Teaching English as a Second/Foreign Language to CAPD-Impaired Students


Central Auditory Processing Disorder (CAPD) or APD (Auditory Processing Disorder) is usually confused with a physical hearing impairment (i.e. with hearing loss), or problems related to attention deficit disorders, usually comorbid with psychomotor hyperactivity. However, in children with APD, where the conductive hearing has been assessed as normal, the problem is the improper processing of auditory stimuli. It is estimated that 30% of children with dyslexia and up to 50% of children with learning disabilities have central hearing processing disorders. This article deals with the problem of CAPD discovered and followed scientifically in two students. It is also an attempt to answer the question how to work with such students; in particular, how to increase the efficiency of their work and acquisition of knowledge/skills in foreign language lessons. The paper will present a suggestion to be possibly applied by foreign/second language teachers meeting APD-impaired learners in their everyday educational activities.

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Bieńkowska, I. and Polok, K. (2019) Teaching English as a Second/Foreign Language to CAPD-Impaired Students. Open Access Library Journal, 6, 1-19. doi: 10.4236/oalib.1105511.

1. Introduction

To hear does not always mean to listen to, nor to properly receive incoming stimuli. Such a situation does not necessarily result from our deliberate action (when we turn off because we do not want to hear), but from various kinds of auditory difficulties. A well-built auditory organ does not guarantee that heard information will reach us in a complete and uninterrupted manner.

The hearing (otherwise known as cochlear) organ is associated with the vestibular (balance) organ, creating the vestibulo-cochlear organ (commonly called the ear). The ear is made up of three parts: external, central and internal. The outer and middle ear belong to the organ of hearing, the inner (called the labyrinth) contains elements belonging to the organ of hearing and balance. The inner ear, i.e. the labyrinth, is located inside the temporal bone and consists of the bone labyrinth and the membranous part―the diphtheria labyrinth. There are parts associated with the balance: a small bag, gullet, as well as semicircular canals and snail. The construction of the snail resembles a shell and consists of three channels. Two of these ducts (channels): the vestibular and tympanic duct connected at the top, are filled with the liquid called perilla. At the end of the tympanic canal, there is a snail window, closed with the secondary tympanic membrane, and at the vestibular end, there is an atrial window, which is covered with the stapes base. The cochlea is the third canal, the middle snail filled with endolymph, in which the organ of hearing (i.e. the Corti organ) is sunk. The organ is built of sensory hair cells, positioned in rows lying along the cochlear’s canal. The cells lie on the basal membrane that separates the auger and tympanic ducts. A cover film lies above the capillary (hair) cells. These cells are the endings of the fibres of the cranial nerve VIII. Thanks to this, auditory impulses reach the central nervous system (see: [1]; also see: [2] [3]).

Listening is an active process that can be disturbed by external factors. If the information in the absence of hearing damage is incorrectly understood, then one may assume the existence of―as they are called―auditory processing disorders. If, however, these types of deficits manifest themselves on the upper floors of the nervous system, the central auditory processing disorders are commonly expected to be taking place.

This type of information seems to be particularly important when learning a language, including a second (foreign) language. Due to the fact that the use of language also requires the student’s hearing device, inappropriate, or incorrect reception of speech sounds, will result in not always correct reproduction of the sounds, which in turn―especially in relation to learning a foreign language, as well as its subsequent use for communication purposes―will result in the appearance of not always correctly presented descriptions of both the external and internal reality. In many instances, such incorrect reproduction of speech sounds may partly (or fully) invalidate successful communication by the students.

The linguistic reproduction of any phenomena of internal and external reality is based on the possibility of their verbal naming. This situation can be solved in two ways: either we independently come up with the name of a given designatum or phenomenon, or we will reproduce it. The latter way, however, requires that someone else should earlier say the name of a given term, while people who want to reproduce it should, remember the order of sounds appearing in a word and effectively recreate them (however, such a reconstruction will also require the user’s adaptation to the contextual compatibility that appears together with the said name). If then, the learner’s work on mastering the order of sounds appearing in a given term is hindered by various types of disturbances, which we write about in this article, there should also appear in the (language) teacher a need to adjust their actions to effectively facilitate these specific activities taken up by a learner, instead of (which is quite often observed) sending him/her to a group of linguistically non-learners.

In this article, we will briefly present the basic issues of auditory sense disorders related to the correct reception of information, that is the phenomenon known as CAPD (Central Auditory Processing Disorder); later we will mainly focus on selected lingual issues, proposing some ways to help students, in which this type of disorder was correctly diagnosed.

