Facilitating listening and spoken language skills

By Elizabeth Ying, Co-Director, CHC’s Shelley and Steven Einhorn Audiology and Communication Centers, and Anita Stein-Meyers, Asst. Director, Shelley and Steven Einhorn Audiology Center

Liz Ying of CHC is speech therapist for children with cochlear implants

Liz Ying, MA, CCC-SLP

Grandparents have always played such an important role in the lives of their grandchildren and today, given the current social distancing guidelines, some grandparents are farther away from their grandchildren than they would prefer. With technology we can lessen this distance.

Children who use hearing aids and cochlear implants, and their parents, are already very familiar with hearing technology. Many grandparents are too. But whether you’re a novice or a pro when it comes to your grandchild’s amplification, here are some useful resources to keep you and your grandchild connected.

Anita Stein-Meyers is a pediatric audiologist with the Center for Hearing and Communication in NYC

Anita Stein-Meyers, AuD, CCC-A

Included is perspective on therapy intervention and ideas for activities that you can enjoy together that have the added benefit of helping to facilitate listening and spoken language development. Always be mindful to check with your children to ensure that items and activities are appropriate and ask them what they may need as well to support them too.

1) RESOURCES RELATED TO AMPLIFICATION

Technology Supplies:

Hearing-Related Retention Items »

Electronic Dryer »

Books Relating to Hearing:

Harmony Hears a Hoot »

Recommended Books by Healthy Hearing »

I’m the Boss of My Hearing Loss »

Suggested Toys:

Fat Brain Toys »

Cochlear’s Gift Guide for Children »

Cochlear’s Toys for Speech and Language Development »

Hearing-Related Dolls/Animals:

Phonak’s Leo the Lion »

Dolls on Etsy »

American Girl Doll »

Build-a-Bear Hearing Aid »

Cochlear Implant Worn by Kaci the Koala »

2) THERAPY INTERVENTION

Purpose:  Facilitate listening and spoken language development so that the child with hearing loss can learn language in the same way as their peers.

Special Consideration:

  • Consistently wearing appropriately fit hearing aids or cochlear implants
  • Gain and maintain attention in structured play and daily routines
  • Talk-talk-talk about what is going on vs. posing questions like on a quiz show host
  • Allow the child a chance to respond
  • Benefit from repeated and varied exposure to learn a specific word or concept

Outcomes:

  • Expect that the child with hearing loss can achieve age-appropriate speech and language skills
  • Audition is the most effective and efficient means of learning spoken language

Activities:

Caribu Video Calling App »

Together Video Calling App »

Play with a Purpose:

A) Add a listening component to commercial games:

  • Spinning Toys: “You can spin when you hear the word SPIN,” then count “1-2-3 SPIN” or by 2s or 5s for the older child (e.g., “2-4-6 SPIN or “5-10-15-20 SPIN”). It’s best to vary when you say SPIN so the child won’t predict when it will be said.
  • All children enjoy rhythmic patterns and changes in intonation. Instead of simply playing with a fire truck, add a sound association that varies in duration and pitch (oo-oo-oo in a low pitch moving to a high pitched whoo-whoo) or using a long “wee” when sliding something down a slide vs. short “e-e-e-e-“ when playing with a monkey.
  • Make the sound before presenting the toy or object. So, cry like a baby “weh-weh” then bring out a baby, or make a thumping or roaring dinosaur sound before showing the child a dinosaur.
  • While stacking blocks or playing a game of Jenga, pair moving a piece up to the top with an extended “up,” with a rising intonation pattern.
  • Playing card games, give descriptive clues about the card you have before showing the card to the child.
  • If teaching a new routine, making a PB&J sandwich or cutting up fruit for a fruit salad, order the actions into a sequence that you can repeat over and over again. Example: “Dip the knife into the jar, scoop a little bit of peanut butter out of the jar, spread the peanut butter on the bread.” Or when pouring ingredients into the batter, “pour-pour-pour then stop.” Reverse roles and have the child direct your actions.
  • Racing routines with toy cars or while outside are ideal for listening for a target word to begin, such as “Ready-Set-Go” or “Ready-Set-Throw.”
  • Movement games like “Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes” can highlight listening by changing the order from the routine.

B) Try these language activities by Jennifer Manley of the Central Institute for the Deaf. They can be used to practice vocabulary and elicit a variety of language structures for students with hearing loss at any age.

  • Experience Stories – Take pictures during a nature walk, field trip or science experiment. Use the pictures to make a book and have the child dictate the language used in the experience. Children love to see themselves and their friends in the pictures and will want to share the book with others, getting multiple opportunities to practice the target language structures and vocabulary. Check out this blog post for examples of experience stories.
  • Role Plays – Use role plays to retell stories using targeted language. Choose simple books with characters that have dialogue with other characters. Good ones for younger kids are The Three Billy Goats Gruff, The Little Red Hen and Goldilocks and the Three Bears. Add some props to make the activity more fun!  Older kids may like books from the Frog and Toad series or chapters from Pippi Longstocking and Charlotte’s Web.
  • Games – Teacher- and commercial-made games are a great way to practice syntax and pragmatic language. Practice turn-taking, asking and answering questions, vocabulary and more with games such as Candy Land and Memory. Adapt a commercial-made game by replacing the cards with your targeted language. To review question forms and vocabulary using Candy Land with older students, have each student roll a die and answer a question written on a card (e.g., have a student ask Jane if she knows the definition of a gas and what it is). If the student answers correctly, she can move that amount of spaces on the board.
  • Pretend Experiences – Setting up experiences for students to pretend can help with listening and language when the actual experience occurs. Create a restaurant and practice ordering from the menu, role playing each part (e.g., server, customer, chef). With older students, practice ordering pizza. You’ll give students the opportunity to practice vocabulary, syntax and pragmatic language while listening in a quieter setting. The real fun can happen if you make the pretend experience a real one.
  • Art – Cutting, gluing, painting and drawing can be taken up a notch when you use it as a language activity. Have children ask each other for their art materials and say what they will do with it. By the end, they will have a beautiful art project while practicing vocabulary and language along the way.

Shared Reading Experience:

Epic Digital Library for Kids »

Little Free Library Book Share »

3) INFORMATIONAL WEBSITES

Center for Hearing and Communication »

CHI (with Link to Sound Effects Comic Books) »

Hearing First »

AG Bell »

We hope this information is helpful and inspires you to try new activities and intervention techniques when you and your grandchild are enjoying each other’s company.

If you have questions of any kind, please feel free to contact us and we’ll be happy to help you. Questions related to audiology and technology needs can be directed to astein@chchearing.org, while those concerning speech and language can be directed to eying@chchearing.org.

About CHC’s Children’s Program »

CHC’s Children’s Audiology Services »

Tips for Keeping Hearing Aids and CIs on Your Child’s Head »

Request an Appointment »