Many of you know that I have opened my own business called Audiology Solutions LA which specializes in the assessment of children and adults suspected of having auditory processing disorders. (APD) APD interferes with education in reading problems, comprehension of speech communication especially in noisy environments, and understanding subtleties in both speech and reading, and memory retention. One of the many problems is that the schools and many insurance companies do not believe that there is such a disorder and believe that it is part of a linguistic or speech problem, which is not true. Because of this, many schools refuse to provide the special services needed by these children.

In a recent court decision by the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, auditory processing disorders now constitute an “other health impairment” under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). This means APD is “a deficiency in neurological processing that adversely affects an individuals’ ability to identify and distinguish similar sounds and understand oral communication. Legal documents further noted that APD made it difficult for the child in question to follow oral instructions, retain and understand oral information and pay attention in a classroom even with specific accommodations.”

Court documents noted that APD “encompasses an individual’s inability or difficulty to: identify the source of a sound; discriminate between sounds; determine similarities or differences in patterns of sound; sequence sounds into words; understand speech when other sounds are present; or understand sounds when part of the signal is missing or degraded due to low frequency.”

Many of our troops returning from Iraq and Afghanistan who were exposed to explosions and blasts, also come home with brain damage from the trauma experienced and show these kind of symptoms. Fortunately, the VA has acknowledged this kind of injury and with the help of fMRI, they have been able to determine the exact area of the brain that has been injured and are providing therapy for our veterans to overcome their problems.

I am pleased with this ruling and optimistic that many adults with traumatic brain injury and children with educational difficulties coming from APD will be eligible for help now that there is understanding that this is a “real” disability and needs to be addressed.