February 25, 2009

Becoming Verbal

Hadley's language development began slowly, but steadily. She eagerly vocalized sounds and was able to recognize that certain sounds (aahhh) corresponded to certain objects (airplane). Her receptive language-- the words she heard and understood-- grew quickly. However, as time went by, we acknowledged that her expressive language-- what she verbalized-- was lagging. Working closely with Lea, her auditory-verbal therapist, and her team of audiologists (at Children's Hospital Boston and South Shore Hearing Center, where her local pediatric audiologist worked), we focused our attention to the proper programming of her hearing aids. In 2002, there were few hearing aids available that were both powerful enough for Hadley's severe hearing loss and small enough to fit well behind her ears. We had opted to buy an analog aid that other babies had used successfully, the Phonak SonoForte (Phonak has long since upgraded this line). Her hearing aids provided her with enough input to acquire language, but not enough to truly learn the subtle differences between certain speech sounds. She was not a candidate for a cochlear implant. The audiologists assured us that Hadley would soon be big enough for several digital hearing aids that would give her better access to sound. We opted to continue with AVT; it was working, just not as quickly as we wished. Her team of specialists, including Early Intervention, were all in agreement that Hadley's evaluations did not indicate any other underlying cause to her slow progress. We continued to work on developing Hadley's consonant sounds, which made incremental progress, and showered her with language. Our reward was her ever expanding receptive language and continued attempts to express herself verbally. At age two, Hadley received a new pair of hearing aids, the Siemens Triano SP, a digital hearing that could be more finely tuned to her hearing loss. There was no immediate difference with these new hearing aids. On the third day of wearing them, Hadley awoke from her nap and I heard a subtle but noticeable difference in her articulation. Consonants that previously had been faintly pronounced were much more audible. It was similar to turning the dial to a radio station; everything about her speech was more crisp, more pronounced. Hadley's brain had needed 2 1/2 days to adjust to processing sound in a new way, but suddenly it all clicked. In the months that followed, Hadley's expressive language exploded and her articulation improved to the point that most people were able to understand about 75% of what she said--pretty normal for a toddler.

In the following video, taken in February 2004, Hadley is 2 years, 4 months.

1 comment:

  1. Kerry,
    Thanks for sharing. What an inspiration you are! I'm proud to know you. :)