Monthly Archives: February 2014

Focusing on the person between the ears

Stephen Owen


No matter what our line of business, there always seems to be such a multitude of things that require our attention, that we can easily lose focus of the things that are the core of what we do.

I know first-hand what this is like and often find myself pushing back from my desk, grabbing a coffee, taking a moment to re-focus on what it is that really matters.

This is one of those moments.

Sure, there are multiple e-mails to answer, phone calls to suppliers to be made, a team member needs a question answered, that presentation is coming up, website content needs to be reviewed and a video project is in need of a few moments of my time. And then there’s the daily practice schedule to manage.

Time for me to push back. Re-group. Re-focus. What is at the core of what SoundIntuiton does?

Ah, right.

It’s providing continuing education tools toward the big-picture goal of making the lives of individuals with communication challenges, like those with hearing loss, easier.

Tyler and Stephen hamming it up for the camera

So it is, I imagine, with our audience of professionals in their capacities as audiologists, speech-language pathologists and educators. Their realities have got to be much like mine.

I wonder if they too, get so focused on the trees of daily life that seeing the forest becomes something they haven’t viewed in a while. Does the focus on their day-to-day realities with issues (interaction with other providers/hospitals/doctors, funding issues, inter-discipline politics, bureaucracy, etc.) in their professional lives become such a distraction that they too run the risk of momentarily losing sight of the core of what they do? Is it possible that clients could inadvertently get relegated to being clinical cases as opposed to being seen as individuals? Is service delivery being compromised?

Join me in taking a moment.

Push back from your desk, step away for that current issue, go refill your coffee or glass of water.

Take time to re-focus on the person between the ears. Your clients will thank you.

We appreciate your interest in this blog post. The text contained in it is copyrighted by SoundIntuition as of the date of publishing. Contact us by leaving a comment on this post if you would like to use this text elsewhere. When used, we would ask that you cite this page, using the full URL (, as being the originator of the content.

Raising an Auditory-Verbal Therapist

Karen  MacIver-Lux

From an early age, I knew I was a privileged little girl.

My idea of privilege, however, had nothing to do with money, popularity, or good looks. For me, it was being able to hear with easy-to-hide hearing aids, and not having to wear eye-glasses like my best friend did.

That and being able to hear and speak English, which was downright difficult to learn with a bilateral severe to profound hearing loss with ’70’s hearing technology.

It took my mother, and a small village of trusted professionals to raise me to be the joyful listener and speaker that I am.

Once I grew up I became determined to “give back”, ultimately studying to become an audiologist and training to be an LSLS Certified Auditory-Verbal Therapist (LSLS Cert. AVTTM).

Over the years, I have adopted a number of practices that continue to help me in my endeavours to be the best AVT that I can be. The following tips are a few that I share with budding auditory-verbal therapists:

Adopt the 'Yes We Can' philosophyWhat made learning to speak difficult was not only the limitations of the ’70’s hearing technology, but also the many well-meaning professionals who categorically told my mother that I’d never learn to talk, never go to school, and would never get a job.

Luckily for me, if you want my mom to do something, just tell her she can’t do it, and she will do it just to prove you wrong.  Despite her determined “yes we can” philosophy, it was extremely disheartening to hear the negativity over and over again.  What did it accomplish other than to create days and nights of tears and anxiety?  Nothing.

During my years in practice I have observed that parents want and need to feel encouraged in order to see the value of consistent hearing technology use and weekly auditory-verbal therapy sessions. They are, after all, my primary clients.

“Clinical positivity” (reporting positive aspects of clinical findings and observations) is what breeds encouragement and plants the seeds of success.

Some examples of “clinical positivity” include:

  • explaining to the parents what their child with hearing loss CAN hear at time of diagnosis,
  • pointing out those occasions when their child showed positive outcomes in areas of audition, speech, language, cognition and communication,
  • being positive and when in doubt, use expressions like, “I don’t know, but let’s try!”

