Miss Kat and I had a good time at our conference. I learned a lot and Miss Kat LOVED camping. I met several new families, it was nice.
The first thing I noticed was that Miss Kat was the ONLY CI user that wasn't bilateral! Also, nearly all were implanted between 12 and 18 months, (I'm so jealous...) and only two of the kiddos (out of more than a dozen) that used hearing aids. I had no idea that CI's, and bilaterals were that common.
That next thing I noticed was that when we went swimming, every single family signed when devices were off! We obviously used the most ASL, but it was interesting none the less.
We had several very interesting parent classes. One was on literacy, which was very timely and useful for us!!! The Teacher of the Deaf explained that while a child can learn to decode, they can not actually learn to read before a few developmental milestones are met. The first is that they must have the language level of a five year old. That made perfect sense! Miss Kat is able to decode (sound out words) but she doesn't have the language to understand what the words mean. So, the best thing we can do for her reading right now is continue to grow her language. The other point was that a child (who uses spoken language to decode the written word) must have an auditory memory of at least thirteen seconds. They need to be able to read the information, process it, and understand and still remember it when they are done processing!!
So, how do we work on auditory memory? The first game is a lot like 3 card Monte! I put a piece of candy under a cup and mix them up, Miss Kat has remember where the candy is, if not, Mommy eats it! Turns out Miss Kat is very good at this game! She even bested Daddy a couple times! (I don't know how this translates to AUDITORY memory, but she is the expert not me ;)) The other game was putting toys or candy or something through a paper tube. You show the items, and then ask them the order that they will come out the other side. When they master that skill, you put them in and flip the tube! Then they have to remember them backwards! Kids need to be able to do it both ways for reading.
They also said that when you are reading aloud to kids, make sure that you read books with language that is just a little above the child's current language level. They said to aim for about a year higher. We discussed how to add "I wonder..." and "What do you think.." questions into the stories we read.
The next presentation was on cognition. I learned several things. We talked about Piaget's theory of cognitive development. We determined that most of the kids would be in the "preoperative" because of their ages. We went over a checklist of cognitive skills that the kids need to be developing. Miss Kat was able to do all the things on the checklist. We talked a lot about the "right way" to ask questions, and how to build the child's thinking skills. One of the ideas was having a child draw a picture that you describe, with lots of details and then have them describe another scene to you.
So, since Miss Kat seemed to be able to do all the skills listed in the "preoperational stage", I asked the teacher how you knew if your child had moved on to the "concrete operational stage". She told us about the "conservation of water" test. So....we went home and "tested" Miss Kat. She passed with flying colors! So, Miss Kat's cognitive skills are right on level (if not a little ahead of her age)!
We also met with our local AB rep and got some cool info. First, he said that ClearVoice is slated to be submitted to the FDA is September and then, hopefully, will be approved around 6 months after that. The second was this: I'm so excited! I'm totally obsessed with Miss Kat's mics and whether or not they are working (not a great reporter). Until now, I had no way of testing the t-mic at all. We should get one of these guys with Miss Kat's bilateral kit.
I also picked up an actual statement about when deaf kids are ready for mainstreaming. In the past all I ever heard was either "Right from the start! They need to pick up typical language from typical kids" (which NEVER felt right in our case. Miss Kat couldn't pick up anything right after activation! How could she interact with her peers without knowing any of their language?) or we heard "Oh, it depends on the kid...some are ready sooner than others..."....(Uh, could we get some benchmarks or something? Are we just guessing or will she wake up one morning with a stamp on her that says "Ready for mainstreaming" like a turkey indicator??) Well, the TOD said that she does not support mainstreaming until the child is within one to two years of the typical language levels of their peers. Ok, that makes sense, they need to be able to follow the language of the kids and the classroom, but they don't have to be all caught up to be able to benefit from the mainstream.
The last and coolest thing I found was Clix for Kids. Do you guys know about this? I was already aware of all the cool stuff that The Listening Room by Advanced Bionics but this, I didn't know about. Clix for Kids is a discrimination test, right on your computer. It starts easy, with supersegmentals ("Hi" vs "Uh oh, those boots are dirty" vs "That's too loud!") going all the way up to final consonant change (sheep vs sheet and cut vs cup). It will save your scores and show the progress that you are making. We did it with Miss Kat and she did great!!! She scored perfectly up through level 7, missed some on level 8 and level 10. So, now we know exactly what we need to work on! (Oh, and by the way, WOW, I remember pre-implant she struggled with even levels 1 and 2!)
So, that's what we learned on our camping trip to Sound Beginnings....oh, and Momma learned how to put up a tent, that starting and keeping a fire are tough, and that body heat is really the best way to stay warm at night!!