2. Definition

Central Auditory Processing Disorder (CAPD) or APD (Auditory Processing Disorder) are the two names to define the disturbances (a set of symptoms) of the sense of hearing (with the proper construction of the hearing organ and correct work of its peripheral part), resulting from abnormalities at the level of the Central Nervous System (damage to central nervous centers of the brain parts of the auditory system). In other words, as [4] calls it “(…) central auditory processing disorders are irregularities in auditory processing at the neuronal level. They do not result from cognitive and language impairment, although they often co-exist with them” ( [4]; see also: [5] [6]).

While critically analyzing the International Classification of ICD-10 Diseases, it is [7] who aptly observes that: “[a]ccording to the International Classification of ICD-10 Diseases, CAPD symptoms do not constitute a separate disease entity, but they are a group of symptoms resulting from difficulties in the development of acoustic information in the central part of the auditory system, despite [one’s] normal hearing sensitivity”. Similar opinion can be found in a number of papers written by other researchers (cf. [6], for a specification of the researchers).

2.1. Causes of CAPD/APD

The reasons are still not fully known. What was, however, found out are the risk factors that often appear in children with CAPD/APD. These include: 1) prematurity; 2) difficult and long delivery, hypoxia during labor (low Apgar scale); 3) CNS lesions (e.g. cancer, ischemic diseases, strokes, head injuries); 4) lead poisoning and other toxicity; 5) chronic and frequent middle ear diseases; and, last but not least, 6) genetic dispositions, in particular, those associated with delayed or impaired CNS maturation.

2.2. Occurrence, Symptoms and Diagnosis of CAPD/APD

The group of symptoms that accompanies CAPD/APD occurs in various clinical units of various etiology. It is assumed that the symptoms affect half of the children with learning disabilities, including children with diagnosed dyslexia (especially of the auditory-linguistic type), ADD (attention deficit disorder), and ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder).

Thus, the symptoms of CAPD/APD can be divided into:

・ acquisition of language competences: 1) delayed speech development; 2) difficulty with the location of the sound and the direction it comes from; 3) problems with understanding longer commands and questions, in particular, these distorted by noise or bad acoustics, 4) disturbed elements of speech prosody, e.g. intonation, what may result in one’s speech is quite loud and fast, or slow and quiet; additionally, there is often a lack of fluency in speech.

・ direct auditory perception: 1) complaining about excessive noise or other disturbances, which may result in inadequate hearing hypersensitivity (causing anxiety, frustration, or fear); 2) frequent fatigue after staying in an acoustically unfavorable (for a child) environment; 3) paying attention to irrelevant auditory stimuli; 4) poor auditory memory manifested by difficulties in conducting the correct conversation, learning by heart, memorizing new information: word sequences and sound sequences, e.g. names of days of the week, months, seasons, tables of multiplication, poems, etc.; 5) confusing similar-sounding words, syllabic sounds, etc.; 6) difficulties in reading and writing, which has consequences in the appearance of numerous auditory-type errors (incorrect writing).

・ connected with child’s psychosomatic and general behavior: 1) complaining of frequent tiredness and/or headaches; 2) hyperactivity or aggressiveness or excessive sensitivity, combined with crying; 3) problems with remembering activities to be performed, poor organization of work; 4) frequent anxiety accompanying activities, especially performed in public (e.g. when answering at the blackboard, an oral answer before the class); 5) impaired ability to focus on the task or oral presentation; 6) low self-esteem.

・ (generally) with learning: 1) frequent distractions and inattentiveness (mostly in the form of disturbed concentration); 2) losing a thread of speech, focusing more often on the teacher’s voice than on the content; 3) more difficulty in understanding oral transmissions than written ones; 4) problems with music and its perception, (inappropriate or incorrect sound reproduction); 5) production of letters of a dysgraphic character; 6) difficulties in learning foreign languages.

The team of specialists makes a full, comprehensive and multidisciplinary diagnosis, which ought to be made in a trained, psychological and pedagogical counseling center. The diagnosis consists primarily of the exclusion of peripheral injuries of the conductive or neuromuscular type of hearing, made by an audiologist and an otolaryngologist. The opinion of a speech therapist, psychologist, pedagogue and pediatrician is also needed to complete such a diagnosis. While considering CAPD/APD clinical categories, such children are not a homogeneous group. There are three types of disorders that are shown in Table 1 below.

Table 1. CAPD―Clinical categories.

