Like Sound Through Water:
A Mother's Journey Through Auditory Processing Disorder


A mother always knows when something is wrong with her child. If it's a physical problem, the reaction is simple and swift. She takes the child to a doctor. But when the problem is mental or emotional, when the child is not developing as fast as he should, the situation is so overwhelming that denial sets in. The mother and father talk. Frequently, the father comforts the mother. He tells her she's worrying unnecessarily, that each child is different, that their child will develop at his or her own pace. That's what my husband told me and he should know. He's a board certified psychiatrist with special training in child and adolescent disorders. For that matter, I'm also a professional, a registered nurse who holds a master's degree in nursing and a doctorate in communications.

But I couldn't keep on denying what was in front of my eyes. My son, Ben, not only couldn't talk by the age of three, he couldn't comprehend the simplest things said to him. He wouldn't make eye contact. He was anxious, distracted, and although he reacted to noise, he often wouldn't turn when I spoke to him. Finally, I knew I had to act. I took him to a speech and hearing clinic. To those professionals and personal friends who were unfamiliar with Ben, questions surrounding mental retardation (a cognitive problem) and/or autism (a social and communication problem) arose from his presentation.

I have learned to never underestimate a mother's intuition. The people who had these questions about my son were highly respected professionals with all the modern diagnostic tools. They certainly should have been able to know what was wrong with Ben. But as I looked into my son's eyes, I knew they were missing something. I had no idea what the problem was. But I did know with certainty that he was not retarded, that he was not autistic, and so I set out on a journey. It is that journey I want to share with you, for although in a literal sense it is the specific journey of Ben and me, it is also the journey that every parent in the world takes to learn the truth and help his or her child.

Like Sound Through Water:
A Mother's Journey Through Auditory Processing Disorder


“So Ben is pretty much like what you see when you evaluate kids with speech problems?” I brushed my skirt off and sat in a cold chair, my ankle hurting slightly. I was sure he was typical of what they saw. They probably saw a lot worse. They probably got kids referred from all over the state for evaluations.

Rita looked directly at me. “No. Ben has a significant delay. Very significant. Much more so than what we typically come across.”

I don’t recall much after that. Rita kept talking and I kept nodding and smiling and pretending to understand. I couldn’t let my guard down. Couldn’t let them know how I felt inside. Not until I understood it myself. Before we left Rita took us to see the preschool room. I was carrying Ben, his arms tightly wound around my neck. He wouldn’t let go even as I tried to show him the room.

“He’s really attached to you, isn’t he?” Rita said.

“Yes,” I said with pride.

Her face became serious. “Well, we’ll have to see if the preschool will work out. He’s never been away from you?”

“No,” I said flatly. “He hasn’t.” I walked around the room a bit, the toys and learning stations barely registering. I noticed another large one-way window/mirror along one wall. I heard her explain about the contexts of learning provided to children and the opportunities the children had to explore in the environment. Then her voice faded out completely. I know I said good-bye and probably thanked her. I probably talked to Joanne when I picked Peter up. But I don’t remember any of it.

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