The Bionic Sound Project

this girl’s journey to sound

It’s not about which method, it’s about getting the information out there Monday, March 10, 2008

Filed under: Uncategorized — Allison @ 12:04 pm

Again, it’s not a matter of which method one uses, but the fact that early exposure to language is the key. I’ve been asked whether having the cochlear implant or not will make a deaf child more “hearing”, and whether a parent should choose the oral only or sign only or both methods.

But here’s a story that may be of interest for that argument…it doesn’t matter, as long as you get the information out there to the child. Read out loud, show words, and sign…as long as the language is being shared, the better chance of success.

I got lucky though. My mom started off with the Auditory-Verbal method, and one day, I said to her, “Mommy, I can’t hear you. I can’t see your lips.” That’s when she realized that I had taught myself, at the age of 2, to read lips. That’s when she switched to the Auditory-Oral method.

Even during that, I was read to and read along with family members from an early age, and a love of books in the family helped me perform at above-grade level in English and Reading.

I didn’t get exposed to sign language on a regular basis until 6th grade, formally learning the language at 17 years old.

But while there are success stories, there are also stories of failure out there. Parents have picked one method, only to have it fail, and the child loses ground in language. That’s one of the risks that my mom took, and it paid off. Same thing with getting a cochlear implant, you don’t know until you try. There was a girl I went to JWPOSD with, whose parents took the same approach with her as mine did, but it just wasn’t working for her. I don’t know what’s happened to her since then.

This is why I believe that getting the information to the child using all available methods as early as possible, regardless of hearing ability, is the best way to go. I think it would be beautiful to engage as many of the senses one can.

Baby’s Got Book! Tot Can Read
An amazing 17-month-old girl rekindles the nature-versus-nurture debate

Today show
By Mike Celizic contributor
updated 55 minutes ago

Elizabeth Barrett is to all appearances your standard 17-month-old girl, complete with wisps of gossamer hair so blond it’s almost white and the unsteady gait that is the definition of a toddler. As her parents and two other adults talk earnestly around her, she paws through a couple of large-format children’s books on a table, blissfully unaware of the conversation around her.

Then TODAY’s Ann Curry holds up a sheet of paper with the word “HAPPY” printed in big, block letters and asks Elizabeth to read it.

“Hap-py,” Elizabeth chirps without hesitation, enunciating each syllable in a bright little voice.

Curry holds up another sheet of paper.

“Zip-per,” Elizabeth says.

Curry goes on flashing words, none of which Elizabeth has been coached on, and the remarkable little girl reads them.

“Kang-a-roo.” “Flow-er.” “Nice to meet you.” “Take a bath.” “Good morning, Ann.”

This happened on the TODAY show Monday in New York. Elizabeth wasn’t showing off or performing, this sort of thing being old hat to her. Way back when she was 13 months old, she read her first word, says her mother, Katy Barrett of Lubbock, Texas.

The word was “corn,” and little Elizabeth read it on a cereal box at the supermarket. There was no picture of corn to give her a clue. She just pointed at the word and read it. She also signed the word in sign language.

Katy Barrett and her husband, Michael, are speech pathologists, and when Elizabeth was born, they said on Monday, they started teaching her sign language along with spoken language. They read to her often, and her favorite television program — the only one her parents let her watch — was a PBS show called “Signing Times,” which teaches kids sign language.

Yet, as much as her parents worked to stimulate her language skills, they were as astonished as anyone when she started picking out words and reading them, especially as they never attempted to teach her to read.

“We tried to do everything we could to try to stimulate her language growth,” Michael Barrett told Curry. “From day one Katy has been using sign language with her. We think anything relating to language is a good thing to nurture.”

Even so, he went on, that wouldn’t be enough to teach Elizabeth to read. “I think there’s more to it than that,” he said. “I think she has some special abilities that have just been a fortunate thing she’s been born with.”

“This is something we never expected,” added his wife. “We didn’t teach her this. We don’t sit down and drill her on words. She loves reading books.”

Nature or nurture?
The Barretts were joined by Susan Schwartz, a clinical director at the Institute for Learning and Academic Achievement at the New York University Child Study Center, who agreed that Elizabeth’s extraordinary abilities have a lot to do with genetics.

“I think she has extremely well-developed visual perception and visual memory,” Schwartz said. “I think that Katy and Michael have done a great job giving her a lot of multisensory input, so she sees things, she’s talking about them, she is signing and she is using all of those skills together.”

The Barretts said that as amazing as their daughter’s skills are, they’re also a little frightening.

“The fact that she could do it was scary to us at first,” said Michael Barrett.

“Even though this is an amazing skill, it makes her different, and it’s not easy to be different. So that worries me,” added Katy Barrett.

In fact, they said, the reason they called their local NBC affiliate with their daughter’s story was because they wanted to reach out to experts who could help them deal with Elizabeth’s abilities.

On Monday, they were surprised to discover that Elizabeth had talents they weren’t aware of. While Schwartz was talking, Curry wrote a word in script on the back of a sheet of paper, then showed it to Elizabeth.

“That’s cursive,” Michael Barrett started to say.

“Ba-by,” Elizabeth interrupted.

“She reads cursive?” Curry exclaimed.

Replied Katy Barrett, “We didn’t know that.”


Being Proactive When Undergoing Medical Treatment When You Have A Cochlear Implant Friday, March 7, 2008

Filed under: Uncategorized — Allison @ 9:59 am

From the Advanced Bionics Patient Identification Card

MEDICAL: Please contact Advanced Bionics before conducting any medical procedures including, but not limited to: MRI, diathermy, electrosurgery, ECT, Ionizing Radiation Therapy, Cobalt Treatment, and Linear Acceleration.

Growing up in Arizona, and being exposed to the sun as much as I have, it is imperative for me to keep track of my skin.

I had new moles on my skin, so I went to the dermatologist on Wednesday. She removed one from my shoulder, using electrocautery. I was a bit wary when she was doing that, because I realized that was one of the things that I couldn’t do with the cochlear implant.

My second appointment was on Friday, and I asked her if she was using electrosurgery for these procedures. When she said yes, I asked her to please call Advanced Bionics just to make sure that it would be safe.

She was hesitant at first, and decided not to do the procedure, and wanted me to come back at a different date. I was on spring break, and that was my last day at home, so I asked her to please call anyway. She sent the nurse to call them, while she removed one, and used a liquid solution instead of electrocauterization to stop the bleeding. The nurse came back and told her that they wanted to talk to her.

When I found out what Advanced Bionics had to say, I was grateful that I was pushy in asking her to please call anyway.

I found out that if she had gone ahead with using electrocautery, we could have been electrocuted or gotten an electrical burn. In order to do electrosurgical procedures above the neck, we either needed to have a grounded pad on the floor or placed on me, or the wires needed to be grounded.

It was a good reminder to me to be proactive with my doctors when discussing medical procedures, post-cochlear implant.