Today, I taught one of my students one of the most important lessons that I could have taught her. Typically, we think of the key parts of listening and spoken language therapy to be auditory discrimination tasks, vocabulary lessons, grammar lessons, and speech sound practice, to mention just a few. However, this lesson was the importance of not “faking it”, especially during auditory therapy and audiological assessment.
As we often start our sessions, we went through the Ling sounds, and then a quick one syllable word list. Halfway through the list, she mumbled over one of the words. When I asked her to repeat her response, she, again, muttered through it. I stopped and asked why she did not clearly repeat the word. With honesty, she said it was because she was’t sure what I had said. She wasn’t sure if the word was “cake” or “cape”. So, she decided to say it with a very soft final consonant, just in case I didn’t notice and marked it as correct. This began one of the more important lessons that I have taught this student.
Children with hearing loss often find themselves having to “fake it” in school and in social situations. They pretend they heard the directions in class, but rather look around and figure out what is going on, based upon what others are doing. Actually, we teach this skill, telling kids to “read the room”. Socially, kids with hearing loss often pretend they are part of social conversations, smiling, and nodding their heads, laughing when the other kids laugh, even when they have no idea what was said. For some, this skill has been so well honed, that no one even notices that the child has missed almost an entire conversation. While this is definitely not what we want our children with hearing loss to do all of the time, for many children, it is expected, at least some of the time (i.e. when in large groups or noisy situations like the cafeteria). It is important for children with hearing loss to have an arsenal full of ways to help fill in what they have missed, rather than asking “What?” all of the time. These can include:
- Asking for a repetition
- Asking for clarification
- Looking around to see what others are doing (“reading the room”)
- Repeating the part of the message heard (“You are going to the mall, with who?)
- Repeating the word that didn’t make sense (“Did you say _______?”)
- Expressing when the breakdown is with comprehension of the language not hearing the message (“I heard that you said ______, but what does that mean?”)
We discussed that sometimes it is okay to “fake it” socially, to avoid embarrassment. Within the school day, it is okay to “read the room” to help with following directions given to the class when that is sufficient. During an academic lesson in class, if she is confused and not ready to ask for clarification in the middle of the lesson, she must at least do so after the lesson or during her time in the resource room. However, I explained that “faking it” during auditory therapy and audiological evaluations was a “no no”.
We compared the situations. How socially, she was trying to fit in as much as possible and didn’t want to draw too much negative attention to herself. So, by pretending that she heard a comment from a peer, she wasn’t necessarily hurting anyone. We discussed “reading the room” as a good strategy to following directions, and ultimately helping her to meet the class expectations. For academic lessons, even if she didn’t speak up during a lesson to explain what was confusing her, by asking for help afterwards from any of her teachers, that she was still allowing herself the opportunity to learn.
On the flip side, we discussed how “faking it” during auditory therapy and during her audiological evaluations was actually a detriment to her progress. I explained that by leading the auditory therapist to believe that she is hearing optimally, needed auditory practice might not occur. And, that by scoring perfectly on audiological assessments, via cheating, she would not provide the audiologist with the information needed to make changes to her hearing aid program or her cochlear implant MAPs. She needed to learn that pretending in these situations did not allow the professionals to help maximize her hearing potential.
As I find with so many of the students that I work with, this little girl needed to understand that the errors that she makes in listening therapy and hearing evaluations are not her “getting it wrong” but rather the best way to allow the professionals to figure out how to help her to hear even better. While we may need to revisit this discussion, I think that she has begun to understand the importance of this lesson and I know that it will go very far in the progress that she makes.