Source: own elaboration based on: [8]

In many countries (Poland included), children are most often diagnosed after starting school and the appearance of the first learning problems. The average age of a child is 8 - 9 years. Considering that the auditory system develops until 15th-year of life, most children still have a chance to develop good communication skills if they are covered with specialist and holistic care, and the teachers will have learned about the nature of the child’s problem1.

2.3. Description of an Individual Case

A well-diagnosed child requires the cooperation of several specialists as well as a number of reliably conducted tests. Unfortunately, the lack of standards for dealing with such a learner, as well as, generally speaking, poor knowledge on CAPD/APD, mean that children with CAPD receive help late, or even not at all. However, the situation is slowly changing and we hope that the following example is the best proof of this.

Paulina’s case: (9 years, a third grade primary school pupil)2

Paulina was born in the eighth month of pregnancy and spent several weeks in an incubator. Probably the mother smoked cigarettes and occasionally took drugs (for this reason, in the third year of her daughter’s life, she lost her parental rights, together with her father). In the general assessment, the girl received 7 points on the Apgar scale. In the first months she showed no major problems, although due to the lack of contact with her mother, it is hard to say anything about this period, because Paulina’s grandmother did not have access to her. Therefore, only after her Grandma takes care of the girl, we are able to learn what happened in the child’s life. Paulina was very shy, she didn’t move much (there were problems with large and small praxis) and had big problems with speech, which prompted Grandma to seek help from specialists. At about the time the girl was also directed to the psychological and pedagogical counseling center by a kindergarten teacher. The cause was problems with speech and selective mutation. Pedagogical, psychological and neurological research was carried out. The research results have shown: 1) the intellectual norm, although in its lower limits; 2) reduction of visual perception and visual-motor coordination; and 3) disrupted lateralization (non-transient crossed lateral crossing3). At that time, the sense of hearing was not studied, but the girl was referred to a speech therapist because of a defect in pronunciation and mutism. The first examination did not pay much attention to problems with phonemic hearing. The speech therapist addressed the “visible difficulties” (selective mutism4 and speech impediments). As Paulina was holding a notebook of meetings with a speech therapist, it was possible to reconstruct the next stages of work in detail. From the grandmother’s account, it appeared that the girl did not want to talk to the therapist at first, only after a few meetings she started a dialogue. Another specialist she visited was a neurologist and a speech therapist, when the girl began attending her compulsory preschool activities in the age group5. Because he did not know the history of the girl, after a short screening Paulina was directed to a dyslalia (speech defects) suffering group (3-patients) therapy. Meetings soon revealed further problems, showing the girl has a problem with correct communication. Although Paulina did not show any mutism-related problems at initial therapies (a neuro-logical and a speech therapy one included), a very strong speech defect, misunderstanding of messages, watching what other children do and lack of willingness to work with other pupils, prompted the teacher neurologist and speech therapist to apply individual therapy and to organize cyclical meetings with grandma and a teacher/tutor so as to coordinate assistance activities6. In addition, Paulina has been thoroughly examined, among others in the field of: phonemic hearing (in-depth study), understanding of speech and independent speech (in-depth study), risk of dyslexia and sensory processing disorders by a sensory integration therapist. Again, while attending the first grade primary school she was referred to a psychological and pedagogical counseling center.

The examination revealed7:

1) problems with understanding of simple structure sentences and commands consisting of more than 3 words (if the sentences were longer or there was a sequence of statements, the girl began to spin around in a chair or hang her head and did not talk; at first she did not signal that she did not understand something; nor did she ask the therapist for a repetition),

2) lack of distinctions of prepositional constructs (above, under, before, etc.―during her classes, she memorized max. two prepositions, which had to be repeated at subsequent meetings);

3) low level of phonation:, the rate of speech being slow and disturbed;

4) poor vocabulary; abnormal grammatical forms were used;

5) the girl answered in one word (on condition she understood the content of the message); the words used in her answers were often twisted;

6) she was willing to describe the pictures, but there were problems with statements, resulting from difficulties in reasoning, inference and generalization;

7) the phonemes were distorted, lowered or moved, and the syllables simplified; in the analysis (the distribution of words), the vowels were lost; at the same time, the synthesis of simple words (3 - 4 syllables) proceeded without any problems, the problem was revealed with longer words, especially in the case of deferred repetitions;

8) very poor auditory memory (which often appeared during the reproduction of sequential material, e.g. seasons, days of the week, etc.).

