Introducing the Listening and Spoken Language Series: Strategies for Children with Hearing Loss and their Families

Helen M. Morrison, Ph.D., CCC-A, LSLS, Cert. AVT
Contributing Author, Recipe SLP
First Things First: Ensuring Auditory Access (Book 1)

Hello. I’m Helen McCaffrey Morrison and a new author for Recipe SLP. I’m grateful to Maria Munoz for inviting me to join this group. It’s especially exciting to be writing with a focus on applying evidence-based intervention strategies in every-day settings. The Listening and Spoken Language Strategies Series is created for professionals (speech-language pathologists, educators, audiologist) and students who work with children with hearing loss. The Series is intended to serve as a resource for parents as well.

The Listening and Spoken Language Series offers a contemporary approach to intervention strategies that help young children with hearing loss acquire listening and spoken language developmental benchmarks in conversational contexts. My goodness, what a collection of buzz-words in the previous sentence! Let’s break that down. . .

Contemporary approach: Intervention for children with hearing loss has a long history, with accounts appearing as early as the early 1500’s when a Spanish monk developed one of the first manual alphabets for deaf children. Advances in the 21st century, however, have ushered in a new era for children with hearing loss. Newborn hearing screening, early fitting with digital hearing aids and cochlear implants, and early intervention enable children with hearing loss to hear spoken language and acquire the listening skills that underlie spoken language communication. Intervention strategies from the past that utilized alternate sensory inputs such as vision or touch are no longer relevant for the majority of children with hearing loss. We have a responsibility to ensure that our intervention is compatible with unprecedented early auditory access. This series will help you design contemporary intervention that aims toward helping children realize their potential to acquire spoken language through listening.

Contemporary intervention does not necessary mean that established intervention strategies have no relevance. Rather, we must test our underlying assumptions for the use of an established strategy against the 21st century reality that auditory access to spoken language is a likelihood for the majority of children with hearing loss. We are challenged further by the rapidity and frequency that hearing technology and medical innovations arise. We must understand these innovations in order to exploit their potential.

Developmental benchmarks: Today, children with hearing loss who are fit with hearing technology and receive intervention at young ages acquire listening and spoken language in synchrony with other developmental domains (Yoshinaga-Itano, Sedey, Coulter, & Mehl, 1998; Yoshinaga-Itano, 2003). Listening and spoken language acquisition often follows a typical developmental trajectory with benchmarks attained at ages equivalent to typically developing peers (Davis, Morrison, von Hapsburg, & Warner-Czyz, 2005; Morrison & Russell, 2012; Eriks-Brophy, Gibson, & Tucker, 2013). Contemporary intervention for children with hearing loss requires that the professional have both a clear understanding of typical development and use strategies that ensure that input and interactions can guide the child’s development along a trajectory that mirrors typical development. Intervention strategies from the past that were devised to remediate atypical language and speech are no longer called for as the first course in intervention. Nevertheless, remedial strategies continue to be relevant for those children whose development is atypical. This Series gives focus on contemporary developmental strategies while also providing information about remedial strategies that can continue to be useful.

Conversational contexts: Young typically developing children learn to listen to and use spoken language in interaction with others. They rarely learn language by looking at pictures or cards or imitating syllables. Today, children with hearing loss can benefit from opportunities to learn to listen to and use spoken language in the same rich conversational contexts as do typically developing children. The strategies in this Series include many that can be applied in conversation with young children with hearing loss to ensure learnable input, guide conversations to encourage vocal participation, and respond to children’s contributions in ways to continue learning.

First Things First: Ensuring Auditory Access is the first volume in the Listening and Spoken Language Strategies Series. First Things First describes six strategies that share the common purpose of ensuring that ensuring that a young child with hearing loss is receiving auditory access to spoken language with his hearing technology. Listening and spoken language intervention cannot proceed without optimal auditory access. And it is the daily, hourly, responsibility of parents and professionals to make sure that this happens.

Future volumes in the Series will address the application of speech acoustics to intervention, assessment of auditory function, providing learnable input, guiding conversations, responding purposefully, speech production and guiding and coaching parents. Stay tuned!

References
Davis, B. L., Morrison, H. M., von Hapsburg, D., & Warner-Czyz, A. (2005). Early vocal
patterns in infants with varied hearing levels. The Volta Review, 105, 151–173.

Eriks-Brophy, A., Gibson, S., Tucker, S. (2013). Articulatory error: Patterns and phonological
process use of preschool children with and without hearing loss. The Volta Review, 113, 87-125.

Morrison, H. M. & Russell, A. (2012). What is meant by a “developmental approach” to speech production in auditory-verbal therapy and education? In Warren Estabrooks (Ed.). 101 Frequently Asked Questions about Auditory-Verbal Practice, Washington, D.C.: A. G. Bell, pp. 437-441.

Yoshinaga-Itano, C. (2003). From screening to early identification and intervention: Discovering predictors to successful outcomes for children with significant hearing loss.
Journal of Deaf studies and Deaf Education, 8, 11-30.

Yoshinaga-Itano, C., Sedey, A. L., Coulter, D., & Mehl, A. (1998). The language of early- and
later-identified children with hearing loss. Pediatrics, 102, 1161–1171.

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