From the time a child is diagnosed with hearing loss the child and the family are on a journey that might be different than other families they know. This is a journey that at times can be rewarding or challenging. While every family has different experiences on these journeys, it is fair to say that they all encounter many different people along the way – family members, professionals, and people in the community. If the family’s “desired outcomes”, what they hope for their child’s future, includes the ability to listen and speak, then it is going to be a journey that takes place over many years, with the support and guidance of many people, including a team of professionals.
In this post, we want to share with you information about the key team members and their roles. Collaboration and communication between the team members and the parents is very important. Every team member provides a unique service and has an important contribution, so no single team member is important than the other.
Parents are always the captains of this team and should set the agenda for what the team focuses on. As the child grows, he/she also begins to participate in the agenda setting, sharing with the team what is important for his/her progress. When choosing a team of professionals for the child, parents should consider the educational background, specialized training, and the experience of the professionals. But above all, parents should consider whether a particular professional would be a good partner to them and a collaborator to the rest of the team.
Key Team Members in Listening and Spoken Language Journey
Pediatric Audiologists have specialized knowledge about the structure and function of the ear, process of hearing, and training in working with babies and very young children. The pediatric audiologist checks the child’s ears, evaluates hearing, and recommends hearing technology. Once the child receives hearing aids or cochlear implants the audiologist has to program or map the device and ensure that the child is able to hear all speech sounds by evaluating audibility, benefit from hearing technology, and speech perception skills. A pediatric audiologist can also help with assistive technologies such as FM and DM systems that can help the child hear in a variety of environments. Some pediatric audiologists might also be trained to provide speech and language rehabilitation services.
Ear Nose Throat Specialist or Otologist is the doctor that can evaluate the child’s ear structures, review MRI and CT scans, do surgery for cochlear implantation or middle ear reconstruction, etc., and continue to monitor how the child is doing. There might be many visits to the doctor at the beginning of your journey, but hopefully once your child has the correct diagnosis and hearing technology, you will only see the doctor once or twice a year.
Speech-Language Pathologists (SLPs) are professionals who can work with the parents and the child to facilitate development of listening, speech, language, cognition, and conversational skills. They should have specialized knowledge in language development, articulation therapy and child development. SLPs develop activities that are appropriate for the child’s age and focused on developing communication skills. American Speech Language Hearing Association (ASHA) recommends that SLPs also provide support and guidance for developing literacy skills. Typically, SLPs are trained to be generalists, i.e., work with adults and children with a variety of communication difficulties due to autism, cerebral palsy, hearing loss, and language impairment. SLPs who get specialized training in working with young children who have hearing loss have additional knowledge and skills to support development of listening and spoken language. Currently, Listening and Spoken Language Specialist Certified Auditory Verbal Therapist is the specialist credential available through the Alexander Graham Bell Academy in Washington D.C.
Teachers of Deaf/Hard of Hearing(ToD/HH) have specialized knowledge and skills in working with children who have hearing loss. These teachers are also trained to teach academic subjects like reading, writing, science and social studies, along with developing their listening, speech, language, cognition and conversational skills. Some teachers specialize in teaching children to listen and talk, while others specialize in teaching children to use sign language. Often teachers work with the children daily or 2-3 times during the week on language and academic skills. Currently, Listening and Spoken Language Specialist Certified Auditory Verbal Educator is the specialist credential available through the Alexander Graham Bell Academy in Washington D.C.
Teachers in the mainstream school, whether it is the classroom teacher, shadow teacher, or special education teacher are supporting the child learn the academic skills in the classroom. With help from the SLP or Teacher of D/HH students, these teachers can also support and practice listening, speech, language, cognition and conversational skills that the child is learning.
For some children, other specialists like occupational therapistor physical therapistwho work on helping the child sit, attend, and have the skills to be ready to learn are needed. Developmental pediatricians, child psychologists, and counselorsmight also be necessary for some children and families who need additional evaluations or support.
In summary, the right team of professionals can make the listening and spoken language journey of a child and the family one that is focused on joint effort, encouragement, strong relationships, parent empowerment, and the achievement of desired outcomes.