In 2017, I became the first Certified Auditory-Verbal Therapist in Iowa. Because this intervention approach (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 one of many choices for communication for children with hearing loss. In this approach, children learn speech and language through listening using cochlear implants and/or hearing aids. Using these advanced hearing technology devices, children with hearing loss 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.
How does a child begin AVT?
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? How will my child communicate? 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 to provide the parents with non-biased information to help lesson their concerns. They should be given examples, current research, and local and national resources to help them understand the complete range of communication choices. It is the parents that then choose what mode of communication meets their desired outcome and family dynamic. In summary, choices are provided to the parents.
How is AVT different from speech therapy?
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.
Want more information? Read more about the differences (and similarities) between AVT and speech therapy!
What about sign language?
Auditory Verbal Therapy does not include the use sign language, as some other communication choices for deaf children do. Instead, emphasis is placed on auditory input, although use of natural gestures and facial expressions are encouraged.
Many people ask me if I sign with my clients/students. I do know some sign and have used it 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 AVT in my area?
You can find a Listening and Spoken Language Specialist in your area using the 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 can I become an AVT?
There 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 be a viable option for more and more children whose parents want them to develop spoken language and listening abilities. Feel free to comment below with any other questions you have that I can answer in future posts.