The problem with having so much focus on ADHD is that disorders which have many common symptoms are overlooked. The danger in overlooking other possibilities is that the actual problem gets misdiagnosed and the child does not get the correct treatment. For some disorders, an ADHD treatment protocol might be helpful. For others, it might not be as helpful. Regardless of how helpful it is or not, it does not substitute for a spot-on, symptom specific protocol.
There is a little known disorder called central auditory processing disorder (CAPD). Its’ symptoms can mimic those of ADHD. However, CAPD can only be accurately diagnosed by an audiologist. It is not a hearing disorder per se. Children who have this disorder have normal hearing. The problem is that a child with CAPD does not correctly process what she hears. Something gets altered in the translation, so to speak. Sounds uncomplicated, right?
This is not a simple issue. A child with CAPD can exhibit any (or all) of the following symptoms: behavior problems, learning and education problems, distractibility, and inability to make timely responses to questions and trouble following directions. Not only that, but because the child is either not understood or has trouble understanding others, she may become socially withdrawn and develop social-emotional-behavioral problems.
Take a good look at the list of symptoms. Without having further information, the obvious diagnosis is ADHD. Here’s the distinction. Children with ADHD can understand and interpret auditory information. They just get distracted and can’t stay on task. Children with CAPD don’t comprehend and process auditory information. The overt presentation is the same. Tasks aren’t performed, behavior is affected, and education goals are not met. Self –esteem is affected, and the CAPD child can act out with opposition, defiance or aggression.
I try and caution parents and educators to proceed slowly and not assume. There are many highly educated professionals who are not aware of lesser known disorders. Central auditory processing disorder is very real and poses a serious problem to those children who are afflicted with it. Imagine going to another country where your native language is not spoken. Imagine what it is like to try and make your needs known. Think about what would happen if you had an emergency and no one responded appropriately. Or, if they understood what you wanted and responded in their native tongue so that you couldn’t figure out their response. What would you do? How would you act? If you started to get stressed or decided to act out what you wanted, perhaps your body language would alarm these people who don’t speak your language. Put in these terms, it is easy to see how behavior and social problems can develop for the child with CAPD.
CAPD is one of several lesser known disorders which look very similar to ADHD. No matter how well informed we are, it is very easy to believe that the symptoms of CAPD, and maybe another little known disorder, are in fact ADHD when they are not. For the sake of your child’s treatment make sure you rule out every possibility before determining a course of action.