Sieve full of powdered sugar.

If anyone has heard Mary or I present, or been at one of our home visits, or talked to us at a childcare conference…heck, if you’ve talked to us at all, you know that we always are talking about how hearing loss impacts the typical acquisition of language.  Typically a baby is born into a world where he hears at least 10,000 words a day.  Every second of every day babies soak in that language and they just develop.  

Now, how do you get powdered sugar on cookies?  You pour lots of the sugar in a sieve and sprinkle it over cookies and some sugar comes out and voila, the cookies are ready to eat.

At around 12 months of age, the baby starts to say one word because you filled up the sieve with lots of powdered sugar for a year and sprinkle that sugar all over.  As you load more sugar and coat more cookies,  the child says more words.

Then he says two words together, and then sentences. Then all of a sudden he is talking without ceasing.  Because there was lots and lots of “sugar” (i.e. people around him used lots of language) those cookies got coated.   Going into kindergarten, that baby, who is now 5 years old, can use 2500 different words.  That’s a lot of sugar!

Enter a child with any type of hearing loss, and the sieve gets smaller. And maybe the holes in the sieve are tiny.  That effortless way of learning language incidentally is not an option.  But if my sieve was smaller and the holes were tinier, I would still make some great cookies.  It is just going to take more planning.  Language development is going to need a more direct approach, like a new plan.  That sieve still works, but I’m going to have to refill it more often and work a little harder to get the sugar out of the holes.   

That’s where parents and professionals come in.  We must all be part of the team that gathers up that sugar and patiently directs it into the sieve, because who wants cookies without sugar!  That can happen by using spoken language and/or ASL, by cueing, by writing and reading, and more.  

It’s the start of school again, so a perfect time to talk about the vocabulary that is needed for school-related topics.  

Attached is a flyer for you to print and hang on your fridge to guide you in using all the vocabulary that is related to school.  Remember, it will take a more focused effort, so start on just these words this week. Start with Phase 1-the most common words.  Once those words are known (remember, using lots of sugar over and over) then move on to Phase 2.  By the time a child is 8 years old, he should know all the words in this category.