Nephew / Student Has APD - Help With Phonics, Blending, Phonetics

Allison writes...

Hi, Thank you for this great site. I appreciate the comprehensive information and the humor with which you approach a very serious and far-reaching issue in your life. I would appreciate any information you had on a case near to me. My nephew is 11 and was diagnosed with APD in second grade. During the battery of tests he was given, his intelligence is "superior" and luckily he has a photographic memory.

He learned to read early -- before kindergarten by sight--and was therefore moved to the head of the class. His issue was missed because he could read multi-syllable words whereas the other kids couldn't read "cat". Years later my sister suspected something was amiss when she was reading a book with him and he couldn't make out simple "nonsense" words. Also, he was shy and sometimes wouldn't respond to comments or would say something totally wrong (i.e. someone complimented him that: "You look handsome"... he didn't say thank you because he heard; "You have pants on." The therapists didn't have much for him in terms of therapy because he was/is so high-functioning. He tried Earobics for a bit and FastForeword, they were too basic. One therapist said to have him "memorize the dictionary"... They got to about "d" before they realized it would be impossible.

Now that he is older, he is getting good grades; however, his spelling is awful and a few times recently he has not been able to read simple words out loud in class: he mixed up "quiet" for "quite." We are afraid that we should do more for him--he has about 2 years until high school. We are looking for anything we can do to help his phonics OR any reading programs that can help. We are lucky that he scores well on comprehension--he tested into high state tests in the 90%. But for how long?

Once the words get longer and more difficult, we are afraid he will "bottom out" and hit a wall. I would appreciate any recommendations you have for help with phonics, blending, or reading by phonetics. (right now he has ZERO phonetic awareness... He can only memorize, not sound out). We want to make sure we give him the best help--even if we improve his reading by 20%, it is better than nothing.

I thank you very much for your time! Take care.


Hi Allison.

Thanks for writing me!

My first suggestion is to find a qualified auditory therapist in your area. Although APD is better understood nowadays than when I entered my teens, both knowledge of it & getting proper auditory help is still severely lacking. "Memorizing the dictionary" is not very good therapeutic advice. I cannot believe it was suggested at all. Not having much therapy for him due to your nephew being high functioning is a nonsense excuse for a lack of understanding of APD and how to interpret his test results. (I have a feeling you already know this).

I had many of the same issues. I would misunderstand comments and questions, respond incorrectly and became very timid. Wouldn't talk or answer questions at all. I was a perfect speller though. Still am.

What helped me a lot as well was my high intelligence & photographic memory. Both will serve your nephew VERY well in his life, especially so with APD. Got me thru school with A's and B's.

However, he may reach a wall if no further auditory training is done and frustration will set in. Based on your email, you are aware of this. I'm not sure how much your nephew understands APD. I experienced this in my teens. Couldn't grasp what was wrong. Doctors told my parents I wouldn't conceptualize APD until I was older. They were spot on. Caused a lot of stress & anxiety growing up.

Before you go out and buy any specific products, find an auditory specialist in your area and get some sound advice. It could be at a private practice, University, even a local hospital may have a reference. Dig around. If the individual who initially diagnosed him is still available, that may be a start too. There's got to be someone fluent in APD where you live or can consult with over the phone. It'll make all the difference in the world.

The best thing you can do is get 1-on-1 auditory training for your nephew. Everyone with APD is different. Take your existing test results with you or get an updated battery of tests. The right person will know exactly how to interpret them and help (with phonics, blending, reading by phonetics and any other auditory deficiencies). Many of the products on the market may indeed be too "basic" for him. If there is a program appropriate for him, they'll know. 1-on-1 training is 1000% more helpful too.

When I was growing up, I got 1-on-1 auditory training. I went twice a week for a couple years (about an hour each session). It was a custom auditory program based on my test results. Best thing for me. Got homework too that helped me practice my new skills as I learned them.

