Emily Perl Kingsley.

c1987 by Emily Perl Kingsley. All rights reserved

I am often asked to describe the experience of raising a child with a disability - to try to help people who have not shared that unique experience to understand it, to imagine how it would feel. It's like this......

When you're going to have a baby, it's like planning a fabulous vacation trip - to Italy. You buy a bunch of guide books and make your wonderful plans. The Coliseum. The Michelangelo David. The gondolas in Venice. You may learn some handy phrases in Italian. It's all very exciting.

After months of eager anticipation, the day finally arrives. You pack your bags and off you go. Several hours later, the plane lands. The stewardess comes in and says, "Welcome to Holland."

"Holland?!?" you say. "What do you mean Holland?? I signed up for Italy! I'm supposed to be in Italy. All my life I've dreamed of going to Italy."

But there's been a change in the flight plan. They've landed in Holland and there you must stay.

The important thing is that they haven't taken you to a horrible, disgusting, filthy place, full of pestilence, famine and disease. It's just a different place.

So you must go out and buy new guide books. And you must learn a whole new language. And you will meet a whole new group of people you would never have met.

It's just a different place. It's slower-paced than Italy, less flashy than Italy. But after you've been there for a while and you catch your breath, you look around.... and you begin to notice that Holland has windmills....and Holland has tulips. Holland even has Rembrandts.

But everyone you know is busy coming and going from Italy... and they're all bragging about what a wonderful time they had there. And for the rest of your life, you will say "Yes, that's where I was supposed to go. That's what I had planned."

And the pain of that will never, ever, ever, ever go away... because the loss of that dream is a very very significant loss.

But... if you spend your life mourning the fact that you didn't get to Italy, you may never be free to enjoy the very special, the very lovely things ... about Holland.

“Ten Books A Day Keep the Doctor Away”

Lea Donovan Watson, MS, CCC Certified Auditory-Verbal Therapist

***This article was published in Volta Voices; Vol. 11, No.2 March/April 2004.

Reading to a baby is important for speech, language, and listening development. At the Auditory-Verbal Communication Center (AVCC), parents are encouraged to read with their children right away.

Parents need to be aware of outcome studies for literacy skills as well as communication when choosing the educational approach for their children who are deaf and hard of hearing. The development of auditory-verbal skills for communication and reading is more important than ever. Advances in technology offer more options for communicating, but their effective use depends on how well one can read.

Digital hearing aids and cochlear implants make hearing more accessible. Parents who choose an oral approach can expect an easier time helping their children develop spoken language than parents of the 1980s. Children who receive appropriate technology and Auditory-Verbal Therapy hear better at earlier ages, so those parents can also expect better communication and reading abilities.

Previous research found spoken language out of reach for most children with profound hearing loss and reported only a fourth grade reading level for the majority of people who are deaf and hard of hearing. Research demonstrates that technology is helping to change that. Spencer, et al (1997 ) found that children with pre-lingual, profound deafness who use cochlear implants develop higher reading levels compared with children who do not use cochlear implants. The authors speculated that use of a cochlear implant may have a positive effect on phonetic coding as it relates to the reading process. Wray, et al (1998) found that children listening with hearing aids and/or FM systems who learned spoken communication through the Auditory-Verbal Approach read at or above grade level.

Children can begin the process of learning to read as infants. To develop a foundation in literacy development, the child needs to develop an awareness that words are made up of sounds. This process starts when parents read to their babies.

The more exposure the child has to books and reading, the easier the process of learning to read will be. Audiologist, Dr. Carol Flexer, PhD states; “Children learn to read by being read to – Read! Reading is auditory! Read ten books a day!” Parents at AVCC are expected to read ten books a day starting when their children are infants. Reading books that are a little above the language level of the child is important so the child is hearing the more advanced language structure. Highlighting the prepositions helps children hear the wide range of use prepositions have. This helps them understand the more abstract levels of thinking and language.

As Dr. Flexer noted, reading is primarily an auditory skill. Dr. Frank Musiak, M.D. at Dartmouth Medical School states that the same part of the brain is active when the child is reading as when the child is listening. All the fun Auditory-Verbal Therapy games actually help develop reading as well as listening.

By the time the child starts kindergarten, a vocabulary of at least 5,000 words is expected. Reading ten books a day helps build that vocabulary so the child can understand a wider range of concepts. Imagination is triggered for the child and the adult as they read together. Interactive language experiences help expand the understanding of vocabulary.