In the first class of the girl’s primary school, writing problems resulting from difficulties in auditory analysis of words and sentences were additionally revealed: word conglomerates, dropping off endings and parts of words, persistent loosing of letters (especially vowels8), changing the order of dictated simple words (at the end of the first class). She rewrites from the board piece by piece, constantly losing and repeating the already-rewritten fragments9. The notebooks are ugly, full of deletions and corrections (also those of her teacher’s) of confused or abandoned letters. The girl has problems writing words that sound different (while learning English), which means that she keeps writing the words that she cannot read or understand (even from the context10). Numerous corrections indicate that while practicing writing in listening comprehension classes, she tries to support her performance with the visual memory. As Paulina’s hearing impairment was found to be phonemic and visual-hearing integration, the problem without intensive therapy and her own work will intensify itself and even the application of visual memory will not help much in this case.

The strengths found in the girl included: the construction and mobility of speech organs were in the norm; high motivation and willingness to work while attending individual therapy; correct understanding of the therapy goal and social norms (the latter being her grandmother’s great merit).


The girl, after the first successes in therapy, is very motivated to work, despite the big problems in learning, especially in her mother tongue (Polish) and English. The pronunciation defect slowly disappears, which is influenced by intensive speech therapy and grandma’s daily work with the granddaughter. Because her grandmother participates in therapy, the teacher neurologist and speech therapist instructs her how to work with Paulina in respect of CAPD disorders11. The progress is very large and visible by teachers. Problems are likely to increase when the girl goes to further classes and meets more demanding subjects, which is why her grandmother now participates in activities for parents of children with SPE. Paulina was also included in additional auditory therapy in the area of psychological and pedagogical counseling, sensory integration therapy and additional individual classes with elements of neuro-speech therapy.

When working with a student with CAPD, it is important to remember that there are various symptoms of auditory function disorders, including auditory memory and processing of the message heard. The simplified diagram of the auditory processing of a child with CAPD is shown in Figure 1.

It should be remembered that a student with evident CAPD disorders will probably be diagnosed faster by a pedagogue, (who would suspect that s/he has dyslexia), or a speech therapist, who would think that the examined pupil has some type of specific language impairment(SLI), or that s/he simply suffers from a speech defect. The child might also be tested for phonematic hearing disorders. We can definitely expect that a pediatrician, parents or a person working with a child will refer them to an audiologist. Therefore, mostly in order to save the pupil from incorrect and inaccurate diagnoses, what teachers should do first of

Figure 1. Simplified scheme of auditory processing disturbances. Source: Own elaboration after: [4] [9] .

all is to pay attention to problems with the acquisition of language competences and ways of communicating with the pupil. In particular, such deficiencies may relate to: difficulty in focusing on and remembering commands and questions; improper realization of tasks and getting lost in exercises; word distortion (and repetition);, distorted prosody of speech (inappropriate accent, melody, intonation, too slow/too fast speaking12); auditory errors in the recording; difficulties in grasping the meaning from CD records; as well as some other multimedia media. The child may often appear to be absent from the course of a current lesson, scared or overly excited and distracted13.

3. Acquiring Language Skills and Learning a Foreign Language

In foreign language teaching/learning processes (and not only there), it is reasonable to use several guidelines for the course of the lesson process, the most important of which are the following:

- pay more attention to the correct understanding of the commands and questions (e.g. after giving the command we are waiting for it to be executed, reducing the number of questions and commands to a maximum of one or two);

- increasing the exercises to distinguish between words that differ in one voice (exercises of auditory discrimination, e.g. pictures with similar names, picture-letter dominoes, etc.);

- increasing exercises related to auditory memory (e.g. hearing guessing, assigning sounds to pictures);

- paying attention to skillful taking notes, doing exercises (e.g. checking if the student understands the content of the given exercise);

- use of educational computer programs or other devices to increase student concentration;

- to bring more attention to the student’s system of creative behavior in the glottodidactic process;

- freeing the student’s emotions while working on the language (including a foreign language).

An important issue is also the development of self-control in a student with CAPD. Active self-control of their works promotes increased efficiency in understanding messages and developing their listening skills and concentration. This type of self-control can be effectively strengthened by proposing to a student with CAPD to independently (albeit within the framework of externally controlled sound-contextual correctness) decide on the ways and forms of solving specific lesson activities concerning his/her learning problems. Recognizing the student’s contribution to language work will not only strengthen his/her internal motivation but will also contribute to the increase of interest in a foreign language.

