Family of Horsham teenager diagnosed with rare condition backing charity A teenager spent most of his childhood struggling to make sense of what people were saying to him before finally being diagnosed with an often unrecognised condition.
Tom Johnston’s family are now backing a charity’s support for more research so more children with auditory processing disorder (APD) are diagnosed much sooner.
At one stage the 15-year-old was wrongly thought to have behavioural issues because of his problem.
Tom, from Horsham, has not looked back since being diagnosed last year and getting the help he needs.
Issues first began to emerge when Tom started school.
His parents Caroline and Colin were told he kept falling asleep in class and struggled to learn his numbers.
Dyslexia was ruled out and an audiologist picked up that Tom was unable to distinguish some words, although hearing tests showed he had perfect hearing.
Mrs Johnston said: “At secondary school teachers would say that he had a behavioural issue, but he was clearly having difficulties with learning and his needs were not being met.
“It was frustrating and upsetting for Tom. He was told to concentrate more, but he would misinterpret what was being asked of him.”
Tom was finally diagnosed at Great Ormond Street Hospital last August.
Mrs Johnston said: “The APD diagnosis has been really positive for Tom and a relief for us because we are able to explain why he has these difficulties making sense of speech.
“It was so hard for us to see him so miserable before. Now, the school teaching staff routinely check his understanding, because they understand he has a physical problem.
“He also gets extra time in exams and for assessed work.
“Tom doesn’t set limits on himself like he did and the sky’s the limit for him. He is going for As and Bs in his GCSEs and wants to go on to university.
“At last he recognises his abilities and his attitude to school and learning has completely changed. He has really grown in confidence.”
Horsham-based charity Action Medical Research is now helping to fund a a London-based study aiming to improve diagnosis of APD.
Mrs Johnston said: “This will mean other children like Tom won’t have to struggle. Had our son been diagnosed sooner his self confidence need not have suffered for so long and he would have received the support he needed sooner.”
APD is thought to result from problems with the way sounds are processed in the brain and believed to affect up to 7% of children.
People with APD often have difficulties listening, particularly if there is background noise, or if a sound is not clear.