Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Mini Conference: Making Your Home a Language-Rich Environment

The Columbus Children's hearing program hosts free classes for parents every now and then. This is the first one I've been able to take advantage of and wanted to share information from what was presented. I walked away with a lot of good reminders of past lessons learned as well as new ideas.

Here are some highlights:

Language is different from speech. Language includes what words mean, how to make new words, how to put words together, and what word combinations are best in what situations.
  • We have to teach our kids every.little.thing when it comes to language, (including something that seems as simple as making a word plural) - it's these "simpler things" that typical hearing kids learn through incidental listening, that truly aren't that "simple" for our kiddos.
The brain will not know what to do with the input from cochlear implants without continuous language input. We as parents, have to train our child's brain to learn to listen and process what is heard by immersing them in a world of spoken language. I always stress to my family and friends ... CIs are not this instant cure for Aiden's deafness; they're a foundation on which to build, a tool. Without a lot of continuous hard work and dedication, Aiden's CIs will not be effective in reaching our goals for him to listen and speak.

Create a Communicative Environment
  • NARRATE! Through self talk (describe what you are doing) and parallel talk (what your child is experiencing) and use a lot of description in your statements. I like to use the five senses to help me here with lots of adjectives.
  • SILENCE is just as important as NARRATION to give the child time to process what was heard.
  • Go ONE STEP ABOVE - if the child is using one word phrases, use a lot of two word phrases; two words go to three etc. Always give them a little more so they're constantly learning and expanding.
  • Create an AUDITORY SANDWICH or TELL then SHOW then TELL again (so the child HEARS-SEES-HEARS). Even when I read books to Aiden I highlight what's on the next page before he sees it. Not only does he hear it first, but it gets him excited about what's to come (and keeps his interest) and teaches him to start predicting which is a very important element in reading comprehension.
  • Use ACOUSTIC HIGHLIGHTING to emphasize important parts of a sentence; OR ACOUSTIC LOWLIGHTING (whispering) to do the same. Lowlighting is also good to help with articulation issues. For example, I use this with the /h/ and /f/ so the letter sound doesn't get lost in the rest of the word.
  • Use experience books to EXTEND BEYOND THE HEAR AND NOW. They're great for preteaching new vocabulary, reviewing an activity and/or new vocabulary, and connecting the child's personal experiences with new lessons (which is also a huge element in reading comprehension).
The most interesting part of the conference for me was talking about the TEACHING HIERARCHY. The child typically goes through the following stages when learning new vocabulary words and syntax structures.
  • INPUT - Bombard them with the new word(s). TALK, talk, talk about it in all ways possible.
  • COMPREHENSION - The child SHOWS they receptively comprehend the new word.
  • IMITATION - The child IMITATES the word.
  • SPONTANEOUS USE - The child EXPRESSES the word in the correct context spontaneously.
We were told that the biggest mistake parents can make is to skip the comprehension stage and go straight to imitation which can cause the child to repeat everything (parrot like), without necessarily understanding what's being said. We have the opposite problem where Aiden can easily get "stuck" at the "comprehension" stage and not move on to imitation or spontaneous use. Ways we can help get around this are to:
  • Ask another person a question about the item then immediately ask the same question to Aiden.
  • Give Aiden the first phoneme of the targeted word (tried this ... doesn't work with Aiden)
  • Use handcue on self, then on child (this is what works with Aiden, very well, but sometimes he doesn't talk until a hand is placed by his mouth, which is not good, so we're trying to steer away from this too. He is starting to be a lot more vocal on his own and at home, just not in therapy. We also use the cheap plastic microphones you can get at a dollar store or Target dollar aisle.)
The presenter gave us a Lexicon vocabulary list of 100+ first words broken into categories, each with a column to check the hierarchy stage the child is at (it even has a list of the learning to listen sound and the object associated with each sound). I love it and wish I would've had it from the beginning. Not only does it help me with what we need to work on and at which stage Aiden is at, but also serves as a reminder of what words we haven't introduced to Aiden.

If you'd like a copy, email me and I'll send you one. I hang Aiden's from the fridge and bring it to therapy.

That was the highlight of the meeting for me. But here are a few more suggestions offered too.
  • Ask questions by offering choices - would you like milk or juice, crackers or cookies - instead of always using yes/no questions. This is how I got Aiden to say a lot of his first words and use it a lot throughout the day for things like "Do you want to wear the blue shirt or red shirt", "What do you want to do first, brush your teeth or brush your hair", etc.
  • Be silly. Give them shoes without laces, put their shorts on their head, make them correct you which therefore makes them talk. My favorite example of this is from Drew's mom, who uses Mr. Potato Head and sticks the different body parts in the wrong place. She suggested starting with just a couple parts then adding on as they learn.
  • Make questions purposeful. "What's that?" is not always a purposeful question and teaches them to answer with one word.
  • Once they are spontaneously using a word, change it up. For example, Aiden has had "uh-oh" down for some time now, so whenever he drops something, we say "oh no" instead; use "see you later" or "adios" instead of "bye-bye" etc.
Kids with hearing loss can be very concrete in their language - they talk about what they see and do. Expanding conversations can facilitate advanced language and higher order thinking. Some idea conversation starters given to us include:
  • What if ... (it rained Kool-Aid)
  • If I were .... (I were a lion, what would I do all day?)
  • I wonder ... (what a dog would say if it could talk?)
  • What could happen ...
  • What do you think ...
  • When I grow up ...
  • When I was ...
  • One time ...
  • You won't believe ...
  • Bet you can't guess ....
  • Remember ...
  • Reading aloud increases listening comprehension, improves vocabulary, improves oral narration skills, and improves phonological and phonemic awareness.
  • Don't just read the words on a page ... talk about/describe the pictures and have the child predict what will happen next. Act out the story. Relate the story to the child's life.
  • Goal - 10 books a day. We learned this when Aiden was just nine weeks old, so we set it as a family goal that between the four of us, Aiden would be read ten books a day. Now it's down to his dad and I and we probably get in about six a day, but if you count the rereading of that ONE book over and over again, we may just meet that quota of ten.
and then of course they talked about the importance of MUSIC and it is best summed up with a quote from Daniel Ling himself,

"When music and song are not made available to them, the experience of children who are deaf or hard of hearing is unnecessarily restricted."


Herding Grasshoppers said...

Such good information - even for those of us with older kiddos!

I think one of the most overlooked nuggets you included was giving them that silence - the time to process what they've heard - and not being bombarded with language all the time1 It's hard work to listen and interpret... exhausting, really!

Thanks for sharing!


Melanie said...

LOVE this, Tammy.

I am honestly considering tattooing the word WAIT on my wrist to remind myself that Peas needs time (as all kids do) to hear, think, process and respond before he speaks. The more you wait, the less you have to repeat what you said. (Maybe I should try it on my husband? ;) )

The Brights said...

Thanks for sharing!