The Wait Cue in Auditory-Verbal Therapy

December 28, 2018

By: Shefali Shah

For a generation that lives life at the speed of clicks, it is difficult to come to grips with the reality that children aren’t quite ‘clickable’. Young children need to be allowed time to learn and young deaf children perhaps need to be allowed a little more time. What does that mean for the adults who raise them or spend time around them? It means we need to wait and to be both patient and gracious as we do so. Even humorous perhaps as we roll our eyes upwards in mock impatience, as we exclaim “I’m waiting!” to our four year old deaf youngster, who claims he is on his way to the dinner table.

I recall in several of my weekly Auditory-Verbal Therapy sessions with deaf children between 3;6 years and 5;0 years of age, I would ask a question and they would immediately and with great conviction reply, “I’m thinking!”. It wasn’t until what seemed like an eternity had passed and there was no response from them, that I would look at them concerned and then realise with some amusement that their dreamy eyes told me that their thoughts were a world away and that they didn’t have the slightest intention of applying themselves to the question at hand. I would then ask, “Tell me, are you still thinking?” They would roll me a long look and with a smirk remark,” Yes!”

Can’t argue with that! But I do celebrate because that is SO normal!

The Wait cue may not be a formal Auditory-Verbal technique but it has been instilled in me by my mentor Warren Estabrooks and I believe it truly is an effective technique.

When to wait

Especially in the early days of Auditory-Verbal Therapy, I find myself waiting a lot when I present a new toy, a new sound or the next activity.

I also wait before I expect a response from the baby or young child.

I wait after I offer parent and child their turn.

I wait after I give an instruction and I wait after I ask any question.

As the deaf baby or young child grows through the service and becomes a better and more established listener, I continue to use the Wait cue but the wait time becomes markedly shorter. The budding listener is telling us s/he no longer needs that much time to process what was said and to respond appropriately.

Why wait?

Children need Auditory-Processing time.

I use this term to refer to the time it takes for a child to receive information verbally, hold it in memory, absorb it, think it through and then react or respond to it. Waiting allows the deaf baby or child the time s/he needs to complete this process. As the child is spoken to more and more meaningfully, s/he learns to pay better attention, especially in the presence of a hearing loss. This may well reduce the wait time needed.

Not waiting interferes with this process and may cause the child to forget, confuse or hastily conclude this inner debate. Not waiting pressurises a child to respond before s/he is ready to do so.

Not waiting (and repeating ad nauseum) conditions your deaf baby not to listen the first time something is said, a habit that does not prepare him or her well for school.

Sometimes babies and young children need time to construct or compose their response.

Most importantly, waiting is just plain, courteous conversational etiquette.