Apart from that, in the course of teaching a foreign language it is reasonable to realize a few didactically important issues, the most important of which are:

- a foreign language lesson means the appearance of a sequence of harmoniously designed forms of cooperation between the teacher and the student, in the course of which both parties have fundamentally different tasks to perform; while an important task of the teacher is the smooth and coherent organization of the didactically important activities of the student in the space of using the learned linguistic phrases for (effective) communication purposes, the student’s priority goal is to use the proposed terms for his/her own communication goals within the previously outlined subject of non-verbal reality description;

- a foreign language lesson should provide the student with enough positive stimuli of various types, so that the level of interest of the student in the proposed subject would mean for them a positively shaped willingness to independently solve the suggested tasks; this type of didactic departure not only completely eliminates frontal actions from the canon of language teaching/learning, but at the same time―as de Freitas and Yapp (2005) write in their introduction to the book edited by them―sets out a fundamentally different method of glottoddactic learning of both, specified above, essential elements of the language teaching/learning process. This method, rejecting definitely any shades of frontal teaching, proposes in return a wide introduction of a whole range of activities based on the principles of customization (that is, adapting teacher’s actions to those forms of learning that are accepted by the student), individualization and personalization. Incidentally, this approach seems to be particularly important for students with diagnosed CAPD, where―it seems―only this way of didactic work can bring tangible results;

- a foreign language lesson is in principle an activity optimally useful for the student, during which s/he should see a number of possibilities that help him/her to use multiple communication routes in the course of which s/he becomes the driving force of the entire interaction process; such a lesson is not an action, limiting the power of education to be formed in a student only behavioral sphere, ultimately forcing him/her to enter the area of reproducible automatism; such a lesson shoul,d therefore, be essentially based on the obtained and previously positively verified methods of cognitive acquisition of communication contact;

- a foreign language lesson means a course of action during which the student will receive positive confirmation of his/her interactive capabilities; such actions, due to having them based on the store of various types of divergence techniques, should encourage the student to search for the application of possible communication solutions with the help of which s/he will be able to determine the forms and the ways of transmitting information that will be acceptable by the recipients of the communication process in which s/he participates.

The above-mentioned four essential―as we think―issues should be the basis of both didactic entities during the organization of language classes, regardless of the level of knowledge of the previously mentioned segment of the second language. Even when a teacher has to deal with a student with a poor command of a second language (which may mainly affect students with CAPD14), s/he should take into account both the way of participation in the language learning process preferred by particular learners and the forms of activation of each of them, possible to make use of in a given segment of a language lesson. Any linguistic lesson is not (and never was) based on a linear external message, with a generally available compendium of linguistic knowledge ready at hand. On the contrary, as [11] rightly points out, because the pupil is to remain an “active starting product” (p. 127) of this type of activity, this lesson should be based on each student, both sides (i.e. both by the teacher and by each student) recognized as full members of this type of process in terms of both rights and obligations arising from them.

3.1. On the “Philosophy of Didactic Behavior” of a Foreign Language Teacher

The assumptions we presented above mean, first of all, that a FL teacher is expected to establish a specific “philosophy of didactic behavior” for each student. Such a process should start with the precise definition of educational goals [12] and accurate recognition of the levels of language proficiency for each of the learners. This is an extremely important procedure for both the teacher and the student; in both cases, the initial effect is the verbalization of learning goals, and the subsequent ways of acting for each of them. Since these methods form the texture of a glottodidactic process for each side of the linguistic learning process, they must be carefully assessed and discussed; one should also be reminded of them later.

Another important segment of the language education process, directly related to the overall embrace of the above-mentioned “philosophy of didactic behavior” is to obtain fairly accurate information on the psychological portraits of students. This type of information will allow the teacher to construct a range of didactic activities that can be used in each of the periods of language learning, at the same time contributing to the customization of didactic conduct of the teacher. After all, the ways to work on the language with students who show no signs of dysfunctional behavior should be different than those designed by the teacher to help learn a language by the learners with diagnosed CAPD or other types of dysfunction. In no case does this mean that the teacher will be renounced from pupils considered linguistically less able, so as to let him/her focus on a group of pupils with whom it will not be necessary to implement so many time-and-effort-demanding teaching techniques. On the contrary, one can (and should) try to use specific forms of divergent activities that promote the natural creativity of students, as well as their other interests for the purpose of (moderate, at least) improvement of language communication of each of them.

Our considerations mainly concern proposals for teaching a foreign language in relation to students with CAPD. Not taking into account the fact that these are usually students exhibiting various types of communication difficulties, it should be established that the basic way of teaching a foreign language, also with reference to this type of pupils, should be to abandon the above-mentioned method of frontal teaching, for the benefit of student’s individual work, adapted to the individual (personalized) way of glottodidactic proceedings. Certainly, one should not expect quick, spectacular effects in this case, but it can be said that just making such students feel the sense of creating interactive activities and participating in them alone, leads to a quite clear unblocking of their emotional sphere. However, when joining this type of work, it is important to have a very carefully composed psychological portrait of a specific student, and a thoroughly developed, personalized way of teaching processing with this type of student.