Learn to ListenYes, as a therapist I, too, need to learn to listen—not only to the children, but more importantly, their parents/caregivers.  When a parent/caregiver begins talking, I have learned to become quiet, lean in, wait (even when there is a pregnant pause), and most of all, maintain eye contact.

Therapy session

When parents speak out of frustration or anger, I try to listen and resist the urge to defend, explain and justify.  I focus on being an active and compassionate listener. Summarizing what I heard can be very helpful to them and to me.  I respond carefully to their concerns or issues once I am sure of their perspective. I try to put myself in the parents’ shoes and imagine what it must feel like raising a child while feeling uncertain of what the future holds.

I have been guilty of “listening” to parents while putting away toys, wiping the table, or writing notes in my chart.

Please don’t do this.  Parents look forward to having the opportunity to share their progress and their child with you, not the back of your head.

Keep your mentor closeI am fortunate to have a mentor to turn to for honest feedback, support, and professional guidance.

I don’t always like what I hear, but I’ve learned through experience to listen carefully to what he says, not to take criticism or constructive feedback personally, and when I disagree, to go ahead and try what he suggested because it usually ends up being the best advice.  He has earned my trust.

Find a mentor that you admire and trust—a good mentor who takes the time to listen to your stories of challenges and successes, a person who will support and encourage you in your growth as a career professional.

Don't Forget the Child’s Eye View (and Smell)

As a child I endured many years of therapy in a room with grey walls devoid of pictures, cabinets full of toys and treasures hiding behind locked doors, a tiny table and uncomfortable chairs that were either too small or big, and a room so big that the sound reverberated. I vowed that my therapy room (and sound booth) would be a cozy play-land with lots of bright colours, interesting toys, inviting books and pictures to look at.  I want the children and their families to see, hear, feel, love, and eagerly anticipate the meaningful auditory and spoken language opportunities I create for them.

Imagine that you are a child who cannot hear.  Stuff your ears with earplugs and get on your knees and crawl into your therapy room.  What does it look like?  What does it sound like? Is your therapy room warm and inviting?  Would you want to spend time in this room every week for three to five years?

I suggest refraining from drinking coffee, smoking, or eating strong-smelling foods before conducting a therapy session.

Pay attention to personal hygiene (which includes perfume).  As much as I hate to say it, there is nothing worse than sitting for an hour with a therapist who has a pungent smell.

Pay attention to the child’s personal space. I hated it when my therapists tapped me on the shoulder or hands, so I make a conscious effort not to do the same. If I need to be closer than 8 inches to the microphone of the child’s technology in order for the child to detect the entire speech spectrum, then I know I’m too close for the child’s comfort. The child will feel that you are breathing down their neck.

All of these are enough to turn a child who loves to please into a child who refuses to cooperate!

Remember the ‘Two Weeks and Then Move On’ Rule

I’ll never forget the day I started seeing a client who my mentor had been teaching.  I remember feeling so nervous!  How was I ever going to do therapy as well as my mentor did?

He made the sessions look so easy to do!  When it was my turn in the hot seat, I found myself stressing over which techniques and strategies to use and generally, making a big mess of things.

“Rome wasn’t built in a day” I reminded myself, deciding to focus on one technique—study it and practice it for two weeks.

If I mastered the use of the technique during therapy sessions, great!  If I didn’t, it was time for me to move on to another technique.  I would come back to the un-mastered technique some other time.  I even involved the parents in the process of helping me learn and use the techniques and strategies and we had fun learning together and laughing at our mistakes.

Unlike learning to acquire listening and spoken language skills, learning the tricks of the auditory-verbal trade is a career-long process— a process that is bound to be frustrating yet very rewarding at the same time.

To those of you who are budding AVTs, welcome to the world of auditory-verbal practice!  For those of us who are seasoned auditory-verbal therapists, we owe it to the children to find ways to raise the bar in auditory-verbal practice.


