Lately, I have taken a lot of pleasure from hearing my sons E and M have conversations with one another and with us. With M, this ability seemed to come naturally, almost out of nowhere. With E, however, there was a long journey to get him to where he is now. Thankfully, at the age of 5, he is now speaking beautifully (other than a few normal grammatical errors). I wanted to share some of our process of getting from point A to point B with his speech and language development.
At two months of age, we found out that E had bilateral sensorineural hearing loss (one ear more severe than the other). He was fitted for hearing aids a week later and received them at around three months. At four months, we found out that he has Enlarged Vestibular Aqueduct Syndrome (EVAS), which is a malformation of his cochlea and can lead to progressive hearing loss over time. He immediately qualified for early intervention speech therapy services, as a result. The therapist would come to his day care and work with him on making sounds and learning how to listen. I would go to these therapy sessions so that I could see what she was doing and practice at home. The first time he said “ah-ah-ah” (in an upward fluctuation), I had tears in my eyes. I knew that I couldn’t take his ability to speak for granted.
In the meantime, we went to a support group for families of children with hearing loss. At one of the meetings, there was a panel of adults and teens with varying degrees of hearing loss. One of the teenagers also had bilateral sensorineural loss, but was speaking so eloquently and clearly that you could not tell that she had difficulty hearing. And her loss was diagnosed at 2 years of age. This gave my husband and me a lot of hope for E’s speech development.
The challenge in E’s first year was getting more services for him. Early intervention only spent a short amount of time with him each week. An auditory-verbal therapist was recommended to us, as they work well with kids who have EVAS. However, such services are not covered by insurance in Illinois the same way regular speech therapy services are covered. We were sad that we couldn’t utilize her services, as she was really good but out of our price range. Someone else connected us with a speech therapist who was studying AV therapy, as well. She worked really well with E and got him “talking” quite a bit. Mostly one word statements, but for a one-year old with hearing loss, it was major progress.
When we moved to New Jersey a few years ago, the process to get early intervention services took several months. I’d work with him on what we had already been practicing, but that wasn’t going to be enough for him to catch up with his same age peers. He was almost two by the time he received the services from E.I.. The therapist came to see him twice a week at his day care. Once again, I was also there to participate and learn from her techniques. She was really nice and he liked her a lot. I feel that she got him to a really good place with his speech by the time he was no longer eligible for services, due to age, and would have to go to pre-K.
In the meantime, we wanted to give him an extra boost, so we took him to a speech therapist outside of E.I. once a week. She was nice and patient with him, but it seemed like most of his time was spent coloring. For a few months, he had a substitute therapist who did an amazing job with him.
When it came time for pre-K, he attended a school program in the district for children with hearing loss. His teachers were wonderful and he also received the auditory verbal therapy that we had been longing after for a few years.
E is now five years old and is talking like he never needed services to begin with. I don’t know how much of his early speech therapy he remembers, but he does refer to it from time to time. After he got his cochlear implant, it was suggested that he receive speech therapy through the hospital. However, his school therapist and I agree that he is doing well without these extra services. For that, I am truly thankful.