The work plan for this type of pupils cannot be limited to various types of phonological exercises (however exercises related to the distinction at the level of the so-called minimum pairs should constitute an important element of the overall work, especially in relation to a foreign language, and not only for students with CAPD); it should also take into account their increasingly active participation in interactive activities. In addition, this type of activity should not delay the remaining learners in the class, especially when the class consists of the learners learning a language from the very beginning, and the teacher has established a work plan where phonological exercises, as well as basic interactive activities, have been given a high place in the hierarchy of teaching goals in this period of work on the language.

It often happens that the work of pupils and teachers over a foreign language, especially when the fact that language is a speech-based construct rather than a graphic one, has escaped the teacher’s attention, makes many of them resign from too intense sound-imitating exercises. In later periods of study, such a step may often result in the appearance of various difficulties in different types of activities located in the audial and cognitive sphere. After all, students need to understand many of (both spoken and written) messages addressed to them. As they are not always able to do this (because of the reasons presented above), some teachers, when required to teach listening comprehension, often use a seemingly in-depth activity, allowing their students to listen to messages recorded on a tape or record, with their textbooks, that contain printed versions of the dialogues they are just listening to, being opened in front of them15. An approach like this may even be recognized as helpful for dysfunctional students (who are given a chance to employ more than one sense in their attempts to grasp the meaning hidden in a message); on the other hand, however, one has to remember that what mostly matters in everyday communication is one’s skill in successful discovery of the sense in oral message transmissions, with only advisory function performed by sets of non-verbal gestures.

The plan of work on the language in the classroom in which students with CAPD are located should follow the sequences of educated skills and linguistic forms, as well as realistically set time limits for each of them. This does not mean that pupils should be given non-flexible time-based border sequences between sets of exercises devoted to the practice of each language skill, because this type of behavior would look not only artificial but even distracting; however, it seems that passing without excessive grinds from one skill to another, ought to be assisted with one’s full awareness of the quality of the learning goals fulfilled by each of the exercises. Such an approach should appear to be of particular importance with respect to students with a rather complicated psychological portrait (such as, for example, students diagnosed with CAPD). It should also be remembered that one cannot use the so-called “pedagogical abbreviations” of various types, even when―at first glance―they seem to be sensible (e.g. resignation from―as it might seem―too intensive phonetics of a foreign language). As indicated above, various forms of phonetic exercises are an important element in the linguistic development of all students (especially those with clearly diagnosed dyslexia, Asperger syndrome or CAPD); this means proper planning of activities in the field of foreign phonetics, lexis, semantics, syntax and/or discourse for all students in the language class, as well as finding enough time for any designed type of exercises, so that all the students can not only learn how to distinguish between different foreign language sounds, but also their reproduction in different meaning-transmitting sound clusters.

3.2. The Importance of Divergent Processing (Not Only) in the Case of Students with CAPD

Due to the special emotional resources of children with diagnosed CAPD, the essential parts of the working plan to help them learn foreign language should be based on a number of divergent activities of varying degree [12] . These forms of reasoning (see: [13]) are based upon a divergent type thinking that causes (and even evokes) the birth of creative behavior. Due to the fact that this type of didactic behavior is closely related to the induction of various types of positive emotions, as well as a number of activities that strengthen the development of students’ self-control, including this type of activity into the glottodidactic canon will significantly strengthen the mounting of the pupil’s position in the whole work on the language learnt by him/her. As indicated by many researchers (see: [14] [15] [16] [17] or [18]), learners with a greater degree of autonomy in learning a foreign language not only gain a higher degree of competence in faster language learning processes, but also a higher level of awareness in relation to the essence of language knowledge.

Divergent actions significantly increase the quality of foreign language learning, evoking not only a number of cognitive and meta-cognitive functions in participants of this type of behavior [19], but also many activities of a typically educational nature. [20] indicates, for example, that task-based learning helps the learners in the development of their personality, allowing them not only to better understand themselves but also to define the limits of their assertiveness towards other learners participating in FL learning processes. Providing students with the sense of having something only for themselves, as well as a sense of independent acquisition of a specific (non-physical) thing, learning processes, when based on creative activities, help to see various students’ strengths and weaknesses. These actions also indicate how to creatively use the abilities that one has noticed, confronting one’s achievements with the achievements of other people. Giving the learners a lot of positive motivation to work, such forms of FL education put them in a situation that allows them to obtain a large load of self-satisfaction, respect for themselves and similar respect for the achievements of others. Following the opinion offered by [18], a student obtains not only a possibility of individual interpretation of the information found individually by themselves, (when she/he attempts to discover the meanings hidden in-between the lines, or adapt specific terms to context-marked events, for example), but also a chance to learn about different forms of language dialogue production, both the native and foreign ones. As emphasized by [21], the communication organized in this way becomes a form of carefully planned activity in which―most importantly―the students wants to participate themselves.

