February 17, 2023

Fetterman's Audio Processing Disorder

How the 2022 Midterm Elections Highlighted a Significant, yet Overlooked, Special Education Issue

Senator-Elect John Fetterman’s recent midterm election victory over celebrity Dr. Mehmet Oz sparked much discussion surrounding an auditory processing issue he developed following a stroke in early 2022. A once hulking personality, Fetterman’s disability caused him to stumble in debates and rely on translators, raising questions and disagreements between Democrats and Republicans over what counts as a disability and how disabilities should be addressed.  (Budryk, Daniels).

In contrast to the self-centered political sparring, Emily Blum, Executive Director of Disability Lead, viewed the publicity surrounding Fetterman’s disability as an opportunity to raise awareness and recognize/characterize those disabilities “invisible to the eye” as protection-worthy disabilities.

The debate surrounding the classification and significance of these types of disabilities is not limited to national politics; it transpires locally and daily in schools and other education programs. In fact, five percent of children under 14 years old have some form of Fetterman’s Audio Processing Disorder (“APD”) disability. Yet, securing a diagnosis of APD is incredibly difficult bureaucratically for parents. As a result, disabled children have an exceedingly hard time procuring an individualized and appropriate placement with services tailored to their needs.

For background, Part B of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (“IDEA”) categorizes thirteen types of disabilities, including autism, deafness, and developmental delay. To be entitled to special education services under part B of the IDEA, students must undergo an initial evaluation and assessments by their local educational agency, i.e., their school district, which assesses all areas of suspected disability. If the initial evaluation determines that the child qualifies for special education services, then the school district must hold a meeting and develop an Individualized Education Program (“IEP”). Generally, a child’s IEP must include accurate information about that child, including their needs and current performance levels. An IEP must also include information about the child’s annual goals and the appropriate services they will receive to help them meet those goals. Every member of the IEP team, including the parent(s), has input on what goes into an IEP. The information in the IEP should be based on the evaluations of the child, as well as each team member’s knowledge of that child. A child is entitled to a re-evaluation, at minimum, every three years.

Suppose the parent disagrees with the findings of an evaluation or feels that the child’s assessment was inaccurate. In that case, they may be entitled to an independent educational evaluation (“IEE”) paid for by the school district. With an independent evaluation, it is more likely that all areas of a student’s life will be examined and considered, which is essential to creating a comprehensive plan for their education.

During the IEP process, APD is often misunderstood because many of its symptoms are like those found in other disabilities. In other words, other disabilities – such as speech/language, learning, and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder – usually mask APD. APD is not a standalone category of disability under the IDEA. Nevertheless, identifying and diagnosing APD in children who suffer from one of the other categories of disability recognized by the IDEA can help ensure that the disabled child receives APD accommodations.

Due to the close association of ADP symptoms with other better-known disorders, such as Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder and Autism Spectrum Disorder, students often receive accommodations based on one of the other disorders. However, in some cases, especially with the help of an attorney, parents can tap into the IDEA to secure ADP-tailored accommodations for their children who suffer from the disorder.

Even if a child is not entitled to services under the IDEA, they may be entitled to those services under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act.

In this case, the school district would create what is known as a 504 Plan. Some accommodations available under a 504 plan include, but are not limited to, preferential seating, extended time on tests or assignments, and reduced homework and classwork.


Mizrahi Kroub LLP strongly believes that every student deserves an equal opportunity to learn and succeed in school. The Firm helps parents secure the special education services entitled to their children, such as services offered by schools specifically tailored to their child’s individual needs.

The Firm works with parents throughout the process. For instance, the Firm can help by getting the child appropriate and comprehensive evaluations. The Firm is also skilled at differentiating between disabilities to help correctly identify APD so that the child receives appropriate related services. If you feel that the school is not meeting your child’s needs, whether your child suffers from APD or another disability, we urge you to contact Mizrahi Kroub LLP today by either filling out an online form or calling (212) 595-6200 to schedule a free consultation with one of our Special Education Lawyers.

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