Dr. Flexer makes it clear that reading aloud to your child is important at every stage. Parents are encouraged to read aloud with their children all through elementary school, middle school and even high school. Reading aloud books that are above the child’s instructional level is recommended.

Most people take speaking and listening for granted, but not parents of children who are deaf and hard of hearing. Parents at AVCC realize their children need auditory skills not only for talking, but also in order to have better access to reading. Electrically transmitted talk depends on literacy skills. Captioned TV programming, e-mail, and computer tools are more useful for people who can read well. Listening and talking gives children better access to reading.

Reading is critical as our society is dependent on and driven by information. Just as Alexander Graham Bell’s telephone changed the art of letter writing and the importance of face-to- face conversation when the 19th century ended, computers and ‘technological talking’ are transforming communication again. Being able to read well is critical to being included in our “information society” for the 21rst century. Parents who are aware of this read ten books a day to their children.

AVCC parents, Kerry Dowling and Dan Wilson read at least ten books a day to their daughter, Hadley. Already at age 2, the positive effect of daily reading is evident in Hadley’s advanced language abilities. I encouraged Hadley’s mother to write the following article because she makes reading alive and fun in so many ways. Reading is a priority in their life and in our weekly auditory-verbal sessions. I love to see what books Hadley packed in her bag to show me. Sharing books in this way is exciting.


Locke, L.J. (1998). Where did all the gossip go? Casual conversation in the information age.ASHA The Magazine of the

American Speech-Language-Hearing Association, (summer), 26-31.

Spencer, L., Tromblin, J.B., & Gantz, B.J., (1997). Reading skills in children with multichannel cochlear implant experience.

The Volta Review, Volume 99 (4), 193-202.

Wray, D., Flexer, C., & Vanessa, V., (1998). Classroom performance of children who are deaf or hard of hearing and who

learned spoken language through the auditory-verbal approach; an evaluation of treatment efficacy. The Volta Review,

Volume 99 (2), 107-119.

Robertson, L., Literacy Learning for Children Who Are Deaf or hard of Hearing. Washington, AGBell Assoc. (2000)

Beginning with Babies, Saturday July 2007 Sturbridge, MA, Northeast Cochlear Implant Convention; Listen Baby: Auditory Verbal Ideas for Infants and Toddlers, Certified Auditory-Verbal Therapists; Lea D. Watson and James G. Watson Auditory Verbal Communication Center, 544 Washington Street, Gloucester. MA 01930 phone 978-282-0025 website:

February 25, 2009

Everything we read about raising a child with a hearing loss always included the same obstacle: these kids need extra help learning to read. As an avid reader, someone who ready early and frequently as a child, I wanted to do everything possible to not only encourage a love for reading, but to provide Hadley every chance to develop a strong foundation for reading readiness.

The following is from an article I wrote that was published in 2004 in Volta Voices, a publication by the Alexander Graham Bell Association for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing. It appeared alongside an article written by Hadley's cert AVT, Lea Watson. The two articles, Ten Books a Day Keep the Doctor Away and Thirteen Tips for Reading, appear in their entirety on the AVCC website.

How We Encourage Reading

1. Model reading. Hadley knows that we have shelves of books in the house that are ours, not hers. Even though her dad isn’t as book crazy as her mom, she sees him read the newspaper and magazines. We point out readers to Hadley, at home, in the library, and when we’re out around town.

2. Buy books! My own philosophy is that you can’t have too many books, so we made a decision early on that while we wouldn’t spend a fortune on a ton of toys, we would invest in a wide variety of books for our children.

3. Create a physical space for books at home. Hadley has one main play area at home with shelves for books, but we also have small baskets of her books throughout the house, next to a rocking chair, in bedrooms, and in the car.

4. Go to the library. We go to the library at least once a week, where we look at the paintings in the art gallery, look for a few books for me, then settle into the children’s library to where Hadley is encouraged to pick out books on her own. We keep her library books in a special place at home, which makes it easier to explain that some books stay at home and others need to be returned.

5. Pick up on favorites. When Hadley asks to read a book over and over again, we immediately check out other books by the same author or illustrator.

