Early Intervention is a term that is used a lot these days, but it is one that we take very seriously and firmly believe in at Desert Voices. What does it mean and why is it important? At Desert Voices, we are committed to providing services to deaf children at as early an age as possible in order to minimize the amount of “lost language” time. If a deaf child starts receiving services with us at 4 weeks old, that child has only lost 4 weeks of language. If a deaf child starts receiving serviceswith us as 4 years of age, often times, that means making up 4 years of lost language. While it’s not insurmountable, it does offer more challenges.
With Universal Newborn Screening, more and more newborns are being
identified with a hearing loss before they even leave the hospital. For families who are seeking an auditory oral option for their deaf or hard of hearing child, it is never too early to start!
In the Early Intervention Program, we work with the families and primary caregivers as much as we do the children. For many of our families, this is the first connection they have to deafness and it can be extremely overwhelming. Learning how to interact with a deaf child can be intimidating. There is a lot of information to digest and it can seem like an uphill battle. By working with the family and providing them with the tools they need to be knowledgeable and comfortable with their child’s hearing loss and with their choice for an auditory oral program, we see much greater success with the child’s spoken language skills. We truly want to partner with families throughout this journey and help guide them along the way.
The Early Intervention Program is structured to provide therapy and services at the frequency and language level fitting for each child. We continually monitor progress and introduce additional therapy and services when appropriate. In general, if a child is under 18 months of age, they will receive individual Parent-Child therapy. These one hour sessions occur once to three times a week and involve the child and the parents/primary care givers. We strongly encourage parents, grandparents, siblings, and extended family to participate in these sessions, as they are designed to provide education and support to all members of the child’s family. The sessions are conducted by licensed Speech Language Pathologists who receive specific training for working with pediatric hearing loss.
When children reach the age of 18 to 24 months, they will begin to join the Toddler Class, with a goal of gradually moving from a combination of Parent-Child therapy and Toddler Class, to placement in the Toddler Class three days a week. Children who are not yet ready to learn in a small group environment may have a modified schedule with continued individual therapy and some transitional Toddler Class inclusion. This will be determined on a case-by-case basis. Toddler Class runs from 8:30A-12N and children are pulled from the class for a minimum of ½ hr of individual speech therapy. Children are assigned days in the toddler class so that they may be paired with other toddlers whose language abilities are similar. This is necessary to ensure that each child receives as individual a program as possible. Toddlers will participate in language activities that will seem very “play like” but will focus on teaching beginning vocabulary development and listening skills. The child’s speech therapist works closely with the teacher of the deaf to ensure carry-over of skills throughout both settings. When children participate in both toddler class and individual speech therapy, they are better equipped to move to the full day program upon reaching three years of age.
As a child nears the age of three, discussions regarding transitioning the child into a pre-school program will begin. Again, we work with each child on a case-by-case basis and work with the family to determine the best placement for the best outcome for each child.
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