by Lori Riggs, M.A., CCC/SLP
Director of NACD’s Center for Speech and Sound
“Can you hear me now?” “What did I say?” “Are you listening to me?” “Please just say ——-.” “Say dog/ horse.” “Read my lips.” At NACD we have been working on all of the pieces of the puzzle that help your children learn and develop. All of the pieces are not necessarily easy to test, identify, or treat. Most of those working within the field don’t worry about identifying what is actually broken; they just give it a label. “Sorry, your child has a central auditory processing disorder.” “Your child is apraxic.” “Sorry, your child is MR.” “Have you considered sign language?” At NACD we do not find a label t use as an excuse; we look for the cause of the problem and treat it; and historically, if a treatment doesn’t exist, we create one.
Some of the most difficult areas we have to address are those pieces involving hearing, the condition of the middle ear, tonal processing, auditory sequential processing, speech, oral motor function, and language. The first critical piece in this developmental chain is hearing. One would think that at this point in time testing and understanding hearing would be a simple thing. Not only is it not simple, but it often can’t be done, or at least can’t be done well. (Our team at NACD is presently working on some exciting new ways to actually see what a child hears and processes as part of our new TSI –Targeted Sound Intervention™)
Without being able to obtain reliable, accurate data, we sometimes have to rely on what Bob refers to as the “Black Box Protocol.” The Black Box Protocol basically says that if we cannot measure or definitively know what is going in, we can surmise what is going in by looking at what is coming out. In a great movie, “Never Cry Wolf,” a scientist is sent to the Yukon to determine if the wolves are responsible for a decrease in the caribou herds. The scientist, unable to actually see what the wolves eat, examines the wolves’ scat and learns that the wolves are actually eating mice. This is the Black Box Protocol–look at what is coming out, and you can get a reasonable idea of what is going in. To determine what your children are hearing or processing, we don’t need to examine their scat. But we do need to look at their ability to understand and produce language. In the case of receptive and expressive language, if we have a problem with what is coming out, we likely have a problem with what is going in. So, how do we improve what is going in? One thing we can do is to improve the quality of the sound/speech that the child hears, as well as to control the extraneous sound that distorts and masks what we are hoping our children are taking in.
If your child has listening and auditory processing difficulties, your evaluator may have recommended or will be recommending an FM system on your program. FM systems (or “auditory trainers”) have historically been used in school classrooms for students who have difficulty hearing in the presence of background noise. The teacher speaks into a microphone, and the student hears her voice through headphones, blocking out the distracting sounds of the classroom.
In many instances we have found FM systems to be useful at home as well, as they provide direct input to a child’s ears during program activities or in daily communication. This eliminates the competing sounds of the environment and provides more intensive, appropriate input to your child. For a child with processing or hearing difficulties, the direct input can make a significant positive difference, making processing easier and program more effective.
The biggest obstacle we have had in recommending FM units to our families has been cost. Because they are usually sold to schools, systems are quite expensive, generally around $2000. For this reason NACD has put together a variety of systems that are now available to you. The systems contain wired and wireless mics, as well as wired or wireless headphones, along with all the necessary mixers, cables and instructions. We have managed to find components that all provide excellent sound quality at really affordable prices. The pieces of the system are high quality and should last well with frequent use.
We are excited to be able to provide these FM units and are anxious to start seeing the results. If you have any questions please do not hesitate to call me at the National Office 801-621-8606.
Please contact the main office or see below for further information or to order: