But by age two Billy Ray was still uncommunicative. Worse, as he grew from infant to toddler, Billy Ray's inability to listen began to be an educational and social ball and chain for him. Frustrated by an invisible wall that complicated and confused nearly everything he was asked to do, Billy Ray cried and acted out a lot. Unable to state his own needs or understand what other boys and girls asked for, he pushed and grabbed for toys, upsetting his peers and testing his teachers' patience. As his mother looked on helplessly, Billy Ray increasingly retreated into a world of his own. Instead of each new day offering a chance to grow, develop, and interact more meaningfully and happily with the world around him, Margaret, Billy Ray, and their family faced a daily struggle simply to cope.
Margaret could see how much it hurt and confused Billy Ray when he misunderstood and was in turn misunderstood, but she was at a loss as to how best to help her son. It felt as if Billy Ray was on the other side of a door, knocking for her to unlock it, and Margaret simply didn't have the key. Increasingly Margaret worried that if she couldn't find a way to open the door and lead Billy Ray out into the full, rich world of experience, her little boy would never be able to play and connect with his sister, make friends in school, fall in love, go to college, or live on his own. Margaret redoubled the hunt for the key. There must be something she'd missed, someone she hadn't consulted. She made calls, quizzed other parents, scanned parenting websites and chat boards, and read and reread everything she could find about Billy Ray's diagnosed disorder, PDD.
Along the way she happened upon a website that described yet another three-letter syndrome. When she read the symptoms of APD or auditory processing disorder, she could scarcely believe it. Here was the exact list of what Billy Ray was going through. Children with APD:
• Have trouble listening and hearing, especially in noisy environments
• Struggle to distinguish between similar-sounding words and sounds
• Don't follow directions well
• Frequently ask for clarification and to have words repeated
• Do poorly in reading and reading comprehension, spelling, and other classes where verbal directions are key
• Fare better in independent activities and classes where listening isn't a central requirement
One other item made her sit bolt upright:
• Are often misdiagnosed with other disorders such as ADD (attention deficit disorder), ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder), and pervasive developmental delay (PDD)
Intrigued—and hopeful that perhaps there would be more that she could do for Billy Ray if this was his true problem—Margaret started to look further and asked more questions of the growing list of specialists she'd already consulted. She felt she was on the path to discovering how to unlock the proverbial door for her son.
Margaret is certainly not alone in her search to help unlock the door to healthy development for her son. If you're reading this book, you likely suspect that your own child has one of these three-letter syndromes, or you already have a suggested diagnosis in hand and are trying to digest as much information as possible going forward.