Monday, December 29, 2014

Tribute to Marion Downs - Pioneer Audiologist Who Began Newborn Hearing Testing

Remembering The Pioneering Audiologist Who Tested Hearing At  Birth 
Today's blog is a repost from National Public Radio's "All Things Considered", a tribute to Dr. Marion Downs.
Marion passed away in November 2014 at the age of 100. She has impacted almost everyone who will read this blog post in some manner. 
A life well lived.
For more than 30 years, Dr. Marion Downs pushed for newborns to be screened for hearing loss soon after birth.i
For more than 30 years, Dr. Marion Downs pushed for newborns to be screened for hearing loss soon after birth.
Marion Downs Center

As recently as the early 1990s, if you were born deaf, nobody would know for years. Parents were left to realize that something was amiss when their toddlers were not learning to talk or communicate at a normal pace. A diagnosis that late meant many deaf children never fully developed the ability to use language.
Today, things are drastically different for hard-of-hearing children, thanks to the efforts of a remarkable woman named Dr. Marion Downs.
It was just chance that Downs ended up as an audiologist. In the 1930s, she dropped out of college to marry and have children. When her children were old enough to spend their days in school, she wrapped up her bachelor's degree and headed to the University of Denver to register for graduate school.
"It was right after World War II, and there were GIs standing in miles of lines for different departments. And I said, 'I'll find a short line,' " Downs told Colorado Public Radio in 2011. "So I found a short line that was speech pathology and audiology."
She was a woman in a field dominated by men — and a mother surrounded by audiologists who insisted it made no difference whether hearing loss was detected at birth or years into a child's life. Downs didn't believe that, but it would be decades before research proved her right.
"There's a critical period for language development that occurs between 12 and 24 months," says Dr. Jerry Northern, a longtime colleague. But many hard-of-hearing children wouldn't get hearing aids until they were 3 or 4, if at all.
"And if children are not stimulated, they don't hear language and speech developed correctly — they are very often delayed and very often face educational problems for the remainder of their lives," Northern says.
Often, it meant growing up in a separate educational system for deaf and hard-of-hearing children, says Dr. Christine Yoshinaga-Itano, an audiologist at the University of Colorado.
"The average child that was that late identified, they would leave our school system after 20-some-odd years of schooling with about a third- to fourth-grade reading level," she says. "[That] severely limited their ability to live independently, even though the vast proportion of them had normal or above-normal intelligence."
In the early 1960s, Downs started testing newborns herself with horns and rattles. For decades, she traveled to pediatricians and audiologists across the country, urging them to screen newborns. Eventually, technology was developed that made universal screening easier and more affordable.
Finally, in 1993, the National Institutes of Health made a consensus recommendation for universal newborn hearing screening. Today, 97% of the millions of American babies born in hospitals or birthing centers are screened at birth. Downs received the Highest Recognition Award from the Department of Health and Human Services in 2007, in honor of her "exemplary contributions to improving the lives of persons with disabilities."
Downs herself was hearing from former patients as recently as that Colorado Public Radio interview in 2011.
"I got a letter just recently from a 50-year-old man who said, 'I thank you for having identified me at birth as having a hearing loss and being deaf. Because I've done very well.' "

Sunday, December 28, 2014

New Year's Resolutions for Auditory Verbal Families

Ring in the New Year with a Resolution and a Game

(updated from a 2012 post)
"I will plan ahead, be creative, 
spend intentional time talking with my child,
 following his interests,  have fun together all while 
expanding his listening, learning, vocabulary, spoken language 
and conversational skills."

Did you know?
For further information contact Dave Sindrey LSLS CertAVT 

Children with normal hearing passively absorb information or "overhear" from the environment and constantly pick up details of information. This is referred to as incidental learning. As much as 90% percent of what a child with typical hearing learns is from overhearing conversations. 

Your child with a hearing loss does not as easily "eavesdrop" and may miss significant information that is not directed at him. As you know, even hearing aids and/or cochlear implants do not restore normal hearing. Children who have a hearing loss need to be taught directly many of the skills, concepts, and vocabulary that other children learn incidentally. 

The topic and vocabulary associated with the New Year is a prime example as we usually talk about the New Year once a year which does not result in much repetition for listening, auditory comprehension and processing. In addition, the vocabulary is very specific to the celebration.


Ring In The New Year With 
A Game and Begin Keeping Your Resolution

Play this FREE NEW YEARS GAME which will provide a fun way to expand new listening and spoken language skills while spending time together as a family. The game creator also included a recipe to make with your child for your New Year celebration. Check out all her ideas at

Players start at “Baby New Year” and end at “Father Time.” 

 The first set of game cards address New Year vocabulary
and can be used to put words in sentences, give the definition or provide a synonym.
 Talk about how your family celebrates, last year's memories and
 throw confetti and stay up until midnight.

These cards contain WH questions and fill-in- the-blanks related to New Year Resolutions. 

Cheers to A New Years. May 2015 be your better than ever!

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

75 Best Websites in 2015 for SLPs & Parents. made the list.

"An audiologist makes the list with a great resource for both parents and professionals. It's probably the only blog on the list that has auditory verbal therapy and cochlear implant info."

My blog, made Kidmunicate's TOP 75 Speech Pathology Websites/Blogs for 2015.

