Our Unique pedagogy follows normal developmental milestones and addresses the particular needs of young children with hearing impairment. Our curriculum is developed using the following domains:
How do we hear?
We hear with the brain – the ears are the portal/doorway to the brain. That is, the ears are the way that auditory information gets from the environment to the brain where actual “hearing/auditory perception” occurs. Hearing loss, therefore, is a doorway problem (Carol Flexer). Our job is to get through the doorway (by using auditory technologies) in order to access, stimulate, grow and develop auditory neural centres as the basis for talking, reading, learning and making friends. We are activating and growing the child’s brain!
In absence of sound, the brain reorganizes itself to receive input from other senses, primarily vision. Early amplification stimulates a brain that is in the initial process of organizing itself and is therefore more receptive to auditory input resulting in greater auditory capacity.
Audition is the “power of hearing and listening” to develop the child’s auditory brain.
Most children with hearing loss, when fitted with appropriate technology have the ability to hear spoken language. That is, hearing technology, such as hearing aids and cochlear implants, can “break” through the “ear doorway” and direct auditory information to the brain. However, getting auditory information to the brain is just the first, critical step. Next, the child’s cognitive resources must be directed to auditory information in order for the child to learn to listen and talk. Listening may not automatically occur; listening must be nurtured and enriched.
This curriculum addresses hierarchical strategies and stages to develop these auditory skills through the use of amplified hearing. The purpose of this curriculum is to stimulate the auditory brain development and neurological connections that serve as the foundation of spoken language.
Language is “the entire body of words and sounds employed by any community for communication.”
Language is the ability to acquire and use complex systems of communication, particularly the human ability to do so and a language is any specific example of such a system.
Language is made up of socially shared rules that include the following:
Children with hearing impairment need to understand and follow the same hierarchical order of language acquisition as a typical hearing child. It is important to know the current functional language level of the child which may or may not be same as his /her chronological age.
This curriculum contains a hierarchical order for both receptive and expressive language development from birth to five years of age.
“Speech is the verbal means of communicating”.
Speech consists of the following:
How speech sounds are made (e.g., children must learn how to produce the “r” sound in order to say “rabbit” instead of “wabbit”).
Use of the vocal folds and breathing to produce sound (e.g., the voice can be abused from overuse or misuse and can lead to hoarseness or loss of voice).
The rhythm of speech e.g. hesitations or stuttering can affect fluency.
This curriculum is designed to develop speech, not in isolation, but by integrating it into natural language interactions and conversations by emphasizing auditory input to the child’s brain.
The speech component consists of:
Ling’s seven stages of phonetic and phonological development.
A facilitation model is provided for speech development, to our young listeners.
Early development of number concepts is critical to the development of positive attitudes about mathematics at an early age. Special methods and activities will assist children to develop early numeracy skills. These methods will need to include the use of motivating and engaging concrete materials that children can manipulate. Young children need to experience a lot of ‘doing’ and ‘saying’ before written numerals will make sense to them.
As early as 2 years of age, many children will parrot the words ‘one’, ‘two’, ‘three’, ‘four’, ‘five’ etc. However, rarely do they understand that the number refers to an item or a set of items. At this stage, children do not have ‘number conservation’ or ‘number correspondence’.
Cognition is “the mental action or process of acquiring knowledge and understanding through thought, experience, and the senses.” It encompasses processes such as knowledge, attention, memory and working memory, judgment and evaluation, reasoning and “computation”, problem solving and decision making, comprehension and production of language, etc.
Children with hearing impairment, regardless of their chronological age, need to follow the natural hierarchical order of cognitive acquisition. In using this developmental order, it is important to commence at the stage of the child’s development, which may not be same as the child’s chronological age. During the baseline assessment each child will be assessed as per his/her cognitive age and then shall be moved forward as per the developmental order.
