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Signs of CAPD

What does CAPD look like?
Children with CAPD often have trouble with:

  • Telling where a sound is coming from
  • Telling the difference between sounds
  • Telling the difference between words that sound the same. Like "path" and "pass"
  • Understanding how sentences come together to make a story
  • Following spoken directions, unless they are very simple

Many children with CAPD look and act like they're deaf:


  • They don't respond when people talk to them.
  • They have a hard time talking back.
  • They have a hard time sitting still and paying attention
  • They don't understand when the teacher gives them directions.
    • Sometimes noise in the background makes it hard for them to understand what the teacher said.

If your child has CAPD he might still be very smart. But he still may tune out the classroom. He may also interrupt or "act up" to get attention from the teacher and other students.

Many children with CAPD look or act "spaced out." They may also get frustrated or upset when they move from doing one thing to another.

There are different kinds of CAPD

  1. Some children act like they have a hearing loss, even though their hearing tests say they're fine.
    • They have trouble understanding what people say in a noisy room.
    • They have trouble paying attention when people talk.

    How to help these children

    • Make the room quieter.
    • Use an FM system or a Sound Field system.
    • Make sure that they're paying attention.
    • Talk plainly, and point to what you're talking about.

  2. Some children have trouble understanding big words and hard sentences. These children need help with:
    • Learning and practicing new words and what they mean
    • Reading
    • Answering hard questions
    • Taking written tests
    • Learning to pay attention even when it's very noisy

    How to help these children

    • Use shorter sentences and speak more slowly.
    • Read in small amounts. Then talk about what you read. Help him sort out and understand the information.
    • Break down questions into smaller parts. Take 1 question at a time.
    • For taking written tests, take more breaks in between the tests. Read the questions out loud. Make sure they understand the directions.
    • Read ahead of lessons.

  3. Some children have trouble with following lots of complex instructions. They may act confused, act up, or get goofy.
  4. How to help these children

    • Use simple instructions using only one sense at a time.
      Like, tell your child to listen to what you're reading aloud first.
      Then tell him to look at what you write on a blackboard.
    • After reading out the directions, ask your child what he heard. Write out on a board what he heard. Then write out the steps he needs to take.

  5. Some children have trouble putting a story in order.
  6. How to help these children

    • Help them start their homework
    • Help them learn how to take notes in school
    • Help them learn how to put their school papers in order

For all kinds of CAPD, a good speech and language therapist can help a lot. Especially if she is interested in language problems and learning disabilities.

Get your child tested for CAPD
An audiologist or speech-language pathologist can test your child for CAPD. Here's what she would look for:

  • Can your child put sounds together in the right order to make words?
    • If not, this could explain why your child has problems speaking.
      It also shows if your child can understand spoken directions, or language at all.
  • Can your child understand what people say when it's noisy?
    • Children learn in school mostly by listening. So if they can't understand what they hear, they may have problems learning. They may even have trouble following what's going on.

Not all children with CAPD will have trouble reading or writing. But some will. No one knows why some children can't read or write well, but others can.

Testing for CAPD
It's important to make sure the problems your child is having is not because of other things. (Like attention deficit disorder, which would affect how your child pays attention to everything, not just sound.)

If the problem seems only to be related to understanding sounds and speech, then your child would be tested for CAPD. First, the audiologist would do a regular hearing test to make sure there is no hearing loss. Then,

  • If your child is younger than 5, find an audiologist or speech-language pathologist who works a lot with CAPD. Your child must be able to repeat words and short sentences. Otherwise, the test may not be as helpful. The audiologist will test your child to see how he responds to different sounds and different mixes of sounds.
  • Once your child turns 5, a speech-language pathologist or audiologist who works a lot with CAPD can test your child.
  • Most tests for CAPD work best for children older than 7.
  • Many audiologists think it's important to also test using OAE and ABR, since some other kinds of problems (like auditory neuropathy) can look like CAPD.

Next: How you can help your child

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