The Auditory Processing Assessment Kit (APAK) is a quick (six-minute) and easy one-to-one assessment between a teacher and student that can assist in identifying students who are experiencing auditory processing difficulties.
This online screening tool, which has been developed for students in Foundation to Year 10, assesses the ability of students to take in and recall what is said to them. It was developed by two paediatricians, Dr Kathy Rowe and her late husband, Dr Ken Rowe, for schools and health professionals to screen students for auditory processing difficulties and provide strategies to assist teachers to improve the literacy outcomes for all students.
All schools have access to the APAK on the
Insight Assessment Platform
Auditory processing is the ability to hold, sequence, and understand what we have heard.
The ability to recall accurately what is heard is a developmental process that gradually improves throughout childhood. These skills do not necessarily develop at the same rate as general intelligence or expressive language. If a child’s auditory processing skills are delayed in their development, communication and learning difficulties can occur.
It is important to identify students who experience difficulty following verbal information and who are at risk of not keeping up with their peers in literacy achievement.
Auditory processing ability can be measured using a recorded presentation of both sentences and digits. Students listen to the sentence or series of digits and repeat what they hear. Repetition of sentences of increasing length indicates their ability to understand what they hear in the classroom, including instructions and explanations.
Through their research, the APAK developers have estimated that auditory processing delays affect approximately 20% of students. A delay does not mean a student has an auditory processing disorder, which is estimated to affect approximately 3-5% of students.
Children with auditory processing delays usually have normal hearing but have difficulty listening to and understanding what people are saying quickly enough to follow what is going on around them. Experiencing success in the classroom is important, however, students with auditory processing delays can lose confidence in being able to listen and do things that peer their age can do. They can experience confusion and misunderstanding.
Delayed auditory processing development may affect aspects of learning, including a student’s ability to:
- follow directions, instructions or explanations
- develop literacy skills, including reading, spelling, comprehension, and written and expressive language
- sustain concentration and attend to tasks.
Students with delayed development in auditory processing skills may:
- appear to daydream
- appear disruptive or non-compliant
- be easily distracted or restless
- reply ‘what?’ often and/or look blank
- have low self-esteem
- become frustrated or angry
- seem disorganised and slow to complete work
- demonstrate behavioural differences in a quiet room or one-on-one situation with the teacher compared to a loud environment.
- Around 20% of students in any classroom may have a delay in auditory processing.
- Auditory processing disorder is estimated to affect 3–5% of students.
- Auditory processing difficulties are not the same as a hearing impairment.
- The APAK is a quick and simple screening tool that can identify students experiencing difficulties and provide strategies for teaching.
Auditory Processing Assessment Kit
The APAK tool is located on the Victorian Curriculum and Assessment Authority Insight Assessment Platform. The tool consists of specifically designed short audio clips of sentences and numerical sequences which the students are asked to repeat. Teachers record each student’s responses directly into the online platform.
As the length of the sentences or digit series increases, each student’s developmental progress and ability to understand auditory information is revealed and assessed.
Two different age-based assessments are depending on the student’s year of schooling:
- Assessment 1: Foundation to Year 3, or for older students with learning difficulties or who have a language background other than English
- Assessment 2: Year 4 to Year 10.
Structure of the Assessment tool
- Short hearing test - teachers ask the student to repeat three or four whispered words to ensure any serious hearing deficiency is unlikely before the assessment can proceed.
- Practising answering similar questions - teachers ask the student to repeat a few short word sentences or digit sequences before continuing to the first sound presentation.
- Assessment - a rubric records each student's response, the score is the sentence length achieved before two consecutive incorrect answers.
- Results - individual reports are produced and stored on the Insight Assessment Platform.
The assessment can be administered with minimal equipment:
- a quiet room
- a table and two chairs
- a computer or tablet with access to the Insight Assessment Platform
- A5 card to cover the teacher's mouth for the hearing screen.
The assessment should be administered without pressure so that students can perform to the best of their ability. It is designed so that the use of language is minimal, with as little talking as possible. Each student can be assessed in approximately 6 minutes.
The teacher is the best person to administer this assessment, and it must be carried out in a room free from interruption with no other students present.
On the way from the classroom, the conversation should be minimal as this reduces the likelihood of chatting during the assessment.
Conducting the Assessment
Each assessment has two parts:
Playing the audio track that appears in each question, the teacher asks the student to repeat the sentences or string of digits. Each sentence or string of digits is to be given only once.
Every response is marked correct or incorrect and entered directly into the online platform. A response is only marked correct if every word or string of digits is repeated exactly and in the correct order. The final score is automatically marked when there are two incorrect responses in a row.
Each assessment in the APAK has a rubric that is used to record student responses. An individual student report is produced and stored on the student’s Insight Assessment Platforms profile. This assists teachers to follow a student's auditory processing progress at certain intervals.
