June 12, 2011

A Blast from the Past

Hadley and I dropped in on an AVT session this week, joining another family with two school aged HOH children who switched to auditory-verbal therapy this year. It's been more than four years since Hadley's last official AVT session; I was excited to return and Hadley was a little apprehensive. She remembers many details of her weekly visits with Lea, Jim and, later, Carrie, but was somewhat nervous of being judged or graded! It took only seconds for her to shake it off and get back into action...the girl does love to impress, after all.
We had never officially met this therapist before, so it was interesting to me to see her style and approach toward older kids. AVT is family-centered therapy, and I've always felt it important for the therapist to be more of a friendly supporter of the family than an instructor of the child. This is especially true when the meeting is taking place after a long day at school. I love then the child is included in the plans for the session, and liked how the therapist pulled out the previously agreed upon AVT goals and shared them with her student. Almost 10 year old girls can be a tricky audience, but the activities they did were all on target with their interests and kept their attention. I was impressed!

Halfway through the session, when the girls were doing an auditory memory exercise involving listening to and repeating back a complex sentence, I suddenly realized that this was the first time in a while that I was sitting at a table and completely focused on Hadley's words. Sure, we talk a lot, but that's often while driving in a car, over a meal with two preschoolers, or in the midst of errands or chores. Even when I'm "listening" to her, I'm often multi-thinking, going over the things I need to do, noticing stuff that needs to be put away, or remembering some long-lost thought and desperately trying to retain it. This time, I was really listening to her words to see how accurate her speech discrimination and memory retention was (pretty accurate!). It was a good reminder to me to make sure I'm that focused on her more frequently, when her words are actually more important than a repetition of an American Girls article.

My other takeaway from the session is how glad I am that we've always focused on strengthening Hadley's listening and speech discrimination skills in all environments, not just quiet situations. This is something we did in AVT sessions from the very, very beginning and it's stuck with us (despite other professionals in the hearing loss field instructing us to restrict environmental noises, like the dishwasher, air conditioner, or washing machine, as much as possible). Background noise exists in the regular world and there won't always be a soundfield system or other additional technology to make things easier for her. Hadley's not 100% in these adverse hearing situations, but then again no person is, regardless of hearing status.

When we transitioned out of our regular weekly AVT sessions, I was somewhat apprehensive of giving up the safety net of regular contact of a trusted professional. I worried that we might miss signs of Hadley regressing or facing difficult situations. Over the five years, I've lost those fears and have felt confident in our ability to build upon her early AVT foundation. Seeing Hadley in action this week confirmed that all for me. I'd strongly recommend anyone who has "graduated" from regular sessions to take a trip back sometime. I can't wait to crash a session again!

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