Did you know that just talking is teaching? Sometimes it is as simple as that. “Talking is Teaching” is the subject of a campaign to promote learning and literacy for all children. This topic is especially important for children with hearing loss because they don’t have the same access to sound. Every one of you, regardless of having young children at home, has the power to have a positive impact on the developing brain of a young child.
The simplest actions can make a vast difference in the life of a child. Science has revealed how fast a young brain is developing from birth to age three. The more words a child hears (or sees for sign language!), the more their brain will develop. Some very intentional ways to do this are to read a book to your child, sing them a song, or talk to them directly. Other ways are not as direct but are also really important. You can imitate sounds a baby makes. Name an item the child is looking at with interest. Describe what it is or what it is for. Talk about what you are doing. Hum to yourself. Talk to the cat. Think out loud. Read signs.
For a child with hearing loss, there are some extra steps to make this more meaningful. Children with hearing loss benefit from more supporting visual information. It is even better if they can see the person who is talking. This is essential if the family is using sign language as their primary means of communication. Wearing hearing aids for at least 10 hours a day, if they are needed, is another really important way to support listening. Repetition is great! You don’t always need to be original. Ever notice how young children love the same book or song? Go ahead and reinforce it. Add rocking or motions to songs and stories.
Grandparents, aunts, uncles, friends, and community members can also connect in conversation with a young child – and be teaching! Read books to your grandchildren. Teach your nieces and nephews silly songs and repeat them over and over! Say hello to a child in the grocery store. Smile and imitate the sound a baby makes while you are in a line. Name something a child is interested in that you are wearing or holding while you hold the door for their Dad and the stroller. Hum a tune while you pick up something they drop and hand it to Mom. Even your chance encounters are building the brain of a child.
At Constance Brown Hearing Centers we support this process as a Center of Excellence in the State of Michigan for providing screening, diagnosis, and treatment for hearing loss. We help link families to other support agencies ranging from Early On through the local school district for developmental support, or Children’s Special Healthcare Services for medical funding. And of course, we love to talk to our youngest visitors and their grown-ups! Learn about activities you can do with your children at this website, https://talkingisteaching.org/.
By Rachel Clayton, M.A., CCC-A, CBHC Audiologist