When analysing the results, teachers should note that:
- Students (up to the age of 10) who have a sentence length score less than (their age in years plus three) are considered to be at high risk of underachievement in literacy. For example, a nine-year-old who cannot recall a 12-word sentence or a six-year-old who cannot recall a nine-word sentence.
- Students (up to the age of 10) who have a string of digits score less than three are considered to be at a high risk of experiencing difficulties learning to read and spell. For example, putting together a word like C-A-T requires a digit span of three.
- Students in their final year of primary school and early secondary school who cannot recall five digits or a 13-word sentence are considered to be at high risk of underachievement in all aspects of literacy (spelling, reading, comprehension, narrative and argumentative writing).
Delay in the expected rate of development of auditory processing ability does not necessarily imply a ‘diagnosis’, there may be a combination of factors for the student at the time of assessment. Each child will respond differently to language overload depending on their personality and life experiences.
Other students at risk may also include:
- students with attention deficit disorder
- speech and language difficulties
- emotional distress
- students who are unfamiliar with the language (either language background other than English or unfamiliar language content).
- Find out what is the reported developmental ability of the student.
- Identify those who experience difficulty following verbal information and who are at risk of performing below expected levels for age in literacy achievement.
- Implement strategies to support the whole class and especially those at risk.
Supporting students with auditory processing delays
Learning and teaching strategies
Students with auditory processing difficulties often miss or misunderstand information that is spoken to them. When classroom instructions are rapid and run together without time for a student to process the information it can result in students asking their peers, needing repetition and losing interest.
There is more success when the student’s attention is gained and instructions are given slowly with time to either process the information or time to perform the task before the next instructions are given. If the information or instructions are not understood, it should be re-stated more simply.
Structured and communicated teaching approaches and expectations may benefit students with auditory processing difficulties. Teaching approaches need to be well-defined with clear communication supported by visual materials, where appropriate. This may also apply to:
- the presentation of tasks
- learning environments (see below for further information).
Effective teaching strategies
- Attract the student’s attention
- Speak slowly
- Emphasise keywords
- Group information
- Pause, check for understanding
- If needing to repeat information – speak slowly, pause and simplify (not elaborate)
- Before introducing new information, ensure students are familiar with previous concepts and tasks
- When introducing new concepts ensure that students are familiar with new language or terms
- Use routines and visual cues where appropriate.
The learning environment
When supporting students to process information, consideration should be given to:
- classroom acoustics
- reduction of background noise
- student placement within the classroom (such as seated closer to the teacher to hear better)
- undertaking tests or assignments in an area away from distractions.
Additional support available
Depending on the student’s circumstances and needs, the following supports may be useful to help address auditory processing difficulties.
English as an Additional Language (EAL)
Teachers should use a range of assessment data and strategies to inform their judgements regarding EAL students’ learning needs. The Department of Education and Training (DET) assists teachers in providing targeted
support for EAL learners.
EAL Resources Directory diagram is designed to provide a comprehensive overview of the resources provided by the Victorian Curriculum and Assessment Authority (VCAA) and DET to support schools in implementing the EAL language curriculum in Victorian schools.
To meet the individual needs of the student, schools can make
- in the classroom
- in the playground
- to excursions and camps
- to the premises.
Examples of adjustments include:
- providing students with a clear structure for each lesson
- using technology and equipment such as noise-cancelling headphones when it’s noisy to help students concentrate
- offering learning materials in different ways, for example using visuals.
You can talk to the student's family, the student and/or the student support group to explore what adjustments may be suitable.
Reasonable adjustments often benefit not just the student involved, but the entire school.
Individual Education Plans
Students with auditory processing delays may benefit from an individual education plan (IEP).
An IEP is a written statement of the educational program designed to meet a student’s individual needs. It is important to work with the student’s family when identifying learning goals and to create ways to achieve these goals.
Collaboration between the student’s teachers is also important to make sure their learning and behavioural strategies are consistent in every class.
Student support services
Your school has access to student support services. Student support services have psychologists, social workers and speech pathologists who can work with school staff to help them meet a student’s individual needs.
Language and learning disabilities support
The language and learning disabilities support program give schools funding to help them teach students with language and learning disabilities. Support provided with this funding can include teaching staff, equipment and professional development.
Program for students with disabilities
Program for Students with Disabilities (PSD) gives extra resources to schools to help them support eligible children with disability or high needs.
Raising Children Network provides support and advice to children with an auditory processing disorder.
Technical assistance is available for schools via the
DET service gateway.
Provide as much information about the issue as possible including name, school and campus number. Screenshots displaying error messages should also be provided where possible.
For general, non-technical enquiries, email:
Rowe, K.J., & Rowe, K.S. (2001). Auditory Processing for Children at School Entry: An Evidence-Based Approach to an Evaluation of a Teacher Screening and Professional Development Program. Background paper to keynote address presented at the Third International Disciplinary Conference on Evidence-Based Policies and Indicator Systems, University of Durham, England, July 4-7, 2001.