Click HERE to See the other sites recommended for SLPS and Parents should follow in 2015 at: 

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Christmas Taboo Game for Listening, Language and Learning

Taboo is a vocabulary word game that relies on listening, auditory memory and auditory integration.
Take turns describing the word or phrase at the top of the card to your partner without using five common additional TABOO words also on the card. 

The monitor looks at the card and LISTENS to ensure that the player does not use any of the taboo or illegal words

This activity expands Christmas vocabulary and concepts and also targets listening to each new clue word while holding the last ones in short term memory while auditory processing and comprehending to solve the answer.

HERE is the link to: to get your free printable cards. 

Focus on Self-Advocacy Self-concept, Self-esteem and Identity with Hearing Loss.

The November/December 2014 Volta Voices issue is devoted to self-concept, identity and self-esteem with hearing loss. Preparing your child or your students with appropriate advocacy skills from an early age will address self-concept and help ensure resilience.
Here is a link to read a digital copy of this issue.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Suggestions When Talking to Others About Your Child's Hearing Loss

This blog post was adapted from an article by Mark Watychowicz the father of Julia, a six year old with hearing loss. 

It was contributed by Debbie Clason, staff writer for Healthy Hearing

You can be read the original article HERE 

How to talk to Adults About Your Child’s Hearing Loss

Julia Watychowicz is a six-year-old girl who loves to play tennis and compete in Irish dance competitions. She also happens to have a severe hearing loss, a condition for which she wears hearing aids. 

Mark shares: 

Julia’s diagnosis “came out of nowhere," accepting her hearing loss wasn’t nearly as difficult as dealing with perceptions from family and friends.

“Most have been supportive, but some family members were not as accepting,” he said. “To this day, some still believe that she could be fixed by herbal remedies and magic potions by a witch doctor. Maybe I am exaggerating, but the notion that family feels the need to fix Julia, suggests that Julia is broken. Some even think that the hearing treatment will make her hearing worse.”   
Julia is part of the 14.9 percent of American children between the ages of 6 and 19 who have hearing loss. Julia’s hearing loss was detected by her preschool teacher who noticed she wasn’t always responding to her name when it was called. Shortly thereafter, she was fit with hearing aids – and her parents started fielding questions from other adults.

“A very common question would be, will she grow out of it? Is it permanent?” 

Mark said “There are many scientists and universities that offer the hope of a cure, but that is not an option right now. We can't sit around and wait for a cure. For children, there is a small window of opportunity for early intervention that will give them the tools they need to manage their hearing impairment in the best way that they can.”

Mark is right. According to the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA), early intervention is the key to helping children like Julia keep pace with their peers when it comes to speech and language development. 

Untreated hearing loss affects children in four ways:
  • It causes delays in speech and language development.
  • The language deficit causes learning problems that affects academic achievement.
  • Communication difficulties lead to social isolation and poor self esteem.
  • It can ultimately impact vocational choices.

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) ensures that children who are deaf or hard of hearing receive free intervention services throughout their school years. Although these intervention services help children with hearing loss keep pace academically with their normal hearing peers, the stigma associated with hearing loss can be frustrating for their parents.

“When people found out about Julia's hearing impairment, most felt sorry or sad for her,” Mark said, “but there is nothing to be feel sorry or sad about. Julia is a happy and healthy girl that has achieved amazing accomplishments. Not just accomplishments for a child with a severe hearing impairment, but accomplishments that are amazing for any first grader. 
Children are very capable of adapting when given the opportunity.”

Mark said it’s sometimes difficult to convince family and friends a child who is deaf or hard of hearing can accomplish the same things as a normal hearing child. “I feel that people have trouble understanding how someone with a hearing impairment could adapt to still live an amazing life in the mainstream world,” he said. “The explanation is simple: a disability is merely a state of mind. We all have disabilities that we have learned to manage. A child that is deaf or hard of hearing is no different.”

Mark’s advice to other parents of children who are deaf or hard of hearing is simple: be their advocate. 

He suggests using these statements when having conversations with other adults about your child’s hearing loss:
  1. My child is not broken. He/she is a happy and healthy child that will rock this world one day.
  2. You don't need to treat my child differently. Include my child in every conversation. There is only one simple rule: have proper speaking etiquette. When communicating, face your audience; don’t speak from a different room; don't speak over one another; and offer visual cues (we all like to speak with our hands sometimes, right?)
  3. Don't feel sorry for my child.
  4. Don't feel the need to fix my child. It is an amazing journey that parents go through with their child, and only the parent, their child and their treatment team will know what is best. 
“Having a hearing impairment just means your life has a detour, but you still could reach your goals at the end of your journey,” Mark said. “There are rock stars, politicians, movie stars and major league baseball players that have accomplished greatness while being treated for a hearing impairment. Just last year, a Super Bowl player, Derrick Coleman, played with hearing aids. With the right tools (technology), support, education, team and opportunity, a person with a hearing impairment could accomplish anything.”

Recently, Julia’s Irish dance team placed seventh in the Mid-America region – a significant accomplishment for such a young team. Her hearing aids allow her to hear the music and dance brilliantly; however, it’s her parents who’ve given her the confidence to chase her dreams, teaching her that her hearing loss does not define her.

“Not having the family's support can very discouraging, but as a parent, one of the most important roles is to give your child the opportunity to be all that he/she can be,” he said. “You can't let the discouragement overwhelm you.”