Autism spectrum disorders rarely exist without any co-morbid conditions. A co-morbid condition is when more than one diagnosis is given to a patient. There are many conditions that co-exist with an autism spectrum disorder. Some of the more common of these co-morbidities include sensory processing disorder (SPD), anxiety, dyspraxia and depression. There are also some less common co-morbid conditions; one is central auditory processing disorder (CAPD).
What is CAPD?
Central Auditory Processing Disorder is a relatively uncommon condition in which individuals are unable to process information that they hear in an efficient manner. A person with CAPD might be unable to filter out excess background noise, lack the ability to distinguish between certain letters in words and subsequently have problems with spelling and writing.
Getting a Diagnosis
CAPD is diagnosed by an audiologist, preferably one who has more experience with the nuances of a CAPD exam. An individual with CAPD may go undiagnosed for years as he can pass routine hearing exams. CAPD is not a deficit in pure hearing; it is an information processing deficit. Auditory processing disorders, including CAPD, are often not diagnosed until middle childhood, at the earliest. Sometimes CAPD is suspected prior to this but the test is usually geared towards children aged eight and up.
CAPD and Autism
Even though autism exists without CAPD and CAPD exists in many non-autistic individuals, differentiating between the two in an individual with both can be difficult. A person with CAPD may not respond to his name, especially in a noisy environment. If an autism therapist is unaware of the CAPD, she might get concerned when there is no breakthrough with her client with regards to responding to his name. If the CAPD is known, then the therapist can approach this task in a different and more efficient manner.
Another problem exists when a person with autism gets overwhelmed in noisy situations. A therapy goal might be for this patient to acclimate to noisy situations. If the patient also has co-morbid CAPD, this acclimation process may take even more time as there are two factors at play.
Once a parent or caregiver understands that her child has CAPD, in addition to an autism spectrum disorder, she is better able to address the issues at hand. A few ideas that can prove beneficial include talking a bit more slowly and at a louder volume, using shorter sentences without as many descriptive words and using a picture system like the Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS).
When an individual with an autism spectrum disorder also has other co-existing conditions, it is important to understand how each individual condition can affect his life. Armed with this knowledge, parents and caregivers can provide the best possible care. Children can also benefit from childs play therapy and other therapies.