A Boost for Central Auditory Processing Disorder Services By including CAPD as a health impairment under IDEA, an appeals court opens the door to students with the diagnosis receiving school-based services. News in Brief
News in Brief  |   September 01, 2014
A Boost for Central Auditory Processing Disorder Services
Author Notes
  • Janet McCarty, MEd, CCC-SLP, is ASHA private health plans advisor. jmccarty@asha.org
    Janet McCarty, MEd, CCC-SLP, is ASHA private health plans advisor. jmccarty@asha.org×
Article Information
Hearing Disorders / School-Based Settings / Regulatory, Legislative & Advocacy / News in Brief
News in Brief   |   September 01, 2014
A Boost for Central Auditory Processing Disorder Services
The ASHA Leader, September 2014, Vol. 19, online only. doi:10.1044/leader.NIB6.19092014.14
The ASHA Leader, September 2014, Vol. 19, online only. doi:10.1044/leader.NIB6.19092014.14
An auditory processing disorder constitutes an “other health impairment” under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, according to a recent court decision by the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.
The U.S. Department of Education, the agency charged with interpreting IDEA regulations, along with the U.S. Department of Justice, participated in the argument that led to the decision.
With this decision, the attorney representing the child at the center of the litigation then advocated for the child’s eligibility for services from the public school system at the time in question, due to chronic CAPD that hampered his education. A decision on that aspect has not been made.
Regardless of the ultimate result, this case helps define CAPD under IDEA for educators, parents, the judiciary, and administrative bodies and legal representatives in the ninth circuit states of California, Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Arizona, Hawaii and Alaska.
Some states contend that because CAPD is not one of the disability categories outlined in IDEA, a student diagnosed solely with CAPD is not eligible for special education services. This court decision may help children with the disorder access needed services through an individualized education program. Some states and jurisdictions, however, successfully review IDEA eligibility for CAPD under “speech or language impairment” or “specific learning disability.”
IDEA lists 13 different disability categories under which 3- through 21-year-olds may be eligible for services: autism, deaf-blindness, deafness, emotional disturbance, hearing impairment, intellectual disability, multiple disabilities, orthopedic impairment, other health impairment, specific learning disability, speech or language impairment, traumatic brain injury or visual impairment (including blindness).
Court filings related to the case referenced ASHA’s description of CAPD (also called auditory processing disorder): “a deficiency in neurological processing that adversely affects an individual’s ability to identify and distinguish similar sounds and understand oral communication.” Legal documents further noted that APD made it difficult for the child in question to follow oral instructions, retain and understand oral information, and pay attention in a classroom even with specific accommodations. In third and fourth grade—the time frame at issue in the litigation—the child “struggled” in school, with his academic performance declining considerably.
Evidence introduced in court established that CAPD requires a diagnosis by an audiologist and noted that “while a teacher, parent, or an IEP team may identify symptoms or behaviors that are indicative of the medical condition, a licensed audiologist must conduct an examination to make a medical diagnosis.”
Legal arguments outlined the criteria that define “other health impairment”: A “chronic or acute health problem” that “results in limited alertness with respect to the educational environment” and that “adversely affects a child’s educational performance” [34 C.F.R. 300.7(c)(9), (2005)]. The symptoms, characteristics, and diagnosis of CAPD meet these criteria: a chronic, medical condition; difficulty in processing sound; and limited attention to oral communication that can adversely affect a student’s ability to perform in a classroom.
In further describing CAPD, court documents noted that it encompasses an individual’s inability or difficulty to: identify the source of a sound; discriminate between sounds; determine similarities or differences in patterns of sound; sequence sounds into words; understand speech when other sounds are present; or understand sounds when part of the signal is missing or degraded due to low frequency.
In an educational or home setting, common symptoms of CAPD are a child’s difficulty following oral instructions or directions, difficulty hearing when there is background noise, poor listening skills, distractibility, and inattention. Research shows a “high occurrence of CAPD with other disorders of language and learning, such as attention deficit disorder,” court documents revealed.
ASHA and Department of Education staff met to discuss the decision and to ensure that state and local officials are aware of it. ED staff concurred that the disability category that qualifies the child for services is secondary to ensuring that the child receives the services needed to access a free, appropriate, public education. Although there is no specific plan to disseminate information about the court decision, ASHA staff used the opportunity to explain the disorder and how it affects education. SLPs and audiologists in school settings can use this court case to support eligibility for these services.
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September 2014
Volume 19, Issue 9