We appreciate your interest in this blog post. The text contained in it is copyrighted by SoundIntuition as of the date of publishing. Contact us by leaving a comment on this post if you would like to use this text elsewhere. When used, we would ask that you cite this page, using the full URL (, as being the originator of the content. 


Hearing Heroes

Carrie Spangler

I am honored to be asked to write the first blog post for the Audio-Logic blog.  As I was thinking of an appropriate topic, my mind went directly to Karen, the owner and founder of SoundIntuition and how I met this wonderful person.

I met Karen for the first time she was a graduate student in audiology, and it was life changing for me!  This life changing event is supported by the Supplement to the Joint Committee on Infant Hearing 2007 Position Statement:  Principles and Guidelines for Early Intervention Goal 11 which supports that all children who are deaf/hard of hearing and their families have access to support, mentorship, and guidance from individuals who are deaf/hard of hearing.

Growing up as the only person in my family and my mainstream school with hearing loss posed a challenge at times.  I know that my parents felt alone in the journey, not having any support or what to expect.  I know that I felt that life was not fair that I had to wear hearing aids when seemingly everyone else in the world had nothing in their ears!

Then I met Karen.  I will never forget that day when I was in high school attending an appointment for an annual audiological assessment and she introduced herself as a graduate student in audiology.  She went on to explain that she had a hearing loss like me and wore hearing aids (now she wears cochlear implants) and uses a personal FM system.  I remember thinking….”Incredible!  This beautiful young adult studying to be an audiologist, AND wears hearing aids just like me!”.  This day was a pivot point for me.  I realized that I could be at peace with my hearing loss and make a choice to change my attitude about hearing loss.  I realized that hearing loss was a positive asset and would be one of the greatest gifts that I could have.

The American Speech-Language Hearing Association’s Joint Committee on Infant Hearing (JCIH) Goal 11 states that “families who have many contacts with adults who are D/HH exhibit a strong sense of competence with regard to raising their child who is D/HH”.  Audio-Logic “ally” speaking, I would expand to say that children and teens that have contacts with mentors who have hearing loss exhibit a strong sense of competence with regard to themselves.

I am thankful that Karen and I share audiology as a career path, which has allowed us to reconnect both personally and professionally.  However, there was a long period between the first time I met Karen and the next.  With that being said; this ONE meeting can leave a positive imprint on individual with hearing loss, especially a tween or teen-ager that may be dealing with self image and fitting in.

Carrie's Group

As a professional working with individuals with hearing loss or a parent who has a child with hearing loss….what can you do?  You could make the “pivot point” happen for that important tween or teen.   When I began my first year working as an educational audiologist for Stark County Educational Service Center (Canton, Ohio USA) I made the decision that I wanted to be able to offer this “pivot point” for students with hearing loss in the mainstream.  I had vision that every student that I worked with should have the opportunity to meet another student with hearing loss before graduating.  I began to share my vision with colleagues and the idea of a support group called Hit It! (Hearing Impaired Teens Interacting Together) was born.  When I had this vision in my head, it was no longer the question of “should I do this?” it became “how can I do this?.  When you ask “how?” ideas start developing and action begin to take place.  Our first Hit It! meeting took place in 1999 and has been going strong since.  We have been connecting students with hearing loss, hoping to move their “pivot point” positively.

Starting a support group seem overwhelming?  I know how you feel!  I am now in a new position at The University of Akron and starting over.  To get started, I reflect back on the “pivot point” of meeting Karen for the first time in my own life and realize that I want to positively influence the lives of teens with hearing loss wherever I am.  I am now asking “how?” and talking to colleagues.  As professionals working with children with hearing loss, we have tremendous influence and connections.  Still overwhelmed?   Think about starting small and connecting families and children with hearing loss for a 2 hour event.  Or strategically schedule patients and families back to back that you think would benefit from meeting. Creatively act and you will be rewarded knowing that you have made a difference!

As I wrap up this blog entry, I encourage every professional and parent to CONNECT children with hearing loss with others who can be a positive “Hearing Loss Hero” in their life.

