The cow says “moo,” the sheep says “baa,” and pretty soon the entire therapy room is sounding like a barnyard… but what are these Learning to Listen Sounds all about and why are week p-p-p-ing for the boat and woof-woof-woof-ing for the dog to help children learn to listen and talk?
Learning to Listen Sounds (LTLS) is simply a name given to the onomatopoetic sounds we use to describe animals, vehicles, and other common items (e.g. t-t-t for the clock). We use them with beginning listeners in Auditory Verbal Therapy for many different reasons.
Learning to Listen Sounds are…
Developmentally Appropriate: These are sounds and words that we would use with any child — hearing or deaf — when they are learning to talk. They are a natural way that adults communicate with young children. Talking and singing about animals and vehicles is a normal part of any infant’s or toddler’s day.
Sound-Object Associations: Helping a child realize that “woof woof” means the family dog helps to establish this idea that sounds/words = objects. Before the child can understand that the spoken word “book” means the book on the table, she can connect simpler things like “wee oo wee oo” with a firetruck on the street.
A great way to experience all of the sounds of speech: We don’t want children to learn articulation through “drill-and-kill” methods. Thanks to early hearing technology, many children who are deaf or hard of hearing can develop articulation skills in a manner that mirrors the developmental trajectory of their hearing peers. Instead of practicing phonemes (speech sounds) in meaningless isolation, by playing with LTLS, you can cover all of the sounds of speech in a way that is play-based and natural — by using LTLS, you just end up using all of the sounds!
NOT MAGIC: There is nothing set in stone that saying “ee” for a mouse is the key to success. Different cultures and different families use different sounds, and that is 100% okay. It is the concept that matters.
And one last word about Learning to Listen Sounds… remember that they are a means to a goal, but not the end. Always pair the sound with the word (e.g. “Oink oink — I hear a pig!”). We don’t want anyone getting to kindergarten still calling an airplane an “aah!”