When will my child talk?

October 28, 2018

By: Shefali Shah

Ninety percent of babies who are deaf are born to parents with normal hearing. It is therefore understandable that most parents of babies with hearing impairment want their baby to talk. It is also understandable that parents expect their babies to talk as soon as hearing aids are fitted or cochlear implants are activated. However, natural development does not follow this pattern. Therefore, neither does the development of the deaf child.

First words come tumbling out in babies with normal hearing when they are approximately ten months old even though they have been listening to sounds and to the conversation of their mother from before birth. Nature has wired the brain to listen and then talk. Sufficient listening time manifests as early speech. The same holds true for the deaf baby or young hearing-impaired child. Sufficient listening opportunities propel your baby or young child to experiment with his or her voice, to vocalise abundantly and then to talk.

Auditory-Verbal Therapy recognises that the brain of the deaf infant, if stimulated and amplified early (with hearing aids/cochlear implants/Baha Sound Processor) and in the same way as that of a normal hearing child, will learn to draw meaning from spoken language. As new parents, you are probably wondering, "How do I talk to my hearing-impaired baby, as I would to a child with normal hearing?" Here's how:

Capitalise on meaningful moments. Talk in complete sentences.

In your Auditory-Verbal Therapy sessions, you will be guided to create adundant and meaningful listening opportunities, through your day. Your baby will want to listen because the listening is inextricably tied to a meaningful, fun event and therefore one that holds baby's attention.

Listen together to the rain as it comes down, especially on hard surfaces; listen to the sound of your baby's cereal as you shake the box, just before you serve it; listen to the bark of your pet dog as he wards off any stranger who approaches your baby's pram; listen to the sound of traffic on your street or as you go grocery shopping or to the park; listen to the sound of ducks as they waddle up to your baby; listen to the birds as they make their way home each evening and talk about all of it at the time, with your baby.

Use the Auditory-Verbal technique: I heard that!

Draw your baby's attention to the auditory event by saying "I heard that!" and by pointing to your own ear as you say this. The "I heard that!" cue is a powerful Auditory-Verbal technique that alerts your baby to pay attention to a meaningful sound. As you continue to use this Auditory-Verbal technique, your baby will associate meaningful auditory events with listening. Your baby will then begin to point to his or her own ear, every time s/he hears something of interest.

Play. Chat.

Play and conversation provide the most natural and on-going listening opportunities. They also present key vocabulary in complete sentences. Your baby understands this because context gives meaning. Words in isolation carry little information; embedded in a sentence, that same word conveys a thought and becomes meaningful.

For example:

Consider these sentences which you would spontaneously use as you play ball with your baby:

Where's your ball?

Oh! What a big ball you have!

I'm rolling the ball to you! Ready?

Oh no! The ball rolled away!

The word 'ball' has been used to convey different thoughts in five different, complete sentences; each sentence meaningful to your baby who wants to play. When over time, with sufficient listening opportunities and sufficient babble practice, your baby utters the word 'ball', you are elated!

Through your sessions in Auditory-Verbal Therapy, you will understand that the easiest way for deaf children to learn is when you talk in complete sentences about whatever you or your baby is engaged in at that time. Pointing and merely labelling (e.g. Ball. Look, ball!) doesn't engage the deaf baby; talking about the event in an conversational way does.

Talking is joyful! Allow your child and yourself to enjoy it too!

I heard that! cue as you listen to the sounds of birds