This post has a loooong background, and rather than bore you with all the details, I'm going to try to get straight to the point.
Our 10-month-old has a hearing impairment that was detected at birth. Official diagnosis: moderate bilateral sensorineural hearing loss. The upshot: this is a permanent hearing loss, it's not genetic, it's just something that happened, and as long as she wears hearing aids by the time she is 6 months old (which she has), her speech and language should develop right on par with her "hearing" peers.
Now, it just so happens that we live in a county that has amazing services for babies with hearing impairments, including a speech and language development specialist who comes to my house once a week to work with my daughter, make sure she's developing appropriately, and teach me simple techniques I can use to make sure my daughter's development isn't affected by the hearing loss.
The other day it occurred to me that these techniques would be beneficial for any baby, not just one with a hearing impairment, so although they may not be Montessori-based, I think this is a good forum for sharing them (especially considering that many of you have babies around the same age as my daughter). Also, I know that our county is one of the only ones in the country to provide these kinds of services, so perhaps these posts will be beneficial for parents of infants born with a hearing loss who - through complete happenstance - don't live where we do.
This first activity is so simple and so obvious, I can't believe it never occurred to me to try it with my older girls. I'm sure everyone is familiar with using picture books to teach babies the names of things. My daughter is still too little to look at picture books, though - she's teething right now, and all she wants to do is eat the books I show her. So instead, I started looking around my house for objects, and just look at what I found already sitting on my shelves:
A hen, sheep, pigs, and cows:
An elephant, a seal, a monkey, and a lion:
And numerous other baby-safe "objects." So here's the game:
Using two objects at a time, show your baby the objects and say (for example), "This is a sheep who *baaas*, and this is a cow who *moooos.* Can you show me the sheep who *baaas*?" If she reaches for the correct object say, "That's right, that's the sheep who *baaas.*" If she reaches for the wrong object, say, "That's the cow who *mooos*; can you show me the sheep who *baaas*?"
Once your baby is consistently reaching for the correct animal, add a third and eventually a fourth object.
My daughter is ten months old now, and she can totally do this! I don't even know if my older girls could have done this at this age, because I never tried it with them - I just waited until they were old enough for picture books.
I consider myself to be fairly proactive when it comes to my kids' early development, so the fact that I never thought of this game before now makes me think that others of you out there might not have, either. I'd be interested to know if these types of posts are useful to parents with "hearing" children.
And to parents of children with a hearing loss who might stumble across this blog, hopefully these activities will be helpful to you, too. It was only recently that I truly understood their purpose: I'm sure most of you are familiar with vision loss - things are blurry, you put on a pair of glasses, and your vision is corrected to 20/20. Hearing is more complicated than vision, though, so although hearing aids are beneficial and necessary, even "aided" hearing is never "20/20," so to speak. For instance, even with amplification, the sound /m/ can sound like /oo/, and vice versa, which can make speech very difficult to understand and emulate. Activities like this are intended to make sure that the baby's hearing aids are working effectively and that she can discriminate sounds. Of course, she'll be able to tell us these things in a few years, but the goal is to try to catch and identify any issues early before they can affect her development.
For now, we're encouraged that our daughter's development is right on track, and - considering all of the emotions that go with learning that your child has a hearing impairment - I couldn't ask for anything more!