You may already know how I feel about flashcards (spoileralert: I hate them), but there is something to be said for repeated practice as a way to cement new skills. So how do we help children with hearing loss improve their articulation in a way that allows them enough opportunities to practice without resorting to drill-and-kill? Give me five!
Consider this scenario: A little girl with bilateral hearing aids is baking with her mother. One of the ingredients is cinnamon, which the little girl pronounces “cimmamon” (darn those trickily similar nasals /m/ and /n/ all mixed up in that multisyllabic word!).
STEP ONE: Catch and correct!
Once the adult communication partner (here, the mother) notices the child’s misarticulation, it’s time for a catch-and-correct. The adult can use strategies like the auditory feedback loop(“I heard you say cimmamon, but it’s cinnamon”) and acoustic highlighting (“Listen. The wordis ciNNamon“) to help the child improve her production.
But that’s not enough! Modeling the word with acoustic highlighting helps the child lay down new “brain tracks” to build a correct internal model of how this word should sound, but it doesn’t give her an opportunity to practice the motor patterns necessary to produce the word correctly. So it’s time for step two…
STEP TWO: Give me five!
Now it’s time to move from perception to production. I like to build the child’s metacognitive skills and emphasize, in an age-appropriate way, that it’s all about the brain, by saying, “Let’s make sure your brain remembers that new word and say it a quick five times.” Then I hold up my fingers as the child practices saying the word correctly, 1… 2… 3… 4… 5!
The level of support necessary will vary by child and by word. Sometimes the child needs a model each time to practice the word. Sometimes we can provide a model for the first few attempts and then fade it out so the child produces the word independently. Sometimes the child is producing it correctly and independently from trial #1. If the child can get the word (with or without support), knock out a quick five to cement that motor pattern and auditory feedback loop and move on!
Two caveats to keep in mind:
No wrong practice! If the child is struggling to produce the word even with modeling and support, don’t have her practice it wrong five times. Dig deeper to find out where the breakdown is occurring and work on those prerequisite skills.
You know your child best. Sometimes they’re in the right mood for a catch-and-correct + give me five, sometimes they’re not. Don’t push it and make the communicative interaction unpleasant. Keep it light, fun, and focused on connection and success.
Moving forward, we’re going to take the information obtained from the child’s error (mistakes are such awesome learning opportunities!) and weave it into future activities for more practice, but the point of the catch-and-correct + give me five strategy is to help the child improve production, give a bit of practice to solidify the new skill, and move on.
In Part One of this series, I introduced the concept of Theory of Mind (ToM) and why children with hearing loss are at risk to struggle with this particular aspect of cognitive development. Now, let’s dive in to what we can do to help build ToM abilities in children who are deaf or hard of hearing. We’ll start with my favorite thing to do in Auditory Verbal Therapy — read a book! Continue reading →
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?
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.
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”?
Young children love to be in control (who doesn’t?). Think about it: so many aspects of their lives are decided for them — what and when they’ll eat, where they go each day, when they take a bath, etc. For children with hearing loss, parents may tend to be even more directive, giving short, simple commands to head off any misunderstandings by a child with limited language. But challenge yourself! Giving choices can help meet an important developmental need while growing language skills as well!
Figurative language: idioms, metaphors, similes, and the like, can be one of the most difficult aspects of language for English language learners, and children with hearing loss, to master. How can we help children learn, understand, and use nonliteral language in a way that is natural?
This is a common question (more like agonized wail) I hear from parents, both in person and online. You go through the entire process of CI candidacy and surgery, and then… the child doesn’t want to (or just plain won’t) wear the cochlear implant processor. Where do we go from here!?!
Whether you love singing or wouldn’t be caught dead singing in the shower, singing is a terrific way to help your child with hearing loss learn important listening and spoken language skills. You don’t have to be an award-winning singer to build your child’s brain through music.
I often receive questions from parents, especially around the holidays, for suggestions of toys that will help their children grow listening, speech, and language skills… and have fun! This week’s tip helps you zero in on what kinds of toys promote language, and which you can walk right by in the toys store because they actually hurt your child’s language progress. Read on!