Is Auditory Processing Disorder (APD) Recognized as a Disability in the US?


Lack of access and discrimination are major barriers preventing kids and adults with disabilities from fully participating in life. National laws like the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) aim to improve this situation.

Central auditory processing disorder (CAPD), or APD, affects the brain’s ability to process sounds. Kids with the condition can hear normally but do not understand them like other kids. This can interfere with their speech, communication, and learning, leading to problems at home and school.

Children recognized as having a disability receive free education and accommodations tailored to their needs—benefits children with CAPD could greatly benefit from. But is auditory processing disorder a disability under national laws protecting children with disabilities? The short answer is yes. However, due to limited general awareness about APD, some institutions may not consider those with APD eligible for these provisions.

Read on to discover precisely what rights and benefits eligible children and adults have under these laws.

Key Take-Away Messages

Is Auditory Processing Disorder (APD) recognized as a disability under IDEA?

Yes. The U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals (2012) made a court decision to qualify CAPD as an “other health impairment” under IDEA [1]. Meanwhile, other states may review its eligibility under other IDEA disability categories, particularly “speech or language impairment” or “specific learning disability” [2]. 

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What are the Laws Recognizing APD in the US?

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) is a federal law enacted in 1975. It ensures that infants (birth to age 2) with disabilities or developmental delays receive early intervention services, and children and youth (ages 3 to 21) receive special education and related services through public schools [3]. 

These services should meet their unique needs and prepare them for education, independent living, and employment. That said, in addition to a specially designed program, the child may also receive auditory processing disorder therapies.

Meanwhile, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is a federal civil rights law that aims to protect people with disabilities from discrimination in daily activities and ensures they get the same opportunities [4]. This covers access to facilities and transportation and equal employment opportunities.

Educational Accommodations for Students with APD

IDEA helps support a child’s education by developing an individualized educational plan (IEP). This plan outlines the child’s current academic and functional performance, sets goals, and details the services the school will provide to meet their needs, including:

  • Special education refers to special instruction designed to meet a child with a disability’s unique needs.
  • Related services support special education. These are given when necessary to help children benefit from special education. This includes medical services for diagnostic and evaluation purposes, including auditory processing disorder tests to confirm if the child has APD. It also includes other services, including speech-language pathology and audiology services, and physical and occupational therapy. 
  • Supplementary aids and services are those  that children with disabilities need to “be educated with nondisabled children to the maximum extent appropriate [5].” This may include assistive technologies, adapted equipment, and adapted materials.

Additionally, section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act protects students with disabilities against discrimination [6]. To be specific, it protects eligible students with disabilities from not receiving the benefits of public education under IDEA. 

Section 504 requires school districts to evaluate and place students appropriately and provide special education, aids, and services [6]. It also:

  • Ensures school facilities are accessible to students with disabilities
  • Guarantees equal opportunities for students to join extracurricular activities and sports
  • Prohibits bullying and harassment based on disability
  • Protects educators from retaliation when they advocate for and report discrimination against their students

Examples of classroom modifications and accommodations include:

  • Extra time to complete tests or assignments
  • Breaking up testing over several days
  • Working on tasks in a group or with a teacher
  • Providing recorded lectures or copies of teacher’s notes
  • Using large print or digital books
  • Adapting content, method, or delivery of teaching
  • Offering preferential seating
  • Altering physical room arrangements
  • Using specialized equipment like augmentative communication devices (AAC), assistive listening devices, or computers

In a 2002 post on the LD Online forum, one mom shared about the classroom accommodations his son shared with her:

“He said the ones that would be helpful would be: 

  • a copy of the notes (to fill the gaps in his notes), he said he would still take notes best he could since he finds that writing the information down helps him retain it better. 
  • Extended time on tests because ‘sometimes I just don’t get to finish them.’ He says reading the tests himself helps improve his reading and he doesn’t mind the extra work of trying to figure it out himself.”

In a different forum, another mother shared how her daughter copes with her classes with certain accommodations:

“My daughter has the same problem. She doesn’t process verbal directions very well in a classroom setting. I have homeschooled her for 4 1/2 years, but when she was in school, we asked the teacher to write things on the blackboard or someplace where it can be seen as well as say it. She would look where things were written and not have any problems. She’s now taking 3 high school classes as well as being homeschooled.

In her psychology class, she informed the teacher herself that she has trouble understanding verbal directions, and the teacher said she would write things as well. Problem solved. In classes where there are a lot of lectures, it would be a good idea for your son to have an audio cassette recorder and record the lecture.”

It is important to note that APD often co-occurs with other conditions as well. For instance, many children have both auditory processing disorder and ADHD or auditory processing disorder and autism. In this case, children with APD need to get a thorough evaluation to get the necessary accommodations for each condition and do well in class.

Workplace Accommodations for Employees with APD 

The ADA requires employers, including state and local government employers, with 15 or more employees to provide reasonable accommodations for employees with disabilities. However, employers with fewer employees may also be required to provide reasonable accommodations, depending on specific state and local laws [7].

