TIL My Autistic Kid Can’t Listen Because He Has Auditory Processing Disorder

I’m not a therapist, I’m just a mom. Based on my reading and speaking with therapists, I believe Ayub has an auditory processing disorder. If you have a kid who just doesn’t seem to listen, it may not be because they don’t want to but because they can’t. Not saying there’s anything wrong with them, don’t jump the gun or anything. Just want to share my experience with my special needs baby.

When your child doesn’t seem to listen to you

Ayub’s therapist don’t believe in labels and diagnosis. They don’t see these special needs as an illness that needs a cure, because they aren’t. Every individual is an individual, with different strengths and weaknesses.

autistic auditory processing disorder

My kid’s strengths include visual perception, he tests somewhere in the 95-99 percentile. It shows in his everyday ways. For example, he can visualise and build amazing structures out of LEGO, blocks, pillows, random knick-knacks, you name it he can create it.

He tested the weakest for oral understanding. Ayub can hear, but he can’t listen.

What is auditory processing disorder?

Auditory Processing disorder or Central Auditory Processing Disorder (CAPD) is common in children with autism.

CAPD or auditory processing issues does not mean a child cannot hear, but rather that they have hearing issues. These issues include:

  • Inability to hear all pitches of sounds (e.g., high sounds or low sounds.)
  • Significant issues with background noise
  • Only being able to pick out a handful of words from a spoken sentence
  • They may have auditory processing issues (for example: confusing the questions “How are you?” and “How old are you?”

autistic auditory processing disorder

In Ayub’s case, this explains the following:

  • I used to think he may be deaf because he never repeated words, rarely answered to his name, couldn’t follow simple instructions etc. His hearing tests all came back with perfect hearing.
  • He never picked up a mother-tongue
  • He doesn’t pick up new vocabulary words from just listening to conversations about it
  • He can’t follow conversations (like, at all)
  • He’s unable to have discussions (especially if they involve more than one person, group discussions are the hardest thing in the world for him)

What it’s like talking to Ayub with Auditory Processing Disorder

In a word, it’s hard. As it is, the poor kid has difficulty with emotional regulation and can’t really pick up on the nuances of speech. Sarcasm and jokes are lost to him. He can’t understand jealousy and gets extremely confused when the baby cries and hits him when he hugs me.

Now, to top it all of, auditory processing disorder makes his comprehension skills ever poorer. I mean, it’s all linked I suppose. Inability to pick up all the spoken words leads to inability to learn new words leads to inability to communicate effectively.

autistic auditory processing disorder

  • He gets easily distracted by background sounds, which makes it hard for him to focus or concentrate
  • He sometimes can’t differentiate between a conversation at the table with us and the conversation at another table of strangers
  • He has meltdowns when he hears repeated background sounds or high-pitched sounds
  • He can’t repeat back a sentence that is spoken to him
  • He only hears maybe 3 words out of 10 word sentence and just fills in the blanks with his own guess. A lot of miscommunication all the time at home and school.

How to help Ayub

Ayub’s therapist suggested two simple things to start at home:

  • Play this game: choose one word, listen to a song. Every time the word is sung, clap your hands and receive a token. Player with the most tokens wins. (Give that kid a reason to listen carefully).
  • Play the card game, Snap. Forces them to focus on sight, movement, speech, and reflexes. (Oh wait, I don’t remember how this is supposed to help with auditory processing… Maybe it’s for general occupational therapy instead…)

How to help your child with Auditory Processing?

Speak to your child’s therapist. Every kid is different. Here are some things I found online that may help:


  • When the Brain Can’t Hear, Teri James Bellis, PhD
  • The Natural Medicine Guide to Autism, Stephanie Marhon

Laila Zain

Laila is a working mama who married young, had two beautiful boys, went through a shitty divorce, met an amazing man, remarried, and had a beautiful girl. Her eldest boy is a rainbow baby and special needs child. Her second is ridiculously smart. Her baby is a baby.

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