Strengthening the Weakest Link

New York City offers excellent care for children with hearing loss. Unlike many families, we were notified of the possibility of hearing loss well before Sonya was even born, and since that time have been able to proactively deal with it. We are surrounded by the finest surgeons, audiologists and speech therapists. Yet, this will not guarantee that Sonya will be successful in acquiring language. While a percentage of Sonya’s success will be based on the care she receives at the Center for Hearing and Communication and the Cochlear Implant Center, the most important factor determining how Sonya fares will be dependent on the work we do at home.

It’s a frustrating position to be in, as I am the least educated/skilled person in this arena, and yet, the greatest weight is placed on me — especially since Yan works and I am at home. And recently, despite the hours I have already put into helping Sonya develop speech at home, I have felt like I may be the weakest link when it comes to her ability to acquire language.

While Sonya has made leaps in terms of showing us that she hears all types of sounds, she is producing many of the same sounds she did prior to our trip to Italy. Still, I feel thankful and proud that she has come as far as she has. In the video below, Sonya responds to us whispering her name!

So for the time being, I am working to educate myself on ways to help Sonya acquire speech. The following list are things we are doing already on a regular basis. Also below is a list of books I am currently reading – which I thought might interest other parents in our situation. Look out for my upcoming post on how we are applying the suggestions in these books as well.

Ways to Promote Speech

1. Give opportunities for Sonya to ask for what she wants. If a favorite toy is out of reach, wait for her to vocalize that she wants that toy before reaching for it and handing it to her.

2. Imitate the sounds and facial expressions she makes.

3. Encourage her to use different vowels and speech sounds by linking sounds to toys and being consistent. For example, when we play with an airplane, we make the sound “aaaa” and when we play with a car, we make the sound “beep beep.” Eventually, Sonya will (hopefully) associate these toys with that sound.

4. Encourage Sonya to stop and listen to environmental sounds. When the phone rings, doorbell chimes or tea kettle whistles, we stop what we are doing and point to our ears. Encouraging Sonya to stop and listen to the sound – and then identify what the sound is we are hearing.

5. Narrate what is happening. Use simple language to describe the events as they are happening throughout the day. This is especially tough for me. Naturally I am an introvert – but I am forcing myself to become a chatty person.

6. Sing. We sing all day long. I try to add gestures to songs to keep it interesting/entertaining.

7. Read Baby Books. I have been told to choose books that have large pictures and are not too detailed. Brown Bear Brown Bear What Do You See – is a favorite right now. I ask lots of questions on each page, such as “what is this?” “where are his eyes?” “Where is his nose.” Sonya loves to read and typically wants to do so at least a few times a day. She doesn’t always make it through a book, however – and I don’t force it.

Books I am Reading:

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We Can Hear and Speak: The Power of Auditory-Verbal Communication for Children Who Are Deaf or Hard of Hearing

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Learning to Listen: A Book by Mothers for Mothers of Hearing-Impaired Children

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The New Language of Toys: Teaching Communication Skills to Children with Special Needs, a Guide for Parents and Teachers. This book presents toys and accompanying toy dialogues to use with children – teaching parents how to play purposefully with their child.

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