July 25, 2009

The Importance of Conversation

I have to admit, it kind of irks me when people comment about Hadley's vast vocabulary or strong conversational skills, as if her skills are wildly abnormal. It's a weird thing to be bothered by-- it is a compliment to her, after all-- but the comments make me wonder if I went too far overboard in the early years of developing her spoken language. Did I do too much and now she sticks out? Many of us AVT parents have joked about how we now have to teach our children to stop talking or how they all sound like little adults with their expansive vocabularies. But behind each joke is a niggling concern that perhaps something we did in the name of therapy went above and beyond what was good for our child...

Added to this is the feeling that sometimes Hadley gets dismissed as an AVT superstar, that her skills and strengths are an anomaly and not to be expected of a "regular" hard-of-hearing child. Yes, she speaks and listens well now, but these skills were not developed easily, rather were the result of hard, hard work-- ours and hers. There were obstacles to overcome and long periods of time where we wondered how to blast through a plateau. There are still concerns, some large, some small. Just because she speaks well doesn't mean that there aren't underlying issues; living life with a hearing loss encompasses a lot more than just listening and speaking.

So, on the one hand, we work incredibly hard to provide a rich and stimulating environment for our kids that gives them ample opportunity to immerse themselves in spoken language. But, on the other hand, our kids can make it look so easy, so others have no idea of the extra effort they expend day after day after day. What's an AVT parent to do?

A fellow AVT parent shared this article last week (Conversing Helps Language Development More Than Reading Alone), which was timely as I was, once again, wondering if I offer Hadley too many opportunities to enrich her language. In short, the study examined the effectiveness of reading to a child versus engaging the child in conversation. While, of course, both are good things to do with your child, the study concluded that having a two-way conversation with your child aged 0-4 was six times as effective in developing strong language skills as talking at your child. Validation! All of those hours we spent prying responses out of Hadley were more important than the countless hours we spent reading together or narrating the world to her. No, we didn't buy a LeapPad or Hooked on Phonics or some other special DVD or set the timer to read 30 minutes a day to her. We talked. We chatted. We read. We conversed some more.

This doesn't solve the dilemma of our kids making their hearing loss look easy...that's an issue that I know we'll be dealing with on an evolving basis for years to come. But it's nice to be reminded that all we did for Hadley in those early years wasn't necessarily what we had to do because of her hearing loss. It's just good practice for any parent who wants to promote strong language development in their child.

Having been reminded of this...I have two 2 1/2 year old boys who need the same rich language environment that their sister thrived in. Time to talk, stop and listen more with them too!

1 comment:

  1. I agree. My son has been wearing hearing aids for a month and a half now. He had a few words before the hearing aids since he has a moderate loss. I do manipulatives and sounds with him everyday and read abt 7-8 books a day to him. The words he has picked up the quickest are those we use in daily conversation--uh oh, bye, no (he is 17 mths, we use no a lot), all done, hello, ank you (for thank you). I cannot get him to repeat moo for cow no matter how many times I show him the cow.