The part I missed out on is going back in my mid-to-late teens for more training. A LOT changes when you are a teenager.

I hope this helps. Feel free to write anytime. I'm happy to answer your nephew's questions too!



Thank you so much, Jeff, for your thoughtful, detailed, and insightful reply. I really appreciate it.

We reside in the South Florida area, so perhaps we can reach out a university or something.

If you wouldn't mind, was your custom auditory program something that was purchased—i.e. Earobics or the Listening Program, or did the auditory therapist create something especially for you?

Great advice on the body language—dating?! Oh my! Thankfully he is not at the 'girl stage yet', but has a sister so he is well versed in "drama". :)

Thank you so very much. You are providing a very helpful service.


Hi Allison.

South Florida? What a small world!

I grew up in New York and have only been down here in South Florida for about 10 years.

The place I received all my auditory training was Jawonio.

Their website may be helpful in terms of what to look for down here:

"For almost 70 years, Jawonio has provided award-winning services for individuals with intellectual/developmental disabilities and special needs throughout Rockland County, New York (NY)."

Referencing help for APD & intellectual / developmental disabilities is what you are seeking.

As well, a respected Department of Neurology may have references (College or Hospital). I initially got a session at the Albert Einstein College Of Medicine Dept. Of Neurology in New York. They gave me an initial test and reference for Jawonio.

I still have ALL the documentation and from around 1980 (I was about 9 years old).

Doctors performed: Jack Willeford Tests of General Auditory Function, SSW - Jack Katz, KSU Speech Discrimination - Berger, Test Of Syntactic Abilities - Quigley, and Compressed Speech WIPI & W-22.

From these tests, they were able to create a detailed analysis/auditory program for Dichotic Listening, Speech Discrimination, Comprehension, Auditory Memory, Vocab, Syntax, etc.

Even though I am 43, I still remember going in twice a week and getting auditory training. I went in and the doctor/therapist worked with me for an hour each session on different techniques to improve my auditory processing for each deficiency I had. Back then, there was no product to purchase on Amazon. Sorry I can't be of more help there. The training I received was custom to me and what I needed. I think your nephew will be helped 1000% more by 1-on-1 training vs. a general product at the outset. Getting specific deficiencies from a qualified expert will help direct you as well.

Oddly enough, on the very first visit to Jawonio, the doctor realized that I had naturally learned to lip read at a young age. When she held the clipboard in front of her mouth as she spoke, I looked confused & didn't answer the question. When she dropped the clipboard onto the table (so I could see her speak), I answered the question.

Body language. I recommend that for anybody! For a young nephew with APD especially, as he gets older and starts dating & eventually gets out of school to start a career, understanding body language can't be understated. So many people don't say what they really mean and will be even more confusing for him than the average person. The body doesn't lie. He will be better able to reconcile what's really going on in any situation even if he hears incorrectly. Having a sister helps too. lol.

You are more than welcome to contact me. It will help me add to my website and help others with the same questions/problems. APD is forever, and me being open about can help a lot of people.

I just purchased a piece of software so I can upgrade my APD website in the coming months with A LOT more information, connections, APD conversations & news from around the internet. I will also be posting more of my actual diagnosis too. Still got it all.

Have a great day.



You are so lucky so have received such thorough care back in the day (I am your age, so I can say that….). The therapist who lowered her clipboard was very intuitive. Maybe it's better for  you that they DIDN'T have any prepackaged therapy programs. It sounds like yours was not cookie cutter and that's why it worked so well. Your parents must have been very in tune as well. I guess these days it's easier for those with APD in that NO KIDS make eye contact (they are all texting!) and spell-check and Suri can auto-correct/pronounce words for you. But, it may also allow kids to slip through the cracks, IMO.

I was able to find a pediatric audiologist who created a program for Miami Children's as well as another person to pass along as possibilities, so thank you.

Thanks again for all of your help! I appreciate it.


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