Processing Disorders in Children

Processing disorders in children fall into four distinct categories: auditory, sensory, visual and language processing disorders. Although it is not always clearly understood what causes these problems, children who have a processing disorder face greater challenging is mixing with peers, reaching developmental milestones and developing social skills than other children. Often, diagnosing a processing disorder can be a difficult and time consuming process, because children do not have the language skills to be able to provide precisely feedback to doctors and individuals attempting to assist parents.


Processing disorders in children can range from mild to extremely pervasive. The most common forms of processing disorders include auditory disorders in which the child has difficulty distinguishing sounds, although they do not likely have hearing problems; sensory disorders in which the child has problems processing sensory information; visual processing in which the child may see many different kinds of visual stimuli but interpret it incorrectly; and language processing disorders, in which children have problems expressing themselves correctly or appropriately. Many of these disorders are present in children who also have other issues, such as autism or pervasive developmental problems.

Auditory Processing Disorder

Characteristics of Hearing Impairment and Deafness in Children

Learn More

According to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders, auditory processing disorders in children occur when a child hears the sounds of words, but they are not able to distinguish specific nuances in the way in which a sound or word is pronounced. This can cause great difficulty for children when they are learning to speak or in academic settings. Auditory processing disorders are usually present in conjunction with other disorders, such as autism and autism spectrum disorder, dyslexia, attention deficit disorder or developmental delays.

Sensory Processing Disorder

Sensory processing disorder–also known as SPD –is a disorder in which the central nervous system does not process the information that is fed in by the senses. According to the Sensory Processing Disorder Foundation (SPD) approximately 1 in 20 children are affected by the disorder. There is some indication that Asperger's and other autistic disorders may be a form of SPD. In addition, children who are hypersensitive to sensory stimuli may have SPD. Examples include children who are sensitive to fabrics against their skin, become quickly overly stimulated by many distractions--multicolored bulletin boards in classrooms, lots of activities around them,--and complain about loud noises or crave quiet, just to name a few symptoms.

Visual Processing Disorder

Visual Perception Problems in Children

Learn More

According to the National Center for Learning Disabilities, children with visual processing disorders may have problems with a wide array of problems related to how they process visual information. This is not to be confused with difficulties with their vision and seeing. Instead, children with visual processing disorders brains do not correctly interpret what they are seeing. Dyslexia is a good example of a visual processing disorder in this regard–the child may be looking at a “p” but their mind sees “d,” “q” or “b.” They may also have problems sequencing items they see or difficulties distinguishing between what is the foreground of a visual object and what is in the background.

Language Processing Disorder

According to Mignon Schminky and Jane Baran from the Department of Communication Disorders of at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst language processing disorders are also known as central auditory processing disorders in children. Very often, parents and teachers may notice symptoms similar to auditory processing disorders. However, central auditory processing disorders can be distinguished by the way in which a child verbalizes language processing. They may stutter, repeat sounds, break words (pause within words), substitute words or make other language errors.