After 30+ Years of living with APD, Stephanie Palmer compiled a list of useful resources.

1. The school district won’t test my child for a learning difference, even though I am certain something is going on. What can I do?
Get your child outside testing or a complete evaluation done and if the results indicate there is a learning disability or processing weaknesses such as Auditory Processing Disorder (APD) or Sensory Integration Disorder, take those written results to the school district where they are required to schedule more testing and a meeting with the school district psychologist and paraprofessional. The school district will set up an Individual Education Plan (IEP) Team and then start the IEP. An IEP team meets at least once a year and will set goals to include accommodations, etc. that evolve over the time your child is within that school district.

2. Who do I take my child to for testing?
Here are a few specialists to look up:

  • Pediatric Ophthalmologist specializing in Visual Processing
  • Audiologist
  • Speech Pathologist
  • Neuro-Psychologist
  • Cognitive Neurologist
  • Functional Neurologist
  • Pediatric Neurologist specializing in Cognitive Diagnosis

As a parent you have narrow down what’s going on with your child to determine what doctor/specialist to take the child to. Write down all the symptoms you have observed and include feedback that others have observed and shared with you. As parents we do not always see the differences in our children. Ask teachers and family friends to help evaluate and don’t get defensive with people who give you their honest opinion. Try to be objective and think like a scientist. Focus on a specific area, for example, auditory processing then go online and google specific symptoms. There are many excellent resources and websites pertaining to learning differences and take the child to the appropriate doctor. Don’t be afraid to ask friends and family for referrals as well.

3. How much does testing cost?
Sadly, it is expensive out of pocket. Back in the 90s I paid near $8K for all the testing. Some insurance will cover it under psychological services or specific insurance codes. Call your insurance company first to understand what it will cover. Your school district might even reimburse you if you can prove the school blatantly missed the diagnosis, but that is unlikely.

4. The school and pediatrician want to treat for ADHD but I am not convinced?
ADHD is extremely misdiagnosed and over diagnosed. Reasons for this include:

  • Children don’t get enough exercise anymore.
  • Many students are smarter and/or process information faster and are bored in a traditional classroom environment.
  • Unhealthy diets high in sugars, fats, and stimulants create havoc on a child’s developing brain.
  • Students are not getting the sleep their bodies need due to a poor sleep environment.
  • Stress from all of the above situations or an unhealthy physical and emotional educational environment.

ADHD is a real condition, but there has been a significant increase in the diagnosis and we need to examine what is at the core of this diagnosis.

People should try and implement lifestyle changes before going to medications.

  • Minimum of 20 hours of exercise a week (3 hours a day).
  • Eat fresh organic foods
  • Eliminate food dyes, preservatives and pre-packaged food.
  • Ensure your child at minimum is receiving 9 – 10 hours of sleep in a healthy sleep environment.
  • No beverages 2 hours prior to bedtime, to eliminate bathroom breaks in the middle of the night.
  • Try to lower your stress and keep household stress to a minimum.

If lifestyle changes have been implemented and your child is still being labeled as ADHD in school, then you and your doctor should try and find a program or / and medications to treat. Make sure you truly understand the long term side effects of the medications.

5. Can Gifted kids have an LD?
Yes! Gifted/LD students are difficult to identify because these students have exceptional compensation skills. Here is a good list of books just about them. http://www.ldonline.org/profbooks/c670

6. My child’s standardized test scores are horrible. Is college impossible?
Remind your child most kids with a learning difference typically have higher IQs. Standardized tests are formatted for one learning style. Your child learns differently and therefore can often think outside the box. People who think outside the box are often society’s most valuable assets. Look at Einstein, he failed 6th grade twice before passing. Leonardo da Vinci never followed any rule book as his thinking was off the grid and he is probably one of the smartest humans in history.

As far as Universities and Colleges turning students away due to test scores, my only suggestion would be to have your child excel for 2 years in community college classes and use that GPA and activities to then transfer into a College or University. Check with your state’s Department of Rehabilitation; they should have an abundance of programs to help individuals with any type of disability entering higher education.

7. What Dictation and Text To Speech (TTS) Software should I use?
Here are some comparisons of programs out there:

Most dictation programs require the user to read out loud a few paragraphs or pages precisely to match the user’s voice with the words. If your child has a problem reading, this extremely difficult. The other problem with these dictation programs is the user needs to proofread the final result and many kids suffering from APD and CAPD cannot catch the errors the dictation program put in (there, they’re, their, wood, would, participation, precipitation, etc.) as their brains compensate and move past a lot of errors automatically. I would recommend having your child dictate to a digital audio recorder and then have someone type his paper or ask the school to accept the verbal audio recording as “the paper”. Forewarning, this gets tough in subjects with lots of terminology such as advanced biology.

However, the TTS software does work. Firefox and Chrome web browsers have some wonderful plugins & extensions. Operating systems have TTS built in where you highlight the paragraph or word and it can read it aloud.

Personally, I have found far more success with TTS on linux / unix operating systems than Windows or Macs. It requires the ability to configure and install programs correctly and having the patience to learn how to use the software. The nice thing about the majority of the linux / unix freeware TTS is that they follow standards and allow the swapping and adding of different voices. The majority of software is free. The natural sounding voices are usually the only component that cost money and they usually cost under $40 and are easy to install. If you are a linux user you can find many .deb or .rpm TTS packages that you can add easily. You can always build from source. Mac has some TTS as well, however I get frustrated by the Mac as I feel it to be limiting compared to linux, but to each their own.

Schoolwork that asks the same questions over and over in slightly different ways can mean unnecessary reading, writing and processing for your child. If your child can obtain the concept or the main idea the first time and retain the information; ask the IEP team and his or her teachers to stop subjecting your child to unnecessary repetition.

