Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Language development

I was asked by the school of my kids to write an article on "literacy".I thought it would be good to write about how language is the base for learning anything.Hope I am able to come across well.

Good Language-Foundation for Literacy

Language is a very important means of communication between people. Our entire development depends on language as it gives meaning to every action, thing, emotion and thought. There can be no development of the world if language did not exist.
Language is important as it is an important tool to communicate. It catches an incident, crystallizes it and then can recall, recollect and be related later. Otherwise without language the moment would just be passing moment. We even think in language.
Human mind is wired to acquiring language. The moment the baby is born, his vision is not clear but his entire focus is on the buzzing, booming and bustling world of sound. From birth to five years, the entire development plan of nature is such i.e. everything is developing, sensory motor, biological, psychological, emotional and intelligence and it is only focused on one aspect and that is development of language. Once it is done, the brain has done its most important function for the rest of the life. Because based on the language that we develop, all the cognitive development takes place on that foundation. All our academics are dependent on the development of language. Once you learn it , it is easy and one can learn math, physics, literature, etc.Though the mental, physical and cognitive make up is there to learn the language , we still need to learn it.For eg. If an Indian is adopted by a Chinese , he’ll learn Chinese as his atmosphere is that of language.To learn it otherwise , I would require a teacher.I don’t learn that language by just being born to that family.A brahmin’s son would learn the shlokas as his environment is constantly teaching him that as so is it for a musican’s child.A child learns language by the atmosphere he lives in.So our language environment has to be very rich in order to make sure the child has acquired the most important aspect of life.A child in a rich environment has more emotional , cognitive and language development than a child who lives alone in a languageless atmosphere.
There are certain essentials of language learning.It is the way we talk.Most of us talk so badly.We are so much in the rush of things , that we seldom stop and think of the way we are talking.How is it that some people are able to attract and get people’s attention for hours and there are some who we run away from as we don’t like to hear them.Our voices have to have the intonation, expression, inflexion and there has to be the right expression in the voice and on the face.It is this that will attract people to the most boring discussion too.The most exciting discussion can be a bore if the speaker is dull and expressionless.It is for this reason that the nursery and pre- school teachers need to have a pleasant personality so that they can attract little kids’ attention as their attention span is very small.A teacher who is able to modulate her voice, excite and use the correct expression and intonation will have children paying attention and doing very well in her subject.
It is important also to have our conversation using full sentences. These days people are rushing past and are not taking out time to talk.One should speak full and grammatically correct sentences and expect the same from the kids.Take time to stop and correct the child and help him to develop his language for him to have an all round development.Parents need to read books and inculcate good reading habits and clear conversations.Have discussions on varios topics.I have come across a few mothers who tell me that their 3 year old is not talking.I first ask them how many people are there in the family and then how much time are they spending with them.Some living abroad complain their children do not talk.As it is there are few members in the family and then they are busy cooking and doing household chores and the child is either left alone to play or left to play with the maid.What type of language environment is that?There is no language input.how will the child learn?Then there are people to keep the child busy they put on audio and video cassettes.But let me tell you there is no substitute for a live conversation!
The next question is “what do we talk to the child?” Well everything!!If we see from the child’s point of view, everything is new and exciting and fresh to him.Go down to his level.Be a part of his curious world.Change things around the house for him to notice,give answers to his whys and hows. Use a lot language to be part of his excitement and you too will dicover joy of reliving a new life fresh from his eyes.It will increase his awareness and it is curiosity that will make him more observant. The most important, effective and accepted means of developing language remains its use in real life communication situation. If you don’t dust your home one day , it is okay but spending that time with the child to show things around in your surroundings and talking about it would go a long way.Better still , take him around and do your daily chores and take your toddler around asking him to pull the bed sheet there and pushing the chair there and see him happily oblige you.He is happy, occupied,close to his mother, mother is doing her daily chores and the exchange of words helps him to build language.Language is learnt by listening, understanding and then applying it to other situations.When the child does not have language around him, how will he listen, what will he understand and where will he apply it?Parents are busy and send little toddlers to schools and pre-schools when it is essential to be with parents to learn lessons of communication.At home left to maids, when they do not speak, they expect teachers in school to develop their language.A teacher in school has to look after the needs of 30 odd students each with a different language.How can the teacher teach each child to talk?This is the duty of the parents to make sure that when the child goes to school , he has a foundation of enough language from where the teacher can take off and develop it further. Create an atmosphere which includes all kinds of speech which means not talking sweetly all the time. There has to be a difference between your tone and expression when you are angry, excited, sad, happy, questioning etc.
We as parents are responsible for the groundwork and should help the children to build a strong foundation of language for them to acquire greater heights and achieving their dreams.

