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Helping Those Hearing Hassles!
By: Renata Bursten, Dragonfly Staff


Helping children with mild and moderate hearing impairments understand what they hear.



As parents and as educators, we all want to help our children develop the deepest possible understandings about themselves and the world around them. Of course we take advantage of every potential source of data, every sense that the child possesses, to help them build as robust an understanding of their universe as possible. Hearing is the most important sense for the development of language for many children, and sound is a rich source of information that is included into many play time activities.

A child who has normal hearing will receive and process most of the auditory information which their ears can pick up. Understanding develops as the blends of sound and other sensory data are 'mapped' on to knowledge of inner states and outer states.

Some children do not physically receive certain sounds, or they may interpret sound in some altered manner. They are in danger of losing ground in the development of some understandings relative to their peers unless alternative language learning methods are introduced to replace the typical sound dependent dynamics.

Such hearing "impairments" can be caused by fluid behind the eardrums, repeated ear infections, prenatal effects such as maternal rubella, by accidental trauma to some part of the ear.

Playing with a "pound a ball" toy:

A child with normal hearing can follow an instruction like "hit the blue ball" even when the adult is positioned behind them. Even if there is other noise in the room, the child will be able to pick out the meaning from the competing noises.

A child with a hearing impairment might not be able to follow that command. When this failure to act on the instruction occurs, it is common for the adult assume that the child is not following the instruction correctly because of a failure of understanding. They may repeat the instruction without varying the medium, or drop the exercise altogether.
,If the child does not understand the instruction and the ensuing correction because they cannot hear, frustration for both child and adult is sure to follow, and tantrums may be close behind.

Playing pound-a-ball with an adult, a child with average hearing is learning to name colors and follow complex instructions They are practicing fine motor skills, and are developing a strong sense of their own competence.

The child with a hearing impairment is in danger of losing valuable learning time. Failure to address the hearing loss may cause a delay in developing understandable speech, in understanding the speech of others, and in developing cognitive skills like color matching and categorization.
,Children can develop problems with their personal sense of competence. They may act out in frustration or become shy and withdrawn. Their trouble understanding teachers in school may start a cycle of school failure that can profoundly affect adult life.

Thankfully, kids with hearing impairments can learn everything they need to know. We just need to make simple adjustments to address their specific needs.

They need careful attention to their development of good language skills through focused language building play sessions. With slight modifications, the pound-a-ball play exercise can go from frustrating to enabling.

Children need to get the maximum benefit from their hearing, and also need visual cues to back up their hearing.

Play Tip:

Have adequate lighting on your face when speaking. Do not stand in front of a window as the backlight will shadow your face.
,Speak facing the child. Sit across the table from the child, approx. 2 - 3 feet away.
,Place your face in the line of sight, near, but not blocked by the toy.

If the child has trouble understanding the instruction "Pick up the green ball and put it on the green space," give them additional cues with your hands. Ensure that the child understands and can succeed at each activity, finding the enabling combination for good communication at each step. Practice a few times to reinforce the meaning.

Speak normally, as exaggerated lip movements are difficult to read. Adult's need to provide the visual cues that accompanies normal speech, without distorting the message with uncommon motions.

Stay still while talking. A moving target is distracting and difficult to speech read.

,Toys and activities from Dragonfly for one on one language sessions.

To focus early listening skills try:
Skwish,Quixel,Musical Fantasy,Musical Glow Lamp

Learning to follow spoken instructions:
Stand-up Man,Pound A Ball,Sound Puzzle Box,Beads In A Row Activity Box

Interpreting and understanding sounds:
Soundtracks,Animal Soundtracks,Photo Sound Lotto,Listen and Do Levels 1 and 2
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