We appreciate your interest in this blog post. The text contained in it is copyrighted by SoundIntuition as of the date of publishing. Contact us by leaving a comment on this post if you would like to use this text elsewhere. When used, we would ask that you cite this page, using the full URL (, as being the originator of the content.

It all comes down to: S.H.A.R.E.

Erin Smith short bio

Support – Help – Acknowledge – Respect – Encourage

Writing an inaugural blog for Speaking of Which is an unnerving yet thrilling honour.  Karen approached me to write for her because she believes in me… as a clinician, professional and as a team member. This caused me to pause and reflect on the importance of being surrounded by people who support, help, acknowledge, respect and encourage.  People who S.H.A.R.E  move us forward in our lives – personally and professionally.

Imagine that you have just finished an incredibly challenging assessment or treatment session. What is the first thing you do?  The first thing I do is find a willing colleague and debrief about the experience I had. I have the pleasure of working in an environment with other Speech-Language Pathologists, Audiologists, Early Interventionists, Physiotherapists (PT) and Occupational therapists (OT).   Chances are good, that they have had similar experiences and will not only listen, but may add examples from their own practice to support our decisions or ask questions that may inspire us to take a different perspective.  It doesn’t seem to matter what profession the colleague belongs to, we all share similar celebrations and challenges. Having the support of colleagues is one of the greatest contributors to my job satisfaction and career growth.

Now, imagine that you are about to see a client for therapy and you are at a loss for an exciting therapy idea to target ‘food’ vocabulary (for the 28th time).  Who do you turn to for help? Where do you go?  My next favourite team is my ‘virtual’ team.  I have made connections with professionals (such as yourself) who have a wealth of creativity and have willingly shared those ideas through discussion groups, forums and websites.  I have never physically met many of you, but the desire for accessible information and materials drives you to share and help professionals such as myself.

Zackie interacts with Erin

I believe what makes a person an integral part of a team is self-reflection and the ability to acknowledge one’s own strengths and ‘needs improvement’ areas. Although I have been working for over a decade and I am familiar with many of the resources in my geographic area, there are times when I consult with my team members to ensure that I can provide all of the information and resources to a family. We can’t know everything about everything.  But if we know our own resources, we know where to find that information. Sometimes, I have an “off” day and I know it, I try to brush myself off and address any lingering concerns with my team (colleague or family).

Respect is crucial as we strive to work together to improve the lives of individuals, families and communities. We have to respect ourselves – knowing our value and worth in our profession is important and we should not undervalue our skills and knowledge. Respect for each other is essential to maintain the integrity of our professions. Speech-Language Pathologists acquire training that is diverse and is dependent on where they trained and what continuing education they have chosen to attend.  Because of this, we all bring to the table a somewhat different approach. I have to respect the fact that although I may not practice the same techniques and strategies, it doesn’t mean that I am right and they are wrong… it is different… I respect that, and I learn.

At the end of the day, something makes us want to wake up and go to work again.  We are encouraged by our team members who confirm our decisions or invite us to try something new. We are encouraged by our clients and families who make progress or give us positive feedback. I am encouraged when I see parents ‘buy in’ to the approach I present and are motivated to participate in the process of changing communication behaviours.

Speaking of which, sharing seems to be the common thread in my success with teams. We each have something to contribute.  Some days it is more than others. One day I might be a listener, one day I might contribute by sharing information.  Today, I shared my time and materials by opening my ‘food folder’ and cutting out a pizza craft for a colleague who was rushing off to a therapy session.  I did this because I had materials that my colleague could use to have a successful session.  Sharing our time, knowledge, ideas, experiences and respect is key to creating successful outcomes for all..

As I wrap up my first blog entry, I encourage you to SHARE what moves you forward in your professional career!

We appreciate your interest in this blog post. The text contained in it is copyrighted by SoundIntuition as of the date of publishing. Contact us by leaving a comment on this post if you would like to use this text elsewhere. When used, we would ask that you cite this page, using the full URL (, as being the originator of the content.