When Sonya was just four months old, she began speech therapy at the Center for Hearing and Communication in New York City. At that time, Sonya was wearing hearing aids, but did not yet have cochlear implants (she wasn’t implanted until she was seven months old). While the hearing aids certainly stimulated Sonya’s auditory nerves, her hearing loss was so profound that they didn’t do much for her. Regardless, we continued to make that hour long schlep each way downtown so that she could receive speech therapy.
You might ask – what’s the point of speech therapy before a child can actually hear? Believe me, I asked myself (and our therapists) this same question. While the idea of a speech therapy session might seem ridiculous at such a young age, I learned and now can attest to the fact that the time spent at the CHC before Sonya could hear was critical. It accomplished the following (and I am sure more):
- Helped lessen the trauma of the upcoming transition to sound. It acquainted Sonya to the therapists, toys and games that she would one day hear – thus easing a transition that otherwise could be quite traumatic. Sonya bonded with her therapists at an early age. We played with balls that chimed, airplanes that would one day be associated with the “ling” sound “aahh,” and toys that moved and played music. These were toys that were visually stimulating, and would interest her even further (without scaring her) the day her cochlear implants were activated.
- Helped to increase Sonya’s attention span. Early speech therapy sessions also helped to prepare Sonya for the future “work” she would have to do. Focusing on a single activity for an extended period of time helped her increase her attention span, which would be critical for future speech therapy lessons.
- Served as therapy for me too. At times, Sonya’s speech therapy sessions were really my therapy sessions. An opportunity to discuss my own fears and concerns as I processed Sonya’s hearing loss. Confiding to Sonya’s therapists, I sought advice from sleep training a child with hearing loss to how to inform relatives and friends that Sonya was born deaf.
It wasn’t an easy time to say the least. I talk a bit about what it was like to travel six hours a week with an infant in Manhattan here. It was taxing on Sonya too. She didn’t get on schedule as easily as other babies. We didn’t have as many playdates (if any those early months), which was hard on me as a new mom. But I am so grateful we did it.
Today, at two and five months, Sonya is thriving in speech and school. The below video was taken a month ago. Sonya will continue to do speech therapy throughout her school years. It’s still not easy, but seeing our efforts pay off is a huge motivation to keep it up.