Children with a hearing impairment are first and foremost children and during childhood their lives will be dominated by their needs as children. A child’s deafness does not change these basic needs, but it will require the family to manage the deafness at the same time as looking after their child’s physical, social and emotional needs.
The Natural Aural Approach seeks to manage deafness in children whilst allowing them to enjoy, and benefit from, normal childhood learning experiences within the family and the family’s community and culture.
With the technology available today (hearing aids including cochlear implants and BAHA) fitted and managed well and worn during all waking hours deaf children have a real chance to hear. They will then have the opportunity to learn through listening in the same way as normally hearing children.
Through the Natural Aural Approach, children can take their place in the hearing world. As they develop language naturally, in the same way as hearing children do, they have the potential to access and join in all the experiences of their hearing peers.
An Auditory Environment
For deaf children to develop their hearing capacity to the full, they need to grow up and learn in a place where listening and talking are the normal way of life. The deaf child can learn to listen and talk in any place where a spoken language is the way people communicate. Fundamental to this is consideration to the quality of interaction, awareness of the acoustic environment, management of the equipment and recognition that the child is an active learner.
Speaking with deaf children should be like speaking with other children who are of the same age. It should be quick and expressive with good intonation. Normal speech is the easiest to hear, for deaf children too! Over articulation and slowed down speech for the deaf child, really makes it more difficult to hear.
Children learning to listen need to hear the normal sounds of speech. Our natural gestures and facial expressions are also an important part of our speaking. They help to give meaning to what is being said.
Listening Not Looking
Children learning to listen don’t always need to watch – to lip-read. A child will look up to check you are attending as they feel it is necessary. They will take information from your expression and the interest that you have in the activity, that you are both jointly involved in. They do not need to be told to watch your lips and will take that information as they require it.
As they grow up, if they find watching helps them to understand, they will let us know. Some find watching very helpful, whilst many children don’t need to look unless listening conditions are poor – that’s when we all need to look!
Interaction between an adult and a child is the way children learn to talk. Talking together is probably the most important way we can help children to learn. It is equally as important for deaf children as it is for all children. Talking is about listening and being actively involved in a meaningful conversation. A child will participate if it is about something they are doing, or are interested in.
The key to good conversation is sharing – two people, both taking turns, talking and listening to each other.
An adult listener can encourage a child to participate by:-
- Enjoying the child’s involvement verbal or non verbal
- Providing expansions to the child’s utterances
- Providing language for the child’s thoughts
- Modelling language
- Rarely correcting
- Rarely interrupting the flow
- Valuing the child’s intention and meaning