My daughter has had chronic fluid in her ears possibly from the time she was born, or shortly after. It was misdiagnosed by her pediatrician and an audiologist. By the time it was finally caught by an otolaryngologist when she was two and a half years old she couldn't walk or talk, and would spend as much time as we would allow, lying on the floor laughing, we think because she had vertigo. She started walking one week after having surgery to remove the fluid and place ventilation tubes. At age 6 now, she still doesn't talk and has been diagnosed with autism. She has also had 5 surgeries now to treat the persistent fluid in her ears. Since the chief symptom of her autism is her inability to talk we have often wondered if she actually has auditory processing disorder.
Auditory processing disorder (APD) can occur in children who experience hearing loss during the time they would typically be developing speech. The auditory nerve, the nerve that carries sound from the inner ear to the brain, has sort of a use it or lose it policy and will actually degenerate in these children. Kids with APD will pass a standard hearing test even though their brain lacks the ability to interpret sounds. Despite our concerns over our daughter we have been unable to find someone to evaluate her for APD let alone treat it. Apparently, that's because we don't live in Kansas.
Kansas is where Debra Burnett, assistant professor of family studies and human services and a licensed speech-language pathologist, started the Enhancing Auditory Responses to Speech Stimuli, or EARSS, program, a program that treats children with APD. While the program is still new, all of the children who have received therapy have showed improvement. We can only hope that with continued success this program will spread to other parts of the country and one day be readily available to children suffering from APD.
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