Our speaker also discussed the 10 factors that determine success with a cochlear implant. Some of them are under a parent's control, others are completely within the child.
1. Age of implantation (the earlier the better)
2. Commitment (auditory vigilance)
3. Use of the device
4. Gap between onset of hearing loss and activation
5. Attitude (the child's behavior and feelings about the CI)
6. Home support
7. Attitude toward overcoming challenges (the child's personality)
8. Presence of other handicaps
9. Expectations (setting the bar high enough)
10. Other (MAPs, anatomy, device issues)
These things are the keys to setting our expectations. If we know all these factors, we can figure out where the bar should be placed for our children. None of these are reasons a person should NOT get a CI, but they are the mitigating factors that will determine how much benefit the child will get. That in turn will influence where on the "Communication Continuum" the child will be.
Our second class was about how to get our kids to the best possible place. How to help them achieve and reach their full potential.
First we talked about the thought/language connection. Without one, you can not have the other. A child needs language to organize their thoughts. If a child is language deprived for more than a few years (I believe that JTC said age 5) it starts to affect their permanent cognitive development. So, if a child is without language, it can actually start to make them less smart!
Language is the foundation for thought, communication, learning, behavior, emotional expression, personal control, social interaction...FOR LIVING!
She was also very adamant about the fact that words do NOT equal language. She said that there is a whole group of children who will never get past the word level of spoken language. These kids will need another language, a visual language, so that they can fully use higher level thinking. These kids get out 3 years post activation and they are still at the word level. They are unable to use language to infer information, they do not have higher level thinking skills. The problem is that when they then switch to a signed language, most of them still never reach that highest level of language, even in sign.
Well, it is too late. These kids were not given a fully accessible, fluent language from the start. They do not have full immersion in the language either. Their cognitive abilities are compromised because they were without language for too long. They never become able to fluently use a language, understand grammar and syntax, and become completely literate.
So...what do we do?
Well, I would advocate ASL from the start for ALL children with a hearing loss. ESPECIALLY, those who are older identified, older implanted, or have other issues (see the above list!) If given this fluent, accessibly language, no matter what the outcome with their CI, they will be able to achieve literacy and future success.