Learning disabilities: a multifaceted approach

August 22, 2017 by Martin Fortin







School-age children with learning disabilities often present with overlapping symptoms that can make diagnosis more complicated if only one professional is consulted.

For example, a child with an auditory processing disorder may present with some of the following symptoms:

  • Difficulty in loud environments
  • Confusion between similar spoken words
  • Problems following instructions or understanding the sequence of instructions
  • Need for lots of structure and organization in class
  • Behavioural problems in the classroom
  • Difficulty paying attention
  • Poor reading and writing skillsSpeech or language delays
  • Monotone voice

These symptoms can also appear in children who have attention deficit disorder or a language impairment. To complicate matters further, children may have some combination of these three disorders (auditory processing disorder, attention deficit disorder and language impairment) or even all three together. For that reason, when a child has a learning disability, it’s best to have their attention and cognitive abilities assessed by a psychologist, language abilities assessed by a speech-language pathologist and hearing abilities assessed by an audiologist. That way, it will be easier to develop a tailored treatment and management plan for the child so that they can succeed in school.


In terms of hearing, the plan may involve managing sound transmission (adjusting the auditory environment, using an FM system, etc.), developing custom communication strategies or providing personalized hearing training. If possible, intervention should start before age 12, as the ear’s structures are still growing at that time.Note that children with auditory processing disorder have normal intelligence, and their hearing acuity appears normal on an audiogram. This disorder appears in 3–5% of school-age children, is more common in boys and is often associated with family history or a history of recurrent otitis at a young age1. Auditory processing tests are performed from the age of 6. A normal audiogram is required in order to continue assessment. The number and length of visits vary with age.

For more information, talk to an audiologist.

Did you know?
Auditory processing disorder screening is offered by some audiologists practicing at Lobe clinics. Call 1 866 411-5623 for an appointment!

  1. CHERMAK, G. D. and MUSIEK, F. E. Central Auditory Processing Disorder : New Perspective. Singular Publishing Group, 1997.