8. E-Books / Audiobooks for your child?
http://www.learningally.org/Membership/Schools-and-Educators/26/ 
Formerly known as Recording for the Blind & Dyslexic.

Your IEP should be able to obtain a free membership for your child. It’s good but often they do not have the books your child class covers. The local library should have audio books as well. Obtain the audio in MP3+ so your child can play it on almost any device.

Audible.com, Amazon.com and iTunes usually have what you are looking for but can be expensive.

Save all the receipts for all the books the school requires but doesn’t provide and tell them they need to reimburse your child expenses and hand them a formal looking expense report. I guarantee they will really jump on the ball then to provide your child the books.

9. Electronic Textbooks?
Most textbooks providers can provide electronic textbooks that work with the browser or in Adobe PDF format. These e-textbooks have far more to learn than the hard copy version with interactive videos, games and challenges. Plus, there is software for web browsers and PDFs that can read the documents, e-books to your child while they follow along on the monitor.

The only reason no one from the school district offers this as a solution as it requires the district to work one on one with the publishers and for whatever reason the schools districts hate doing this. But fight for it; it is so worth it!

Online the books cost between $10 – $40 per e-textbook. But the publishers will not allow individuals to purchase them, only the district can submit a purchase order for them.

So find all your child’s books on line via the publisher’s website and write down all the book information such as

  • ISBN (both formats)
  • Title, Author(s)
  • Revision
  • Date Published
  • Publisher
  • URL

Then print letters and hand deliver them to your IEP team and the district leads and the school board.

Then make sure they have e-books for your child ahead of time for the next year. If the IEP team gives you a hard time go to the school board meeting and YELL! I wish I had known about this before my son hit high school.

Small list of publishers providing e-textbooks:

10. My School District States Recording Devices Are Not Allowed in the Classroom, is that true?
No they have to let you use a recording device! And they are invaluable! Do not let them bully you, they are solely doing it out of fear you’ll overhear something an employee of the district shouldn’t be saying or doing.

Most states have their legislative codes posted. Find the legal code for assistive technology or device. Print the legal code out and explain they are breaking state law as well as federal law. You should be protected by State Law, Section 504 and IDEA. If they don’t accommodate your child, they are breaking the law.

11. Can I Record the IEP Meeting?
You have the right to record the meeting with your IEP team. Video and / or audio record all of your meetings! The school district is part of a government body and rules to government meetings are applicable. You need to fax, or certify mail a letter that will arrive at minimum 48 hours in advance stating you will be recording the meeting.

You will be surprised how differently your IEP team will treat you. However, this can create a hostile feeling. So insist you are doing this so you do not have to keep calling them, or writing them, or showing up, asking them questions about the meeting, that this is for their benefit.

You might only need to fax the school district office and not your actual IEP team. And then bring a copy of the FAX and the FAX Transmittal Receipt or the certified response receipt to your IEP meeting.

Recording the meetings will do a few things.

  • They are held accountable and must hold up the law.
  • They know you have them recorded so they will make sure they do everything right with your child.
  • They know you are taking your child’s education seriously and you mean business and they won’t blow you off or dismiss you.

Bring at least two recording devices, if not three, and lots of batteries, this will ensure if one device isn’t working you have another functioning one.

12. Are there any sites that publish new studies / findings?

13. What Remediation Therapies do you recommend?
Good nutrition, exercise and proper sleep is a must.

Everyone is different and Auditory Processing Disorder and other learning challenges present differently for each individual, therefore any and all treatment assigned should be individualized.

Just remember individuals with processing and sensory integration issues need variety in the way they learn. If you have repeated something 100 times and it hasn’t sunk in, the subject needs to be presented in a different way.

Remediation Therapies that have worked for our family and our APD:

  • Systems of Intellect – S.O.I. Systems
  • Belgau balance board 
  • The Listening Program
  • Music! We have found music really helps. There are lots of music therapies out there but learning how to play an instrument and read music (and sing along, if possible) worked best for us. Listening to music while studying helps both of us retain more. I am sure my coworkers think I am somewhat anti-social at times, but listening to music while I work helps me immensely.
  • Sports involving balance improves your brain. So, skateboarding, snowboarding, surfing, etc. is good for you, wear a helmet when needed! Tracking fast moving objects and using hand eye coordination is crucial. So we played a ton of racquetball.
  • Art, really seemed to reach my son. I swear it helped his writing.
  • Linda-Mood Bell helped until my son was in 2nd grade, then he plateaued.
  • FastForWord, we hated it, but it was 1997 when we were trying to use it and our computer was low end. For us it was a miserable experience, however, some people swear by it, so it is worth a try.
  • Many of the cognitive science folks are now backing The Brain Fitness by Posit Science
  • Lumosity, on line brain games looks wonderful to try
  • Free software with proven results: http://brainworkshop.sourceforge.net/
  • We haven’t personally used any of the three above mentioned methods but we have heard great things.
  • Finally, sequencing games like guitar hero and rock band actually help – don’t get hooked!

There are lots of studies linking APD to memory issues. Improving short term memory assists people with APD learn. As we learn, we transfer information from the short term to the long term,  work to develop short-term auditory and visual memory first.

Therapy can be fun, such as the balance board and the exercises that go with it. Many of these out of the box therapies can help so much more than just forcing your child to do repetition work.

Community College
If your child is in high school and you have a community college is nearby, check out the college. Often community college services for students with learning differences are so much better equipped than the K-12 school district. See if your child can do concurrent enrollment and knock down the high school requirement so much faster as the college classes are more credits per class than the high school credits. Your child is earning college credits and college grades and this will help your child to have a leg up when applying to colleges and universities and shorten their time in school.