ToM Part 1: Theory of Mind and Children with Hearing Loss

Theory of Mind (ToM) is the ability to understand that other people’s thoughts, desires, motivations, and preferences are not the same as our own.  Babies begin life seeing everyone in the world as an extension of themselves (which makes sense, because for the past nine months, they basically were!).  Toddlers might not realize that even if they say, “I didn’t eat the cookie,” the chocolate around their mouths tells a different story.  Young children may have difficulty dealing with the fact that not everyone wants to play their favorite game or talk about their favorite topics 24/7.  But as we grow, typically-developing people begin to learn the boundaries between “my thoughts” and “others’ thoughts” and use that Theory of Mind to navigate social situations.  If Theory of Mind doe snot develop, or does not develop fully, social difficulties can follow.  People with autism generally struggle with this “mind blindness,” which might not be so shocking, but did you know that children with hearing loss are at particular risk for ToM difficulty, too?

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Homeschooling for Children with Hearing Loss

Families of babies with hearing loss often ask, “Where will my child go to school?”  My answer is usually, “Wherever you would have sent her if she didn’t have hearing loss!”  Families who were planning on public school can send to public school.  Hoping for private or religious education?  Go for it!  Homeschool your other kids?  Why not your child with hearing loss?  The whole point of Auditory Verbal Therapy is that children with hearing loss can be integrated into mainstream environments, whatever that looks like for their particular family.  So that said, I’ve always had families on my caseload who homeschool their children with hearing loss, but now with the Covid-19 pandemic, families who never in a million years thought about homeschooling are considering this option for their children.  Let’s take a look at some options, considerations, and resources to help parents make this choice.

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Making Language Catchable

There’s a saying that “Language is caught, not taught.”  It would be impossible (and boring for both the adult and child!) to sit down and directly teach a child every word, phrase, or sentence structure he needs to know.  It also wouldn’t lead to very natural results.  Instead, the best language that children learn is picked up incidentally (indirectly, informally, in the course of daily life).  So, how do we make our language more “catchable”?

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Give Me a “WHY”

So often in therapy, I feel that we (professionals) coach parents to use specific techniques (which is great!) and expect them to just do it because we said so (not so great!).  This is not to say that therapists are being authoritative, or pushy, or bad in any way, but I do think that we generally tend to assume that if we say it, parents will do it — and the majority do.  But whyOther than the rare parent who feels comfortable enough to challenge or question the professionals, I think parents take what we say at face value because there is an enormous power differential between parent and professional. 

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FREE PRINTABLE: Don’t Forget to Feed Your Brain!

Just because it’s summer doesn’t mean our brains take a break from growing.  Use this printable to remind yourself, your child, or the families you serve to keep up the good work of “feeding their brains”!

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The PAW Strategy for Structuring Your Session

Therapists (hopefully!) spend a lot of time carefully planning goals and activities for each Auditory Verbal Therapy session, but professional planning is not enough.  Parent coaching is the heart of AVT.  It is not enough for you, the professional, to know what’s going on.  Parents deserve this information, too!  Below, I’ll detail a strategy I came up with called “PAW” that can help you structure your sessions for maximum engagement.

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AG Bell 2018 Presentation Slides

This summer I had the opportunity to present with some incredible friends and colleagues at the 2018 AG Bell Convention in Scottsdale, Arizona.  Below are PDFs of the slides from our presentations.  Enjoy!

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