Ruchi Goyal

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Testing times

Well my brush with difficult time after the audiogram was not over.After we got the settings readjusted [I did give her a bit of a dig for not telling me she had changed the settings-as I depend on her I need to just do it diplomatically.I can't go head on as there is not much option around.I would have to go to Mumbai then which is 5 hours of travel one way.] Prisha and I got on talking all the time to see if new settings are better.After school the next day she told me she had a problem hearing in the school.I was nervous and contacted the audiologist.She played on our emotions and told me not to worry my husband who lives in Austria but she would help me when I needed.She knew we were nervous and told us that as her audiogram was very bad, and the new settings were also not alright, she must have developed more hearing loss due to the cold for a month and the retracted eardrum.You can imagine it was like a ton of bricks that fell on me!!I cried so much, could not eat and drink and went through the same trauma as when we discovered Prisha was hearing impaired.my husband in Austria too was constantly on the phone trying to console me calling up people and the audiologist as to what to do next.She told him that she would try new set of higher power hearing aids!God damn it I just bought a new set of aids last year after we found that she prescribed the wrong aids the 1st time!!How can I keep purchasing aids worth 1 lakh rupees every year!I took control and then decided to talk to a few people whose kids went through the same things.They told me that there condition was worse than Prisha's and nothing happened to them.One lady told me that every year for the last 4 years the audiologist has been telling her to change her daughter's aids for the same reason as her daughter suffers 3 months of cold due to a particular season and yet nothing has happened.She really talked to me and a sort of peace came on to me.
I had the appointment this morning with the audiologist and I decided to cancel it and 1st talk and clear out the aspect of hearing loss due to cold with a friend ENT specialist.When i told the audiologist about my decision she said that I must show the bad audiograms and tell him that she was saying that Prisha had suffered more hearing loss due to cold.She even volunteered to talk.I told her that I was going to a friend ENT and that I did not want Prisha's setting to be changed so often as it takes Prisha too 2-3 days to really get used to those settings and that I would decide only after her total cure of cold and after advise from my ENT, she was a bit ...eh eh...I could get a message.
I broke down in front of my ENT specialist and he told me she was a bit commercial and erased the myth that a cold could affect sensori neural loss.He explained how due to the cold , the middle ear is wet and the constant sniffing retracts the eardrum.You treat the cold, and within a few days the middle ear dries up and the child gets her hearing back as the eardrum comes back to its position.I WAS SO RELIEVED!He also checked her ears and said there was so much wax in her ears and so b'coz of the cold and the wax the audiogram was bad.In fact before the audiogram her ears were checked.Did she not see the wax?Or was I in an ideal situation for her monetary benefit?
Now we are treating her cold, will get her ears cleaned, after 2 weeks get another audiogram from 2 places and then get her settings.God , how much stress a person in India has to go through as there are people who think for just themselves.We are educated and so we run around , do research and then take decisions.What about lakhs of those people who are not that aware, educated or not in a position to do so?Is there an end of the tunnel for people who are helpless and unfortunate or will they be the soft targets those who are supposed to be experts ?There is a vicious circle.As the numbers are too large, no awareness, few experts in high positions,no support from anywhere, these people make their money at the cost of someone else's misfortune.I wish I had the money to open a centre where people could get the right advice and correct direction and close these money making practices.I hope I am able to at least reach out to someone who may have gone through this.Ask questions, do research, do not accept any advise which you find suspicious.Educate yourself about the problem is the only way to wriggle out of the clutches of the wrong.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

A visit by the teacher of the deaf

Today we had a guest in our speech therapy class.She was a principal of a deaf school who use mostly sign language.She said we try to make them speak but they do not .How will they?The language atmosphere is not there as they are surrounded by similar kids and as there is not much conversation , they end up signing.They do wear hearing aids, but are they really focusing on speech or they are mere things hanging?they still lip read as they are not taught to depend on hearing but still depend on visual input.in our class from the very beginning we were focused on sound alone and not on looking and seeing.In the dark the lip reading and sign language will fail.Once a person wears aids,he should be made to be attentive to sound and sound alone.
The teacher was surprised to hear Prisha.She said that what surprised her was, Prisha never looked at the face while being showed something, she picked up 2 people's conversation and learnt from them and that even from behind when she was asked something she responded.But that is what AVT is all about.Learning through listening.Listening and then speaking.The focus is on listening alone.
She told us that the school was a residential one.All the more there is a problem.There is no input from normal sources except the teachers.Each teacher has 15 deaf students.How much can she focus and how much will she talk and what.In such cases individual attention is required at least in the form of family who would make them feel like normal people.At home listening to normal conversation and a variety of discussions would give adequate language opportunity to the child.
She mentioned a thing which is so typical and so education and academic oriented.She said we teach the children , give them answers to questions required for the curriculum, but after they were told to learn and answer them , they looked blank.To this I put forward my view that when the child does not have the basic language to understand concepts, how will he remember the answers?The knowledge is ABSTRACT for them!To learn a complicated thing we need to understand simple things 1st.They are not able to converse as they don't have the language, then how can they remember the answer as they cannot understand it.It is like this......I don't know french, then if I am told to remember a write up in french, how can I just rattle it off?Even if I memorize it I would not be able recall it and say as I don't have an understanding of the language.It just made sense to her.My heart goes out to those children who are not able to speak because of non availability of the right infrastructure , right teachers and correct speech therapy.I wish there was a revolution in India and people had a heart to help and not focus on their own monetary benefit.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Phone no.

Prisha had to learn her parents name ,her full name and her phone no.Today we learnt the 10 digit mobile no in about 5 minutes.It was the "eureka" moment when she was able almost rattled off the nos.I was a bit nervous and anxious about it.I think I was not trying enough and so these feelings were there.I felt stupid later to doubt her learning capability.In this effort I broke the nos into 4 parts and then said them rhythmically.She picked up the rhythm and the nos and there we had a job well done.I am teaching her the home address where she still is trying to figure it out.I need to trust her more.

Sunday, August 17, 2008


Yesterday we went to our audiologist to get an audiogram .Prisha had a cold but we wanted to do it as it had been over a year since we did it.In India we decide when we do things.Nobody sets guidelines and so if parents are not aware themselves and do not question things , the child looses the most.Prisha performed very well and she did all the sound tests very well much to the amazement of the people around.Well I work hard with her....The audiologist decided to then check and reset if required the setting of her hearing aids.We also got the impedence test as she was not responing to some sounds which she did earlier.It was found that due to her cold the right eardrum was retracted.So she needed medication and then we would test again.We discussed other problems that I found in certain sounds and told her my observation.The audiologist changed a few setting to understand if it suited her better.I told her not to change the settings and would do so after the 2nd round of tests.I was disturbed about her eardrum and was concerned as she has been slurring and I need to keep pulling her up.This morning I noticed that she was mumbling, mixing up words, misinterpritting sounds, not hearing her name well, not responding from other room etc.I was so disturbed and broke into cold sweat.We kept trying out all techniques and I lost my cool and really thought that her hearing has got affected due to cold.I even thought that her loss has increased as her eardrum has got affected.It was a nightmare of sorts that I was going though.Then a ceratin brainwave occured to me.I increased the volume of the aids and lo....her eyes lit up!She shouted..."mumma I hear!"i was aghast!She responded to everything and repeated everything.I was suspecting earlier too that maybe the audiologist has changed her setting but since she had told me she wasn't ,I was imagining everything else.We called up our audiologist and informed and asked her if she did change the settings.To which she said yes as she thought it would not make a differance.My GOD, I was so full of mixed feelings, relaxed[as her hearing was not deriorating], bugged [as she changed the settings inspite of mt telling her no, happy[ as my reading of prisha's reaction to my queries to her was correct] and angry [as I need to now be more aware my self when I go to her otherwise my lil girl looses due to someone else's carelessness].The audiologist was surprised at her speech.But why?Isn't good hearing aid, correct setting, good speech therapy after early intevention supposed to give every hearing impaired child language understanding, a good voice and correct speech?In India the situation is such.Not everbody is lucky.Thanks to Mrs.Hudlikar I have become very aware and a hands on mom.She has trained me well and I am able to read my child like the back of my hand.I realise I cannot depend on anyone but myself and my child.I hope to be more on my guard.It was a good lesson learned .One more experience added to my book of journey of hearing impairment.

This experience has proven one thing that awareness is the key and some norms need to be put in place to the customers rights (read hearing impaired person) to get complete transparency of data from the audiologist like programmes, informtion etc. about each change. I only know how I have managed this herculean task of giving speech to my daughter. Thanks of course to God and Mrs. Hudlikar that we can differentiate between the good, average and the bad speech therapist, audiologist etc.

One final word of caution to parents of hearing impaired children - Educate yourself in all that has`to do with speech, audiograms, Bera tests, Auditory-Verbal therapy. Friends, it is a continuous process and you can never know enough. God Bless Mrs. Hudlikar.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Independence day

Today Prisha had to dress up like a Delhi girl as they have Independence day celebrations at school.She is going to speak 2 lines on Delhi."Delhi is the capital of India and it is very clean and beautiful" was the only thing that we could manage last minute.She had a problem recollecting "capital" word but hopefully she should remember.She was excited and kept asking me if they were being taken out to a restaurant after speaking and the party.My prisha loves going to restaurants, but eating is another story!She has been down with a cold last ! month and it has affected her speech. She is giving less nasal resonance and is slurring a bit, much to my heartburn.Plus daddy dear is here for 8 days and we love being daddy"s lil girl.So both are at the receiving end as far as speech correction is concerned.I wonder if all speech impaired children go through this.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Early diagnosis

I found this article about early intervention on deafvillage.com.In India the situation is pretty pathetic with parents having no awareness about deafness and also most experts too are not able to give the right advise.I strongly feel the child should be checked for deafness just after birth as it would help the child to get the required help in the form of hearing aids,speech therapy and would not go through the malpractices and wrong guidance most children go through.The child would be habilitated and not re-habilitated.My teacher had got a 2 month old child fitted with hearing aids as he was found deaf [ born to deaf parents]and the family is sooooo happy as he is already responding to sounds and is gurgling away at 3.5 months!The grandmother had trained under Mrs.Hudlikar for her son who is an oral deaf and the mother uses sign language.She feels aweful that she can't talk to the baby as much as her husband and grandmom.


Friday, August 8, 2008


Well in this week's class we had quite a bit of learning to do.Mrs. A. Hudlikar asked us to ask a few sentences every day....
1.what is the day today?
2.what is the date today?
3.What is the weather like?
These help the child to develop the concept of time.It cannot be taught in a day.With regular feedback you will see the difference.Now prisha is able to tell me the day and what we have to do, like going for speech therapy on tuesday and thursday, saturday sunday are holidays,wednesday is the 3rd day of school etc.It is exciting to see her calculating how many days she has to go to school in the week.As for the weather it gives you the chance to forward and talk more about it like ....
it is a rainy day today, what happens when it is rainy day, there are puddles on the road, everything is wet, there are storms, etc.then go ahead explain what is a storm, puddles etc.
The difference between a "birthday" and "birth date" was highlighted.Birthday comes every year birth date is the date , month and year you were born.
Then we had found a beehive in one of our potted plants .we took it to the speech therapy class and talked about the bees and where they make hives and how,the birds make nests with twigs and grass,the difference between a twig and a branch.It was fun to hear the reactions of the kids to how honey is made and the different pictures that ma'am showed to the kids in relation to the subject.She made the kids speak sentences on the subject.It is so good that because I have followed ma'am blindly that Prisha was able to recollect and speak 4 full sentences that she was asked to speak.Now I saw the connection of the fact why ma'am stressed upon narration.It helps the child visulise the situation and give it out with the language she has.Prisha has started with talking 3 -4 word sentences to full sentence and at 4.5 yrs she was able to rattle off 4 sentences in correct order and grammar.It was very encouraging for us.We had done picture description with ma'am and she would ask us to predict what would happen in the picture next.It kept Prisha very active and most times she is able to do it.,Now everyday I have been asking her about what happened at school[ much to her annoyance] but it has helped her to be able to put correct sentences.I give the language where required.I don't ask my son when they fight, I ask her to tell me and then I get a chance to correct her.I will now say 4-5 sentences on any object. Basically description is very important.I will describe in 4-5 sentences to show her the method and then ask her to describe once she gets a hang of it.