In order for such a situation to take place, however, the student should be “adapted” to it from the very beginning of his/her learning processes. As rightly observed by [20], after thorough recognition of the strengths and weaknesses of each learner, it is necessary―from the very beginning of fruitful organization of one’s FL organization―to offer all students, i.e. also the ones generally considered to be “linguistically slower”, a divergent contact with the entire construction/superstructure of all these things which are normally referred to as a foreign language. Basing on both what the student was able to independently acquire when learning his/her first (i.e. native) language, as well as on the messages provided to him/her during the first―not too demanding―meetings with a foreign language, which the learner was mentally and emotionally able to make a record of, s/he should be offered reasonably independent recognition of “new” language registers. Such creative contacts with a foreign language, carefully balanced and measured, should sensitize the learner to the fact that each language has its own cognitive repertoire, which―when suitably measured―is able to match the concepts existing in the pupil’s native language. The learner’s work on the fitting of presented concepts will sometimes require him/her to assume a non-standard look at the language that might seem impossible to be measured appropriately at first glance; however, it will teach him/her that the descriptions of reality―the same reality attempted to be described in each of the two languages―can be interpreted in different ways and still fit it perfectly.

Obviously, evoking in the student such a look at the language, as well as making him/her able to accept the suggested interpretation of non-verbal reality hidden in the language requires―in accordance with the approach proposed by [20] ―a series of concrete actions (“pillars”, as the author calls them). Starting from building a positive self-esteem by the student, through activities aimed at creating opportunities for successful contact with a creatively shaped teacher; proposing to the learners in the activities based on individual choice; effectively applying the function of creating questions and seeking answers to them; learning to create connections between emerging concepts; self-examining emerging ideas; and―equally important―building up a self-reflection platform, able to accept critical assessment of the entire spectrum of the student’s educational activity―all these activities should become evoked and mastered within the learners―especially those who start learning the language, both with the help of behavioral actions and―what [20] especially emphasizes―cognitive ones. As a result, one can expect the appearance of another student, a student that seeks, rather than accepts; a student able to evaluate oncoming reality, not being its passive observer; a student having his/her own opinion, not passively approving the opinions of others. Such a student will understand and appreciate the fact that knowledge, information, messages of various types are to value them and use them, if only they somehow prove to be useful.

Although it is up to the student to make the final decision about the type of knowledge s/he wants to obtain, the primary teacher’s action is―as [22] points out―to choose this educative method that will ultimately become the most appropriate and helpful one. Similarly to [20], assuming that the whole set of language education should start and end among, and around, forms of behavior recognized as creative, [22] establishes a creative three-division teaching activity of a language teacher. If, as [22] claims, human actions are based mainly on cognitive (and not behavioral) forms of assessment of the external situation, they must be de facto creative, because such an assessment is based on an individual, unique, human-made conclusion. Due to the fact that the learning function is based mainly on helping (all) students in creating such conclusions, and (subsequently) pushing them to be able to independently produce them, the educational activity of the teacher (and, in particular, the language teacher) focuses on the cognitive activity of the student and help with the increasingly independent creation of opinions on a number of situations/conclusions directly related to out-of-language reality and its correct description by the student.

In this way, [22] points to a number of forms of language teacher’s behavior that appear to be necessary when aimed at helping all FL learners, including those with diagnosed CAPD, gain the ability to look more creatively at the surrounding reality. Based on this way of organizing language learning, one can try to create a whole series of conclusions directly related to the subject of this article. Assuming that a CAPD diagnosed student is first and foremost a student who wants to learn about and describe the non-verbal reality that surrounds them by means of words and gestures, one should, first of all, allow them to fully participate in language activities (organized for them as well). Such participation should rely not only on the acceptance of the fact that s/he has emotions and feelings, and wants to take advantage of the possibility of their externalization but also on the conscious and realistic planning of activities that help him/her in this type of language activity. Due to the fact that the article has its own dimensions, we would like to focus upon some of them only:

- the teacher should not limit him/herself to only one way of teaching a language;

- the teacher should use his/her theoretical and practical knowledge of student-friendly ways of creating a language lesson;

- the teacher should effectively support the creative activity of their students;

- the teacher should also look for such styles of his/her creative activity that can be adapted to the ways of his/her students’ creative behavior;

- the teacher should consider the risk of making specific educational steps an essential element of his/her overall activity.

