In Auditory Verbal Therapy, we want children to learn to listen all the time, but we don’t want them to focus just on listening. We focus on audition, but we don’t focus only on audition. Listening is an important factor, but it’s not the only factor. So which is it — is AVT all about listening, or not?
When I observe professionals who are beginning the process of becoming a Listening and Spoken Language Specialist (Certified Auditory Verbal Therapist or Certified Auditory Verbal Educator), or when I consult with school districts that have little experience with AVT, one of the most common mistakes I observe is a session that focuses only on auditory goals. The child goes through auditory activity after auditory activity, and the session is over without the child making much more than a peep in terms of expressive language output. Is this AVT?
When people hear “Auditory Verbal Therapy,” they sometimes think that what differentiates it from regular speech and language intervention is that we work on “aural rehabilitation” or “auditory training.” Not quite. While AVT does focus on helping children learn to listen, listening is a means to an end, not the final goal. It’s not enough just to help a child discriminate between sounds. Our task is to help the child integrate listening into his personality and to help the family develop a “listening lifestyle” that infuses listening throughout the day and uses listening as a means to develop speech and language skills.
It’s not enough just to listen (though it’s important!). We want to use listening to help the child achieve communicative success in all domains. What does this look like?
Making sure a child can discriminate auditorally between his production and the correct production of a word when he makes an articulation error.
Correcting articulation errors through listening using techniques like acoustic highlighting, rather than jumping to verbal prompts (“put your tongue here”) or visual cues (“look in the mirror and do it like me”).
Using listening as a means of growing vocabulary through listening to stories, songs, and conversations.
Helping children gain information about their world through listening — talking on the phone, self-advocating for repetitions and clarifications, enjoying music, etc.
At first, this explanation seems like a tug-of-war. Listening: It’s so important. Listening: It’s foundational. Listening: You can’t get anywhere without it. On the other hand… don’t get so hung up on listening that you forget that it’s your path to full communication. But once you start to appreciate the brain science and understand how listening is the foundation for speech and language development, it’s no longer a competition or struggle between “listening” and “everything else.” Instead, listening become the springboard from which you can help children reach their fullest potentials as communicators and share their voices with the wider world.