It is well established that early intervention for hearing and learning disorders is critical if the effectiveness of treatment is to be maximised. This applies to auditory processing disorder (APD) just as much as to any other type of deafness. Yet it is also often stated that children cannot be assessed for APD until age 7 or even age 8. This viewpoint came about because some early APD tests only had norms for children from about age 7, and also because there is considerable variability in auditory performance on tests in young children.
At SoundSkills we believe that early intervention is critical. Not only does it enable early treatment of the hearing disorder, it helps the child to start learning more effectively as soon as possible. If children are not diagnosed and treated until after they have been at school for a number of years their impaired ability to hear and learn has led to them falling further and further behind.
Most APD tests can be administered from age 6. A number of assessments can be carried out at age 5. And more limited assessment can be carried out on even younger children. The youngest age at which we assess for APD is 4 years. Different tests and different norms are used according to age.
We make it clear that below age 6 we can only make a provisional diagnosis or a diagnosis of at risk for APD, with the necessity to follow up when the child is older. If the child does not perform well on tests it is important to observe whether there might be another explanation for the poor performance. It is also important to consider the test results in the broader context of observations by parents, teachers and other professionals. Usually children referred to us with suspicion of APD at ages 4 to 5 have quite clear and obvious hearing problems.
Fortunately treatments for APD are not harmful and in fact are usually generally beneficial to any child. Therefore a provisional diagnosis does not prevent a trial of intervention. We have seen good responses to intervention on the very youngest of our clients.