You’re Not Getting Paid By the Word: Hanen Program Presentation

On Friday, October 8, 2010, I attended a presentation called “Parent/Caregiver-Implemented Interactive Language Intervention: Introduction to the Hanen Approach” by Toby Stephan, M.A., CCC-SLP. The presentation described the Hanen Program, a Canadian intervention designed to help parents of children with global language delays.  The program, similar to a Listening and Spoken Language approach, acknowledges that parents are their children’s first and best teachers and, with coaching from professionals, can implement specific intervention techniques. (Note that the Hanen approach is for children with language delays for a variety of reasons, and is not specifically for children with hearing loss, like a AVT.)


 

The presentation opened with videos of parents who had received training in the Hanen approach to help their children who had both receptive and expressive communication delays.  What struck me most was the parents’ skepticism — not just about the program, but about their own ability to help their children.  Parents, daunted by the shock or surprise of having a child with a disability, may call in to question their own ability to parent their child or meet their child’s basic needs, let alone teach him or her how to talk.  It reminded me that, as professionals, we must empower parents to feel confident in their abilities to guide their own child’s listening and spoken language development.

 

Some interesting points during the presentation included:

  • Observe, Wait, and Listen!

 

  • Many communicative acts come before the first spoken word — eye contact, pointing, vocalization, turn-taking — these are all important steps to establishing spoken language!

 

  • Communication requires both language and interaction.  You must engage with your child and add language to the interaction.

 

  • There is a difference between putting on a show for the child and truly interacting with him — which are you doing?

 

  • “Children who lead get the language they need.”  Follow the child’s lead and talk about what interests him.  Adding language to an interaction is useless if the child isn’t interested in or paying attention to what you are discussing!

 

  • Following the child’s lead does NOT, however, mean that anything goes.  Following the child’s lead and imitating his language is encouraging to the child.  Do not follow or imitate language or behaviors you do not wish to reinforce.

 

  • “You are not getting paid by the word!”  Take time to pause, listen to the child, and add meaningful language.  More is not always better.

 

  • When you imitate the child’s communications and actions, it is very reinforcing to the child.  This can eventually lead to the child imitating YOU!  This model-imitation interaction will be crucial for later language and speech instruction.  Think of these interactions where you imitate the child as the building blocks for the child’s ability to correctly imitate you when you model the correct pronunciation of a work with acoustic highlighting a year or two down the road.

 

  • It’s a mistake to think that “teaching” means asking an endless stream of questions to draw knowledge out of the child.

 

The Hanen Program also emphasizes the importance of sending parents home with a written plan after each intervention session, asking them:

  • What will you do?

  • How will you do it?

  • How will you remember to do it?

  • When will you do it/ in what daily routines will you do it?

 

I think this is a nice addition, as it will help parents focus on specific strategies for enhancing language interaction in the home.  It promotes accountability for both parents and therapist, and many great AVTs and oral deaf educators use this as well!

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