Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Able Kids Foundation--Audiologists

A few weeks ago, we traveled to Ft. Collins, CO (1 hour North of Denver). It was really simple to fly into Denver, and drive to Ft. Collins. We met with Megan Locke at Able Kids Foundation. She's been trained by Joan Burleigh (you may have read about her in Temple Grandin's book, "Thinking in Pictures: and Other Reports from My Life with Autism").

It's a highly specialized audiological testing process that looks at how the person hears in the three levels of the brain. Nathan was determined to have a Central Auditory Processing Disorder (CAPD). We've suspected this for a long time, but she gave us confirmation. We've heard that many 2E kids hear better than others. She said it's they hear noises down to a level that most people can't. He heard tones down around 0 decibels. Some of these kids have a larger than normal range in the frequencies they hear. Nathan didn't necessarily hear more frequencies that a 'normal' person would, but he can her sounds down at 0 decibels which most people can't hear.

The Able Kids Foundation is the only place in the world where you can get an ear filter (if you qualify based on the audiological testing). Nathan qualifies and we've got his ear filters ordered. We didn't get the best mold of his ear and the first one didn't fit well, so we're taking more impressions and having another one created.

Here are some pictures of his ear filter. He could chose a variety of colors (including clear), but he wanted orange. No talking him into clear so it wouldn't be noticed. He wants to tell the kids about his super-powered hearing.

The filter helps filter out high frequency noises--background noises--out of the non-dominant ear. His right ear is dominant and left is not. When she tested him in a silent room, he got 100% accuracy. When Dr. Locke added the background noise of 25 silent students (that's clothes rustling and projector fan running), Nathan's score went down to 71%. When the filter was added to his left ear, he came back to about 94%. With FM Headphones and a microphone on her, he was back to 100%.

We now understand more of what we've been told all along about CAP disorders. He hears so well that background noises that we don't hear can overwhelm him. We also ordered custom earplugs for him to wear while doing 'silent work' such as reading, taking tests, working at his deck when listening is not required, etc. These will also be used for swim lessons to keep water out of his ear and to help make the indoor pool environment quieter. We've learned that many kids with CAPD don't like swimming because there is so much background noise, they are totally overwhelmed by sound.

Dr. Locke even provided recommendations to be added into Nathan's IEP. Since school is almost over, the teacher agreed to make classroom modifications without trying to add to the IEP. We'll add Dr. Locke's suggestions this fall when we renew Nathan's IEP.

I found it interesting where Nathan's challenges lie. When she split words and put high frequency sounds in one ear and low in the other, he couldn't identify any of the words. They even went over the entire list prior to the test so he had seen and heard each word at least once. They use complex words, but her simple example to us would be the word 'cat'. She puts the C-T sounds in one ear and the A sound in the other ear. Our ears should deliver the sounds at the same time into the brain and we know it's CAT. Nathan's ears don't deliver the sounds at the same time so he might hear AT and be asked to guess what that word is. Or perhaps background noise has him hearing A and guessing.

She suggested much of his classroom frustration might come from not hearing (and understanding) instructions. She said that when coming in from recess, a teacher might say, "Put your bag in the closet and sit down." His ears deliver that message as, "You're bad-in the closet and sit down." He's confused because he doesn't know if Nathan is bad or some other kid is bad. Should he sit in the closet? None of the other kids are--they are going to their desk. So he will try to sit at his desk and hope he doesn't get in more trouble...only to be told that he didn't follow instructions because he sat at his desk with his bag. And we often have wondered why he cries so much at school!

Since our filter won't arrive until after school is out for the year, I won't have definite data to back anything up until fall. We'll use the filter for Sunday School & Church and other instructional situations. We will use the earplugs as a constant friend. I also thought Dr. Locke did a nice job of explaining to Nathan some of the ways he is different while making him feel good about himself in his differences. (Here's his earplugs--he also picked this color combo. It's orange, yellow and green swirled together.)


We were pleased with what we received from them and would encourage others who have children with CAPD or suspected CAPD to look into this. It might not be right for you, but at least you are now informed that it's out there.

8 comments:

  1. I would love to hear back from you as to whether you think the filters help your son. I strongly believe my son also has CAPD, but have never had a thorough examination as you did. My son has just had a typical hearing exam done with an audiologist. I will check your blog often to see if there is any update! Thanks for sharing.

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  2. My daughter was seen by the Able Kids foundation and I've got to say the experience was life changingly positive! The filter is like a golden bullet and I can't say enough positive things about the staff.

    Before we've done all kinds of hearing and listening therapies, but her ADHD has completely disappeared, her balance is better-she sits right down and does her homework.

    I now have a child that can HEAR.

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  3. I agree with you, Sew. While he has reduced his usage of the filter, the steps we were able to write into his IEP have made a huge difference. Just having the teacher know why he acts up sometimes or why he gets agitated is a huge help.

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  4. No way will I let her not wear her filter! But she understood 58% of speech without it and 92% with it. A couple of her brain stem tests came back at 0. Plus it really helps her vestibular system-far fewer falls.

    I love your example of CAPD. My favorite came out of a Speech to Print software: Weevil People in order to perform an opiate onion. Almost all the sounds are right, but it really doesn't make any sense.

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  5. Curious as to how hard it is to NOT lose the ear filters. Thinking of going to get my child assessed. Do they stay in well? Are they comfortable? Do your kids fight wearing them?

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  6. Hmmmm....losing could be an issue, but he was good about keeping the case on his desk and teacher helped remind him to put in ear/put away in case. He had a small basket on his desk for pencil, break cards, filter and ear plugs. If your child loses things often, it might get lost. We lost two sets of earplugs (custom ones) before I thought to ask if they could be made with a string. I never asked on the filter but I wonder if it could have a string attached with an alligator clip to clip to clothing. Worth asking.

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  7. The photo of you holding the orange filter is for the right ear; but in the next photo you show it jammed into his left ear!

    Dan Schwartz,
    Editor, The Hearing Blog

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  8. Hi Dan, Thanks for the information. We were told it was a left ear filter...maybe that's why he wasn't thrilled with it at the time. When I look at it, it looks most similar to his left ear plug.

    At any rate, he's outgrown these and no longer uses the filter. We have remade his earplugs to his current ear size.

    Thank you!

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