Like Sound Through Water:
A Mother's Journey Through Auditory Processing Disorder
By Edward M. Hallowell, M.D.
field of writing about the mind and brain, books intended for a lay audience
usually are either a) accurate in the information they contain but so
boring and poorly written as to be unreadable, or b) well-written and
moving but full of inaccuracies and/or strident polemics.
This book is neither.
No, this book is from heaven. This book is both carefully written and
written from the heart. This book is both informative and gripping. This
book both taught me and made me lay it down as I paused to gather my emotions
before I could read on.
You are about to enter into the private world of a mother, her son, her
husband, and her two other children. You are about to sail on the waters
of their lives, waters that are colored differently on different days,
as you will see. You are about to encounter a parent's worst fears, and
you are about to sit next to one mom as she becomes a hero, right along
with the rest of her true-to-life family.
Save an hour or two for savoring this book. Don't read this book merely
as a resource book about Auditory Processing Disorder (although it is
the best such book I have ever read). Read this book as you would a novel,
a story about discovery and disappointment, understanding and misunderstanding,
learning and not learning, hope and despair, and love in the face of difficult
times, love that never, never quits.
In this book you will see Karen and her husband, John, struggle to understand
their first child, Ben. You will see them wince as they realize that Ben
is not like every other child. You will see them wince again as professionals
fail to get the point. You will feel their emotions as the child they
love receives mistreatment purported to be help. You will see a mom, trying
her best to work within an uncomprehending system of educators and healthcare
professionals, refuse to give up on her son or relinquish her sense of
who she knows her child truly to be.
There is a lonely, largely unrecognized crisis in many lives that this
book brilliantly details. It is the crisis that results when you do not
have correct understanding of your mind, or the mind of a person who is
close to you, such as your child, or sibling, or parent, or spouse. Tens
of millions of people in America today and hundreds of millions of people
around the world lead lives full of wrenching, unnecessary pain simply
because they have not yet found the correct understanding, or diagnosis,
of the mind that they have. In this book, the elusive, correct diagnosis
is auditory processing disorder, or APD. But what Karen Foli more generally
recounts is not merely the journey toward the diagnosis of APD, but the
twisting, turning road from a misunderstanding to an understanding of
a mind, period.
Imagine if you had a child whose learning or behavior or emotions-or all
three-caused your child and you and your family to suffer deeply every
day. This is the case for many millions of children and families in America
right now. And imagine if you, as the child's mother, had to go from misunderstanding
to misunderstanding day in and day out, from "expert" to "expert,"
each with his or her own set of forms to fill out, tests to take, and
jargon-filled explanations to listen to. Imagine if each time the expert
missed the true nature of your child you had to choose between disagreeing
and being told you were in denial, or agreeing and knowing you were not
going to get the kind of help you so desperately needed. What would you
Science knows so much about the mind today. But we are using precious
little of what is known. There are two major reasons for this. The most
obvious reason is that so much is known now that no one, not even the
experts in any given field, can keep up with it all. The subject of this
book, APD, provides an excellent example. To provide proper diagnosis
and treatment of APD, the expert needs the training and knowledge of child
psychiatry, audiology, speech-language pathology, and occupational therapy.
Rare is the clinician who combines the knowledge of all four; and even
with a team that includes experts in these disciplines, the correct diagnosis
may still get buried by the forces of rhetoric, status, or seniority in
But a deeper reason for the nonuse of the knowledge we have about the
brain is stigma. The fact is that most people are still afraid of diagnoses
of the mind. It is acceptable to diagnose the kidney or the knee, but
don't go near the mind! That is reserved for "crazy" people.
This stigma perpetuates the forces of bias and ignorance, and denies the
many millions of people who could get life-changing or lifesaving help
for depression or anxiety or a learning problem from ever getting it.
But Karen Foli would not allow her son Ben to be denied. In this book
you will watch one woman, her heart nearly breaking, persist in loving
her son, staying loyal to what she knew in her gut were his strengths,
even as she rejected incomplete or incorrect explanations for what was
going wrong in his efforts to learn and grow. You will watch one quiet,
brave dad, who sees himself in his son, hang in there for him, helping
his wife in his own special way, and helping his son with his own special
love. You will see some professionals behave like bureaucratic fools,
offering paperwork instead of empathy or knowledge; but you will also
see some professionals come to the rescue, with knowledge and skill and
This book will teach you what you need to know about APD. But it will
do so much more than that. It will give you hope, especially if you, or
your child, or someone else close to you is struggling, not knowing exactly
how to manage their behavior, learning, or emotions. This book will give
you hope by showing you the example of one mother who at first had no
idea what was going on, but with patience and determination finally found
out. It will show you how one woman struggled to find a proper understanding
of her child's mind, before too much damage was done. And she did.
What an act of love. What a lifesaving, determined act of love.
Someday, Ben, when you read this book, I am sure you will fill up with
pride and admiration for this wonderful woman, Karen, who you are lucky
enough to call Mom. Many millions of people will have learned and benefited
from this book by then!