January 22, 2011

When it pays to be an AVT kid

Some people struggle to understand the difference between auditory-verbal therapy and other oral methods to develop spoken language in deaf and hard of hearing children. Even professionals in audiology and education have questioned why our kids need something other than speech services. I've always maintained that my daughter's hearing loss has nothing to do with what comes out of her mouth (what a speech language pathologist addresses) but is centered around what goes into her ears and processed by her brain.

With auditory-verbal therapy, Hadley learned how to maximize her hearing through careful listening and speech discrimination. We kept our expectations high as she began to talk, put words together, followed simple commands, then more complex requests. We talked in quiet rooms, but also in larger groups, crowds, restaurants, outside, at the playground, at the beach, in the car. We listened to sounds around us: household sounds, animals, instruments, music, construction, and weather. As she grew older, we expected more: just as one would with a typical child.

Part of my motivation to put so much language into Hadley from a very young age was out of concern that she would lose more hearing in her grade school years (something the research supported, at the time). As she experienced complications, through medical problems like ear infections to technology failures with hearing aids, I realized the importance of giving her the needed skills to continue to communicate with the whole world during these episodes. It's hard, but her ability to attend school and activities during these times is a direct result of the auditory-verbal tools she has developed (and continues to fine-tune).

In the nine years we have been in the AVT world, we have met some amazing friends and families who live and breathe AVT as we do. Several of their children are experiencing significant complications right now with their hearing that will likely require surgery in the very near future and follow up therapy. These AVT kids rely more than ever on their careful listening, attention to cues, and ability to discern and decipher speech sounds...and they can do it because they've been pushing themselves this whole time. AVT kids prepare like extreme runners: they learn the basics, then continue to push themselves to improve, listen more closely, and understand more complex speech more quickly. We know it's not easy, even though they make it seem so effortless, and are thinking of G, J and O as they are forced into this very unexpected marathon.


  1. Well said!!
    Cindy Scott

  2. I was sent to public school ( even preschool) and I never have AVT nor went to oral school. They made me "listen" to my teacher and students everyday in all waking hours with my FM ( profound deaf) . I'm not very fond of that method as I kept falling behind. Its very important that your child is capable of hearing ( beyond speech level) very well otherwise I will suggest to make sure you child have accessible language (ASL) before kindergarten. It really does make make a child delay if your child can't hear as well . And your child will feel she is not bright as other students ( she'll think she can't hear,speak, read, write, learn, act, or just do anything right )I've been there.

  3. You're absolutely right that just throwing hearing aids on a child and sending them out into the world doesn't necessarily provide that child with the tools to successfully navigate the hearing, speaking, and listening world. Hadley's early years in auditory-verbal therapy have been integral to her ability to flourish in mainstream classrooms, participate in foreign language classes, enjoy music and feel just as important as her hearing peers.