to the important aspects of her auditory environment.
- Listening to bird songs on a record and then going out on an early morning birding trip can be an effective way to train a child to listen better.
- Trying to decipher the words in a song on the radio, and then going out and buying the lyrics and singing them can be very helpful.
- Playing fun games such as "telephone" on car trips can work too, especially if the other kids are nice when your daughter makes mistakes.
- Being able to identify different objects dropped into a coffee can (by the sounds they make) can help develop auditory perceptual skills in a fun way, too.
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Jerome (Jerry) Schultz is the founding clinical director of the Learning Lab @ Lesley University, a program that provides assessment, tutoring, and case management services for children with learning challenges. Schultz holds a Ph.D. from Boston College, and has completed postdoctoral fellowships in both clinical psychology and pediatric neuropsychology.