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.”


5 Responses to “It’s not about which method, it’s about getting the information out there”

  1. shanti Says:

    Michael and Katy,
    I just want you to check out about Indigo Children. There is a movie made and many books on Indigo children. You can try to reach the family who was interviewed by Dianne Sawyer on ABC about their children exceptional quality. Actually, I have a feeling this family could be of great guide for you. You are not alone! there are many family like you with exceptional children.
    My good wishes and blessings.

  2. Allison Says:

    Hi, I am not Michael and Katy, and I don’t know them. Sorry though, but I had to google it out of interest. Thanks for the comment.

  3. Laura Says:

    I’m not sure why this particular child is getting so much attention for being able to read early. This is actually a disorder called hyperlexia, where a child can “word call” at a very early age, but likely does not comprehend anything that is being read. I teach children with autism and many of my students have been able to read from a very early age- they are hyperlexic. In fact, most children who are hyperlexic have autism. For more information, here’s a link to wikipedia:

    I hope that this little girl’s parents can be realistic about her abilities.


  4. Abbie Says:

    I was exposed to AV therapy and sign language but I was just getting too confused with sign language when I was younger. I am just beginning to learn how to sign. My mom constantly practiced with and I am thankful that it worked. What works for one might not work for the other?

  5. Helen Says:

    She’s been evaluated for hyperlexia and it’s been ruled out. There is apparently no evidence of any communication disorder at all.

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