Stress, Anxiety & Anger. It's Not ADD. Can It Be APD?

Hello -- My sons are 11 and 13. My older has always struggled in school and now my younger is showing signs of great stress and anxiety in middle school. My older son was taking an Executive Function class taught by a prominent psychologist about 18 months ago. She noticed his great difficulty following along and suggested to me he may have APD. He had recently been given an IEP at school for ADD, not because he tested for ADD but because the school didn't know what else to call his difficulties. I told her this and she thought his distraction looked more like APD because he was following, just not understanding what was being said. I actually have a family history of dyslexia and speech and language problems, though I do not, so I took her advice seriously. My son was tested by a SLP and the tests were very scattered. We did not go to an audiologist because the SLP seemed a bit down on the idea and she thought ADD may be the real problem. Eighteen months later and my son's anxiety level is through the roof. He does not complete any classwork and it all comes home. I need to explain oral and written directions to him multiple times (he cannot follow a sequence) and work that should take 20 minute takes an hour. His processing is extremely slow. He is miserable and demoralized -- and angry! Math is a disaster -- he cannot do word problems or multi-step math. Spanish is a disaster -- he just memorizes everything. Even with the IEP, he struggles. I think he has reached the limit of his ability to memorize everything. Every "symptom" of APD that is listed, is what we see in him. I know this sounds weird, but can you explain to me what it may be like for him. Also, were you diagnosed by an audiologist? I think that may be our next stop. Also, since I see the same problems with younger brother, I want to make sure that he is helped, too. Sorry to bother you, but we are getting desperate for answers. Oh -- he was treated for ADD over the past year with medication and it did absolutely nothing! thank you -- Kelley


Hi Kelley.

You are not a bother at all. In fact, you are the reason I started in the first place!

APD is still very misunderstood or flat out dismissed as baloney by some practitioners.

Yes, I was diagnosed with APD by an audiologist trained in making an APD diagnosis. It took several years for my parents to find a qualified person to make the diagnosis too. Local doctors, the school district, general practitioning psychologists, etc. all said either a) there was nothing wrong with me and that my mother was nuts, or b) I had what's now referred to as ADD and that it was all my fault that I couldn't pay attention in class or do anything right. (sound familiar?)

My mother was having none of that and proved them all wrong in the end (much to their dismay).

As a side note: yes, I think I do have some degree of ADD (which I read is common with APD), but it wasn't the problem.

"But can you explain to me what it may be like for him."

To put it mildly, it's scary. Three reasons off the top of my head: 1) not being sure that what you are hearing is being processed correctly is embarrassing, 2) not being able to follow simple instructions you hear is embarrassing, and 3) not knowing if you are responding to the question that is being asked of you is embarrassing.

You can also substitute demoralizing and frustrating.

For me, it made me incredibly shy. I mean a 10 on a 1-10 scale.

Even when I absolutely, positively knew an answer to something, I wouldn't answer.

In school, I memorized everything. Had to. Fortunately, my brain took it all in. However, English and foreign languages, once it got past the vocab memorization stage, was a nightmare. Again, I was unsure of what I was hearing (sounded like a fast garbled mess sometimes), so I did not know how to respond. I had nightmares of a teacher asking me what a poem meant to me or to respond to a question they asked in Spanish.

Here's the kicker. Looking back at my APD diagnosis, it was clearly stated that while I was quite intelligent, I would not yet be able to wrap my head around why I was having difficulty, and that this would cause a high level of stress and anxiety.

The good news. Getting the proper diagnosis and help by a qualified person who specializes in APD, can make a HUGE difference. I'm so happy that my mother, especially, never gave up and got me the auditory training I needed. I excelled in high school, college and started a business. Shyness is down to about 2 out of 10. :)

I want other kids and parents to know that APD can be successfully overcome. It never goes away, but the more confidence you gain, the more it becomes just an annoyance or nuisance.

Question: does your son understand the words to songs on youtube (without reading the lyrics) or watch a tv show/moive and understand the words or meaning to conversations (without replaying it over and over)? I'm curious to know if things he enjoys are also affected. This may give you an added clue as to auditory difficulties.

Feel free to keep asking questions!


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