6. Be creative. We make “books” out of songs Hadley enjoys, either by drawing (we are not artists!), finding pictures that go along with the lyrics, or downloading clipart from the computer. Hadley likes to read through her own photo albums with captions and her Experience Book, sharing them with family and friends.

7. Make it fun! We act out books as much as possible (with toys, puppets, felt, whatever we have at hand), make up songs to go along with the story, and have a good time with reading. Sometimes we read the book to a stuffed animal or puppet.

8. Make it her activity. Hadley chooses which book to read and where to read it. If she decides halfway through that something else is more exciting, we just come back to the book later. Sometimes she just wants to read a favorite section of the book, which is fine too.

9. Read throughout the day. Reading is definitely an important part of Hadley’s bedtime ritual. But it’s also part of getting dressed, eating lunch, and waking up from a nap.

10. Vary the narrators. It’s boring to have the same person always read to you. When we have visitors, we ask Hadley to share a book with them. It’s especially fun for Hadley to have older kids read to her.

11. Pack a Bag. Hadley is used to selecting which items she wants to bring along when we go visiting. Books are always included, another great way to ensure that others are reading to her.

12. Sing it! Many books are based on well-known songs or can be set to their own tune. There are many beautifully illustrated songbooks of nursery rhymes and old favorites. Several of Hadley’s first phrases were based on lines from songs in books.

13. Be poetic. The cadence and rhythm of poetry is interesting to most people and is a nice break from the routine of reading a traditional book.

I don't recall exactly when Hadley began to read. At her IEP 3 year review in the Fall 2007 (age 6), Hadley's reading scores were at the Grade 5 level for reading comprehension and Grade 7 level for reading instruction. In a separate test conducted in August 2008, she had the vocabulary score of a 12 year old. I think it's important for other parents to know that, with the appropriate amplification and intervention, children with significant hearing losses can read, read well, and read often.

How to Grow Your Baby’s/Child’s Brain the Auditory Verbal Way

From “Children with Hearing Loss: Developing Listening and Talking”

By Elizabeth Cole and Carol Flexer 2007

Above all, love, play and have fun with your child!

  1. The quieter the room and the closer you are to your child, the better you will be heard. The child may have difficulty over hearing conversations and hearing from a distance. You need to be close to your child when you speak.

  1. Your child must wear his or her hearing aid or cochlear implant during all waking hours (except bathing or swimming, of course), every day of the week. The brain needs constant, detailed auditory input in order to develop. Knowingly depriving your child of this access is a form of neglect. The technology is your access to the brain and your child’s access to full knowledge of the world around him or her.

  1. Check your child’s technology regularly. Equipment malfunctions, often. Become proficient at troubleshooting.

  1. Use an FM system at home to facilitate distance hearing and incidental learning. An FM system can be used during reading too, to improve the signal-to-noise ratio and to facilitate the development of auditory self-monitoring. Place the FM microphone on the child so that he/she can clearly hear their own speech, thereby facilitating the development of the “auditory feedback loop.”

  1. Focus on listening, not just seeing. Call attention to sounds and to conversations in the room. Point to your ear and smile, and talk about the sounds you just heard and what they mean. Use listening words such as “You heard that,” “You were listening,” and “I heard you.”

  1. Maintain a joint focus of attention when reading and when engaged in activities. That is, the child looks at the book or at the activity while listening to you.

  1. Speak in sentences, not single words, with clear speech using lots of melody.

  1. Read aloud to your child, daily. Even infants can be read to, as can older children. Try to read at least 10 books to your baby or child each day. We should be reading chapter books by pre-school.

  1. Sing and read nursery rhymes to your baby or young child every day. Fill his/her days with all kinds of music and songs to promote interhemispheric transfer.

  1. Name objects in the environment as you encounter them during daily routines. Constantly be mindful of expanding vocabulary.

  1. Talk about and describe how things look, sound and feel.

  1. Talk about where objects are located. You will use many prepositions such as in, on, under, behind, beside, next to and between. Prepositions are the bridge between and abstract thinking.

  1. Compare how objects or actions are similar and different in size, shape, quantity, smell, color, and texture.

  1. Describe sequences. Talk about the steps involved in activities as you are doing the activity. Sequencing is necessary for organization and for the successful completion of any task.

  1. Tell familiar stories or stories about events from your day or from your past. Keep narratives simpler for younger children, and increase complexity as your child grows.


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