4. Final Remarks

All the above-mentioned didactic issues seem to be necessary, notwithstanding the form and type of (creatively conducted) language classes. According to the suggestion of [22], no teacher has the right to recognize that she/he is not able (or does not know how) to work didactically with a given student. Knowing what psychological problems have been perceived in a given student, a realistically designed program of didactic activities should be established, mainly taking into account the system that motivates the student to a particular type of educational behavior. Here, in addition to the use of appropriate didactic procedures/techniques, shaping the level and type of linguistic competence of students, while introducing some forms of (critical) reflection on their actions to all students, should the teacher strive to involve pupils autonomously in the whole of the language lessons they create? At the same time, activities expanding the self-decision apparatus for students ought to be mounted. As a number of researchers point out (cf. [23] [24] [25] [26] [27] and many others), a meta-cognitive student is a student with a higher degree of self-involvement in working on language, what makes him/her much easier to cooperate with. Such a student is a student internally aware of the goals of his/her actions, even if she/he has a number of diagnosed psychological losses (see [28] for a set of convincing examples). Attaining such a situation usually means that the learner’s average level of success is increasing, and the willingness to abandon clearly divergent language classes decreases.


1It has to be remarked that, linguistic development and acquiring the basics of linguistic communication are acquired before the child starts speaking, which is why early diagnosis is very important as appropriate stimulation can reduce problems with auditory processing. The most optimal situation would be the one in which all pre-school children undergo hearing and auditory attention tests.

2Information received from Paulina’s Grandma, who is currently the only legal guardian of the child.

3Persistent also in her later life.

4When in the kindergarten, the girl did not want to talk at the children and with the teacher. She used to whisper her requests to the teacher’s ear. Neurological studies did not any show disorders. Paulina was found to suffer from selective functional mutation, with excluded brain dysfunction of endogenous, pathological character (environmental deprivation: parental drug/alcohol addiction and violence in the original family).

5Children in Poland are covered by compulsory preparation for school at the age of 6 as part of the so-called “zero-school”; such activities are often organized at primary schools.

6In the meantime, the teacher neurologist and speech therapist directed the girl to be consulted by an otolaryngologist, who confirmed the proper structure of the hearing organ and the proper functioning of the peripheral part of the hearing organ. However, the disorder was confirmed in the central part, so the neurologist’s suspicions that the girl has been suffering from CAPD have been confirmed.

7Due to the frame of the paper, we focus mainly on hearing difficulties.

8For a very long time, Paulina “did not hear” or distinguish vowels (as if they did not exist for her). Exercises in long-lasting auditory differentiation of vowels, followed by exercises helping her discover the existence of two-syllable syllables let Paulina first notice the differences and then successfully extract them. It was a big success and joy for the girl.

9Copying from the table is more difficult for students (especially for learners with CAPD or those at risk of dyslexia), because of an additional element of reading that appears here.

10The girl’s English teacher declares she feels very helpless because of her ignorance of the disorder and lack of behavioral pattern of curricular approach to such learners. She is fully aware of Paulina’s involvement, but as she said, the girl still does not know what’s going on, she gets lost, then she cries and does not want to participate in classes. This is why she would like to recognize her as unteachable and dismiss her from attending her classes.

11The teacher neurologist and speech therapist has been working with Paulina for three years now.

12Some frequently appearing messages in this situation on the part of the child are as follows: “Can you repeat it, please?”, “I did not understand/understand well what you say.”, “I did not hear exactly”, “I do not understand it”, “It’s too loud here “etc.”.

13Failure to fulfill the duties on the lesson due to the difficulty in remembering what and how to do, results in the growth of frustration and anxiety in the child, what causes frequent fiddling and seeking help from other students. Such behavior (when the child reveals his/her lack of patience, becomes visibly inattentive and often goes around the classroom) usually catches the teacher’s negative attention.

14See the example above and the opinion uttered by the English teacher.

15It should be strongly emphasized that such actions can only be tolerated if they are a prelude to the appropriate tasks that train listening comprehension, during which the learners initiate and develop creative conversations in the field of a foreign language. See: J. Scrivener (2011, p. 249 ff).

Conflicts of Interest

The authors declare no conflicts of interest regarding the publication of this paper.


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