What’s the Difference Between Auditory Processing Disorder and Dyslexia?


May 15, 2019

You want the absolute best for your child, and ensuring that their education starts off right is the first step in setting them up for success later in life. However, learning that you student has a learning diability can lead to a world of uncertainty for their education, future, and ability to thrive. At Jett Publishing, we not only do our best to level the playing field for all students, but to set them up for success -- no matter what issues they encounter academically along the way. That’s why we’re here to break down auditory processing disorder and dyslexia - two common learning disabilities that are frequently confused with one another. In doing so, we’ll explain:

  • What both auditory processing disorder and dyslexia are
  • How to diffientiate the unique needs of each disorder
  • What you can do to help students with auditory processing disorder and dyslexia

Dyslexia: A Disorder Grounded in Processing Visual Stimuli

Understanding this Complex Learning Disability

Child in a classroom writing

Dyslexia is defined as a disorder that leads to difficulties in reading and processing language. This common reading disability makes it hard to isolate sounds in individual words (phonemes) and turn them into words that have meaning (graphemes). More than 40 million children and adults in the United States have some form of dyslexia, reading to struggles with learning to read, identifying sight words, and reading comprehension. With proper support, people with dyslexia are able to thrive in spite of their disability and have successful lives.

People with dyslexia find that they are better at understanding spoken language than the language they read. This is because - even when writing a language, in some cases - letters are reversed or omitted due to a difficulty in processing the necessity for the sound. However, people with dyslexia are not by any means ‘stupid’ or unable to learn -- they oftentimes just need a little more attention paid to phonological awareness and basic phonics: the root components of learning to read based on the science of learning.

Auditory Processing Disorder

The Disorder Commonly Confused with Dyslexia

Classroom of kids learning

Dyslexia is commonly confused with auditory processing disorder (APD): a disorder that makes it difficult to process sounds and makes it difficult to discern between similar sounds (like B & P, G & J, and S & C). Children with auditory processing disorder often have difficulty locating where sounds were coming from and figuring out what someone was trying to say. They struggle to communicate - not because they don’t understand questions themselves, but because they cannot properly understand the questions being asked. Because of this, children with auditory processing disorder are sensitive to noise and have trouble working with background noises.

Because of this, children with auditory processing disorder are better at understanding what they read than what they hear. These children are not deaf, and the functions within their ears work completely normal, but the way in which sounds are processed in the auditory cortex is sometimes incorrect and leads to confusion and trouble understanding what they are told.

Auditory Processing Disorder and Dyslexia

Understanding the Differences Between Auditory processing Disorder and Dyslexia

little boy reading a book in a library

Think about the way in which we read to ourselves. We look at printed words on a page or a sign and in our brains can ‘hear’ what it sounds like, and use that information to assign meaning to written words while reading. When we read to ourselves, we are never actually hearing because no sound is made, but our brains can still (in a way) hear and interpret the sounds made by the word.

This seemingly meta-process is what leads to much of the confusion between auditory processing disorder and dyslexia. People with auditory processing disorder do not have trouble reading to themselves because they are, in fact, not actually hearing anything. However, when something is read aloud to them, they may not understand what is being said due to the way they process spoken language. Students with dyslexia, however, cannot assign the sounds the the phonemes that they read, but can understand spoken language because there are no visual stimuli to be confused. In other words -- the difference lies in whether or not the child processes visual or auditory stimuli well.

Though these disorders are closely related and sometimes confused, it’s important to note that they are distinct from one another. Some students may have both disorders, which can be determined through testing through your child’s school or a private entity.

However, both of these disorders are mitigated, in part, by reinforcing issues with phonological awareness that students face while reading or listening. Phonological awareness is the understanding of sounds and their origins and is the skillset at the base of a child’s ability to learn to read. Teachers and reading specialists often dedicate a great amount of time with both students with auditory processing disorder and dyslexia to help them thrive as readers.

How Can I Help My Student with APD or Dyslexia?

Tools and Resources Available to Help Students Thrive

If you’re concerned about helping children learn to read with auditory processing disorder and dyslexia, it’s important to note that students frequently thrive in spite of the disorders. Here are some resources that can help you support your child.

Looking to help students with auditory processing disorder and dyslexia? Get in touch with Jett Publishing: the curriculum and dyslexia resource experts dedicated to helping students of all ability levels thrive.