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  • Writer's pictureStacy Crouse

What is Auditory-Verbal Therapy?

In 2017, I became the first Certified Auditory-Verbal Therapist in Iowa. Because this intervention approach (which is also called Listening and Spoken Language) for children with hearing loss is not well-known in my geographic area, I get lots of questions about it. So let's dive into some of the most frequently asked!

What is Auditory-Verbal Therapy?

Auditory Verbal Therapy (AVT) is used to help children with hearing loss learn to listen and use spoken language, which is one of many choices of communication for children with hearing loss. In this approach, children learn speech and language through listening using cochlear implants or hearing aids.

Using these advanced hearing technology devices, deaf and hard-of-hearing children learn language in the same way that children with normal hearing do– by accessing sound and following a typical progression of speech and language milestones.

Speech-language pathologists, audiologists, and teachers of the deaf can become certified to provide auditory-verbal therapy.

How does a child begin Auditory-Verbal Therapy?

When a child is identified as having a hearing loss (either at birth or as a young child), parents are faced with many questions. What, if anything, will my child be able to hear? Will my child be able to communicate? If so, how? How will education look for my child?

Professionals (including audiologists, speech-language pathologists, pediatricians, social workers, teachers of the deaf, etc.) should immediately step in and provide the parents with non-biased information to help lessen their concerns.

They should be given examples, current research, and local and national resources to help them understand the complete range of communication choices. Parents should choose what mode of communication meets their desired outcome and family dynamic and be fully supported in that choice.

A child with cochlear implants that is learning to listen and use spoken language via Auditory-Verbal Therapy

How is Auditory-Verbal Therapy different from speech therapy?

While AVT and speech therapy have some similarities, there are many differences. AVT is a specialized type of speech therapy that requires a professional (Listening and Spoken Language Specialist/Auditory-Verbal Therapist) with an extensive knowledge base of utilizing modern hearing technology to promote listening and spoken language outcomes.

There are several key elements of AVT. The first is early diagnosis of hearing loss and audiological management (hearing aids and/or cochlear implants). Once a child is fitted with appropriate hearing technology, great emphasis is placed on using audition to learn speech and language.

Another crucial part of AVT is that it is family-centered. It primarily focuses on teaching the parents and caregivers to become the primary facilitators of the child's speech, language, and listening skill development.

AVT sessions always have at least one parent (or caregiver) present who actively participates in the entire session. The therapist guides and coaches the parent on how to become the primary facilitator of goals within the session and how to continue the practice at home for the rest of the week.

A parent and their child with hearing loss playing on the floor in auditory verbal therapy

What about sign language?

Auditory Verbal Therapy does not include the use of sign language, as some other communication choices for deaf children do. Instead, emphasis is placed on auditory input, although the use of natural gestures and facial expressions is encouraged.

Many people ask me if I sign with my clients/students. I do know some signs and have used them with some deaf children in the past. However, the parents of those children had chosen communication for their child that included sign language.

Where can I find an Auditory-Verbal Therapist near where I live?

You can find a Listening and Spoken Language Specialist in your area using the AG Bell website. Remember– telepractice is a great option for AVT, so you aren't necessarily limited to locating someone near where you live!

How do I become an Auditory-Verbal Therapist??

The process of becoming an AVT takes 3-5 years and has several components. The AG Bell Academy website has lots of information about the criteria needed to complete this certification.

As AVT continues to grow in Iowa, the United States, and the world, it's exciting to see it become a viable option for more and more children whose parents want them to develop spoken language and listening abilities.

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