13 February 2019
By: Shefali Shah
In the early days of fitting your baby or young child with hearing aids, it is natural to wonder if s/he is hearing you and whether or not s/he really understands anything of what is being said. While this perspective is not unusual, it is critical that you discuss this with your Auditory-Verbal therapist at the earliest so that your deaf child receives all the support that s/he needs.
It is difficult to continue to chat with your deaf baby or young child, especially if you believe that s/he is not responding to you, to the extent that you need him or her to. Allow yourself to be guided by your Auditory-Verbal therapist’s insight into what your child is responding to and how these responses may be enhanced by modifying your interaction with your child. Most importantly, be transparent in what it is you are feeling that somehow dampens your enthusiasm “to keep at it.” Your Auditory-Verbal therapist is trained to guide you through this.
Every time your hearing- impaired child does not respond or does not seem to understand as you expect, remind yourself that children with normal hearing often do not understand either. However, their parents persist; they back-track to a point where their child was following the discussion and they re-inforce what they were saying or find toys, pictures or resources to explain the same concept. Then they follow-it up by ramping up the discussion/ language to where it originally was. Parents of children with normal hearing strategise: they do not simplify. Resist the temptation to simplify: it only slows down your child’s pace of learning.
The human brain is wired to follow enriched language that is complete in structure and meaningful to its situation, no matter how seemingly complex it may be. Conversation is the vehicle through which it is most naturally presented. Bathe your deaf child in the richness of everyday family conversation. Your child’s brain is similarly wired and will grow optimally when so stimulated.
The unit of learning is the thought; not the word. Therefore when the thought is couched in a complete phrase or sentence and tied to context, it is understood. As your hearing-impaired child’s comprehension of spoken language grows, s/he will understand in Auditory-Verbal Therapy sessions, what is said even when it is not directly tied to context or not specifically directed at her/him. This is called Overhearing. 90% of what children with normal hearing is learnt through overhearing.9Flexer, C.)
As you grow through the Auditory-Verbal Therapy service, you and your family will become comfortable in immersing your deaf child in the fullness of language and in capitalising on the many opportunities for optimising learning via listening alone.
You may marvel at how much your child’s siblings are benefitting from the Auditory-Verbal way too!