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When the Brain Can't Hear    by Teri James Bellis order for
When the Brain Can't Hear
by Teri James Bellis
Order:  USA  Can
Atria, 2003 (2002)
Hardcover, Paperback

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* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Dr. Teri James Bellis (Ph. D.), the author of When the Brain Can't Hear, is a well known authority on Auditory Processing Disorder, the topic of this book. She also has personal experience with the impact of the disorder on daily life and work, after a serious car accident left her with auditory processing difficulties which were not easily diagnosed.

The author's compassion and concern for her patients comes through very strongly as she explains APD, via numerous case studies, in terms of people, the impact of the disorder on their lives, the testing that diagnosed the problem, and results of remediation. She speaks as 'someone who has spent the last several years trying to define and battle this beast, who has shared in the joy of successes and who has provided a shoulder upon which to weep when the barriers seemed too high to climb'.

The author expresses concern that 'because of the common nature of many of the behavioral symptoms of APD, the disorder will become (or has already become) a generic, catchall diagnosis that will automatically be applied to anyone with listening problems, not unlike what has occurred with some active children and AD/HD.' This book should go a long way to addressing that concern, by explaining the disorder in depth, but in language that is easily understood.

One of the more important points for parents from this book is the author's emphasis that these issues are usually not single dimensional, that there is typically not one solution, but a series of them to be pursued. Also fascinating is the explanation of the relationship between some dysfunctions and the right and left hemispheres of the brain, and a discussion of how gender differences in listening tie in to right and left brain activity.

The book covers the emergence of APD at different stages of development from signals of the disorder in infancy and childhood, to its emergence in the lives of middle-aged adults and the elderly (for the latter this can explain why hearing aids do not always help them). She stresses the importance of its impact (in all these stages) not only on the ability to communicate and to learn, but also on socialization skills.

When the Brain Can't Hear is an important book for anyone looking for an in depth but still very accessible discussion of Auditory Processing Disorder. It covers alternatives in diagnosis and treatment, explains compensatory strategies and offers resources. But mainly it holds out hope, from the author's personal experience that 'There can be a happy ending.'

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