Reasonable accommodations include any change to the hiring or application process, the actual job, or the work environment to allow a person with a disability to help them perform essential job functions to the same extent as those without disabilities [7].

Auditory processing disorder in adults can lead to some limitations in the workplace. However, not all need accommodations, while some may only need a few accommodations to perform their roles. Below are the key areas where adults with APD may need accommodations:

Auditory distractions

  • Rearranging or relocating workplaces
  • Installing sound absorption panels
  • Providing noise-canceling headphones
  • Allowing work from home (WFH)
  • Keeping non-work-related conversations outside the work area


  • Providing ample time for responses and questions
  • Speaking at a slower rate
  • Using written communication such as chats and emails
  • Simplifying instructions and asking for written follow-up
  • Being patient during conversations

Meetings and trainings

  • Providing meeting agendas in advance
  • Distributing minutes in printed format
  • Providing materials in alternative formats
  • Adding closed captioning 
  • Using written feedback instead of verbal feedback
  • Providing assistive listening devices
  • Using checklists for task completion
  • Allowing the use of recorders

Below are some real-life accommodations received by workers with APD, as shared in the Job Accommodation Network[8]:

  • A paralegal with auditory processing disorder asked to record fast-paced meetings with attorneys to help process the information. Due to confidentiality, he had to follow strict rules: transcribe the notes within two days, destroy the recordings, and keep the device in a locked drawer.
  • An employee with auditory processing disorder requested a private workspace. Since no offices were available, the workplace provided her with a cubicle on the far end of the room with taller walls facing other employees. Sound absorption panels were added to reduce noise further.

In APD forums, adults with APD shared some of the workplace accommodations they have requested that have helped them cope at work:

  • Real-time closed captions during meetings
  • Written meeting agendas
  • Peers speaking at an average speed with their faces directed at the person and at a reasonable distance
  • Extra monitor for team meetings with the speaker sharing their screen
  • Hearing aids
  • Transcriber app to generate meeting notes

Resources and Support for Individuals with APD

While APD has received much progress in terms of being recognized as a disorder, it is still not well understood, which can make it hard for individuals and families to get the support they need. People with APD should advocate for accommodations to succeed in school and work. At the same time, parents and caregivers should also advocate for their children and teach them self-advocacy.

Families who suspect their child has APD can contact their school district’s Special Education office for more help with IDEA coverage. Meanwhile, the ADA National Network provides comprehensive guidance and training on ADA.

Meanwhile, children, adults, and families of individuals with APD may also benefit from joining support groups like private Facebook groups to better understand the condition, find guidance on how to obtain necessary support, or simply share their experiences and coping strategies:


APD is recognized as a disability in the U.S. under federal laws like the IDEA and ADA, granting kids and adults with APD special education programs, services, and aids that could help them meet their unique needs and prepare them for life. However, APD awareness still has a long way to go, and people with APD and their families should proactively seek the assistance they are entitled to.


Can you get disability for auditory processing disorder?

Yes. You may qualify as a person with a disability if you have auditory processing disorder. However, you must fully meet the definition of a person/child with disability as defined by a particular law. 

For instance, in IDEA, a child’s condition should fall under one of the 13 disabilities under IDEA, and that their “educational performance must be adversely affected due to the disability.” Meanwhile, ADA defines a person with disability as someone with a physical or mental impairment, has a record of it, and is regarded by others to have such impairment [8].

Is auditory processing disorder a mental disability?

No. APD is not recognized by the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), the standard classification of mental disorders used by mental health professionals.

Is auditory processing disorder a special need?

It depends. Currently, IDEA recognizes CAPD either as a “specific learning disability,” “speech or language impairment,” or “other health impairment.” Meanwhile, it is under the protection of ADA as a physical disorder.    However, some schools may not consider APD as a condition, and kids with APD aren’t put in special education programs.  


  1. E.M., a minor, by and through his parents, E.M. and E.M., v. Pajaro Valley Unified School District, 12-15743 (2012).
  2. American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA). Central auditory processing disorder.
  3. Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). (n.d.). About IDEA. Retrieved from:
  4. U.S. Department of Justice Civil Rights Division. (n.d.). Introduction to the Americans with Disabilities Act. Retrieved from:
  5. Center for Parent Information & Resources. (2020).Supports, Modifications, and Accommodations for Students.
  6. National Education Association. (n.d.). Know your rights: Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act.
  7. ADA National Network. (n.d.). Reasonable accommodations in the workplace.
  8. Job Accommodation Network (JAN). (n.d.). Auditory Processing Disorder.
  9. Center for Parent Information & Resources. (2017). Key definitions in Part B of IDEA | Defining Child with a Disability. (2017).

Rachel Ann Melegrito

I’m a licensed occupational therapist turned content writer with over a decade of clinical experience as a pediatric OT. I also used to teach basic sciences and OT courses in a university before I shifted to content writing.