Engaging children with a variety of measurement concepts is a great beginning. For instance, children enjoy telling us that they are ‘bigger’ than their sister or brother or ‘taller’ than the lamp or that they are ‘higher’ than the dishwasher. Young children will also think that they have ‘more’ in their cup simply because their cup is taller. Similarly other concepts like full, empty, one, so many etc are all pre number concepts which we will start with and then move to specific number concepts.
Communication/ conversation is a social act and unless one is conducting a monologue with one’s self, it involves at least one other person. Communication within a social situation can be more challenging than just understanding the words of others.
Communication behaviours are required to engage effectively in joint attention and sharing of emotions and experiences with others in a social interaction. In addition symbolic language in the form of words, phrases, sentences and abstract language such as idiomatic expressions, figurative language and sarcasm are included in the verbal and non-verbal behaviours.
Hearing loss affects a person’s ability to interact successfully in a variety of situations. Hence it is important and necessary for teachers/therapists to have knowledge of the development of social interaction skills and to carefully monitor this area of the child’s development. This curriculum will give step by step guidelines to the teachers to integrate these social /pragmatic skills in child’s daily routine.
Fine Motor Skills
Fine motor skill (or dexterity) is the coordination of small muscle movements—usually involving the synchronization of hands and fingers—with the eyes. The complex levels of manual dexterity that humans exhibit can be attributed to and demonstrated in tasks controlled by the nervous system.
Two popular terms that come up with learning about fine motor skills in children are fist grip and pincer grip. An example of a fist grip is when children use their whole hand and wrap it around a pencil to write their names. A pincer grip refers to the pinching muscles. Eventually, most children learn to use a pencil with their thumb and one or two fingers, which indicates that they have developed the pincer grip.
This component of the curriculum contains a hierarchical order for the development of fine motor skills and is provided as a general guide rule. If a child presents with delays in fine motor development, it may be necessary to refer him or her to a professional such as occupational therapist who specialises in this area of development.
Gross Motor Development
Gross motor skills are movements that involve using the large muscles of the body. The development of gross motor skills starts as soon as a child is born. As children age, their gross motor abilities continue to develop and improve.
Gross motor skills also require motor planning — that is, the ability to think through and act upon a plan for motion. A person with poor motor planning abilities may have the strength and muscle tone to climb a ladder, for example, but may not have the ability to place their hands and feet in the right spots and in the right order so as to safely and successfully reach the top.
In this curriculum, a hierarchical order for the development of gross motor skills is provided as a general guideline. If a child presents with delays in gross motor development, it may be necessary to refer to him/her to an occupational therapist or physiotherapist.
“Our bodies like rhythm and our brains like melody and harmony.”
Music is a core function in our brain. Our brain is primed early on to respond to and process music. Research has shown that day-old infants are able to detect differences in rhythmic patterns. Mothers across cultures and throughout time have used “motherese”, speech patterns, lullabies and rhythmic rocking to calm crying babies. From an evolutionary standpoint, music precedes language. We don’t yet know why, but our brains are wired to respond to music, even though it’s not “essential” for our survival.
Music (adult-directed singing) helps to gain the child’s attention and stimulates a response. Adult-directed singing improves the child’s auditory attention skills, auditory memory and also is a social experience, which most children enjoy.
Music has been added as a core area in this curriculum, to enrich the speech and language development of these young children with hearing loss.
We strongly believe in parents as our partners. The key to the success of this programme will be a strong and healthy partnership with the families. Thus each month we will have certain topics that will be conducted by LSLS Cert.AVT and other professionals, to impart knowledge and information to the parents using a mentoring paradigm.
It is always advisable to provide an early intervention to children with hearing loss. The sooner the intervention, the better results it offers. But, Listening Ears, also helps and supports children above the age of 4 years. This is to optimise for them the benefits of the currently available hearing devices, given the late start. Listening Ears will also facilitate with the individualised sessions, to develop in them linguistic abilities that are important for them to be at par with their normal hearing peers. We also support them with speech therapy sessions for speech clarity and elocution. All this is done after their school hours.