Tag Archives: Learning to listen sounds

It All Starts With Play…

Rebecca Siomra

Children need the freedom and time to play.
Play is not a luxury. Play is a necessity.
– Kay Redfield Jamison

When I came across this quote, it made me stop and think.

Play is a necessity. Interesting. Necessary for what? The importance of play for everyone has gotten a lot of attention in research and literature in recent years. In adults, play means something different to different people – playing hockey, painting a landscape, singing show tunes, training dogs, going for a morning run or even building a deck! In childhood, play has a very special and important role. Play affects just about every area of a child’s development, and impacts brain development. Play makes us feel good and it can motivate us and help us learn.  In discussing play in children, I’m not talking about the need for mountains of trendy, expensive toys or electronics, but just ‘play’, pure and simple.

Why would I care about play? I specialize in speech and language. Speech-Language Pathology isn’t only about talking and understanding, it’s about communicating and interacting with others, and those skills begin to develop from day one through daily routines, and through simple play.  The way we bounce, rock, tickle or sing to a baby are all early play activities. When we see how babies do (or don’t) respond to these activities, we start to know more about their personalities, or how they might be feeling that day. The way that we respond in turn helps that little one to learn that what they do (or don’t do) has an effect on others. They learn that making a noise or smiling will bring on another tickle, or round of ‘Twinkle Twinkle’, and so communication begins.

In my practice, the first step in a therapy program for a young child often starts with very simple interactions. I want the parents that I coach to really understand that play is a child’s work; encouraging play and joining in play is a parent’s work. Play allows a child to learn about themselves, their environment, other children, adults and how they should and should not behave with other people. In a wonderful coincidence, when we play with a child, we also learn about them and, if we’re lucky, about ourselves too.

I think it’s incredible that so many important
life-skills can be learned through play.

When we use the term ‘child’s play’, we usually mean something that is ‘easy to do’, or ‘without significant challenge’. I have the opportunity to work with very young children every day, and my experiences lead me question that generalization. A child’s play is fun, absolutely, but without challenge? I’m not so sure the little ones would agree with that!  Remember, this is their work, and they take it very seriously!

Boy working with building blocks

Watching a toddler tackle stacking blocks or a shape sorter for the first time, or try to sort out how to make a toy bus sing its song again, reminds me just how important it is to reset my perspective. So many skills are second nature to me as an adult, but are brand new to the children I work with. Every little step in developing early play skills requires patience… practice… learning. Think about it, when babies are really little, they learn to grasp something in their hand, then to lift it up, then their hand gets tired and, oops, it falls out.  Now what?

They try again, and again, and again. Perseverance is a life-skill; how amazing is it that it can begin to develop at such a tender age. As an adult, our role may be to stay close by and to let them keep trying, to allow them the opportunity to learn. Babies and young toddlers may dump anything and everything out of containers, but putting something back into a container requires hand-eye coordination and control of grasp and release. What happens when the task becomes too frustrating?

The child needs to figure out how to communicate so that someone will know to come and help; one more skill to add to the to-do list. Wow, this ‘child’s play’ stuff is a lot of work!  Fortunately, it’s also a lot of fun, which encourages these little ones to keep practicing.  They certainly are motivated to learn!

Over the years, I’ve collected charts and lists detailing developmental milestones. What I find fascinating is watching the points from those lists coming to life, first in what children do in their play, and then  in their everyday routines.

A baby who has been putting her fingers, then toys, in her mouth comes to realize that she can also put bits of cookie in her mouth – brilliant. One big step to independence!! The young toddler who has been playing peek-a-boo with his parents realizes that when they disappear around the corner to answer the phone they’re still there and will come back, and he doesn’t need to be sad – marvelous!

In Auditory Verbal Therapy, we coach parents to make ‘Learning to Listen Sounds’ for their babies while playing with toys, singing or looking at books. The big moment comes when, one day, that little one looks at the airplane and says ‘ahhhh’, without even realizing that she has learned how to attach a label to an object. Even more astonishing, all of that practice of making those funny sounds back and forth with any adult who will play, one day turns into first words!!

Play gives children a chance to practice what they are learning.
– Fred Rogers

Ah, those first sounds… first words. Music to every parent’s ears.  What comes next?  We want to hear those words again, and again of course! As adults, we can create endless opportunities for young children to practice new sounds and words through games or books.  We want them to feel confident and to want to try again. When we build all of this ‘work’ into play, a child will be motivated to keep trying, to keep learning.

The repetition of songs can help children learn about body parts, actions, animals or even what the parts of a bus do!  They learn how to listen and wait for the pause in a song when they can happily fill in the ‘E-I-E-I-O’ with gusto! They learn how to take turns by pushing a car or ball back and forth.  They learn how to ask for help by handing the container of bubbles to a parent while looking between the two expectantly. The countless rounds of peek-a-boo, driving that blue train around the track one… more… time. So many opportunities for children to learn from us, and all we have to do is have fun – really? Amazing!

As a Speech-Language Pathologist, I may guide a parent in how to adjust play routines, or the language they use, to match their baby’s learning needs, but it really still boils down to play.

Laying the ground-work for early play and communication development opens so many doors… like the one to the land of make-believe, but that’s a thought for another day!

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 (http://soundintuition.com/blog/it-all-starts-with-play), as being the originator of the content.

Let Your Holiday Toys and Decorations Do The Talking ALL Year Round!

Karen MacIver-Lux

At this time of the year, many people around the world are celebrating different holidays,  some Hanukkah, while others are eagerly anticipating the arrival of a jolly fellow in a red suit on Christmas eve or morning.  Decorations have been put up and gifts are waiting to be opened.

At SoundIntuition, we are using this time to celebrate the toys and decorations of the holiday season, and the professionals and families around the world that are on a journey of turning a grey world of silence into a colourful world of sound.

Wait a minute.  Toys and decorations of the holiday season? Yes. You read that correctly.

Many of us underestimate the power the toys and decorations that come with seasonal holidays like Hanukkah and Christmas, returning the toys and decorations to their storage boxes too soon after the holidays are over. But when we do, we miss out on opportunities for conversations that stimulate brain growth. Brain growth that results in improved listening, spoken communication and literacy skills.

I once kept a Christmas tree up until just before Easter. Yes, I know it’s overkill, but let me tell you, it got a lot of my children and their parents talking and asking questions.

I heard moms and dads croon to their babies using phrases like:

“Look!  Look up, up, up the tree!  There’s a star!  Let’s sing a song about stars!”

“Look!  There’s an ornament!  It goes round and round and round!”

“There’s the light!  Don’t touch it! It might be hot!”

I heard moms and dads help their toddlers and preschoolers learn to follow simple directions and engage in conversation using phrases such as:

“Uh oh, the star fell down! We better pick it up!”

“It’s broken!  Oh no! What happened?”

“Ouch, the tree is prickly. Oh no, do you have a boo boo?”

I heard older children ask their moms and dads questions such as:

“Is that a Happy New Year tree?”

“WHEN IS Auntie Karen gonna take Christmas tree down?”

“Won’t the Easter Bunny wonder if it’s too early to deliver eggs if he sees the Christmas tree?”

More often than not, the conversations included many of my session targets.

Put simply, the Christmas tree gave my families and children something to talk about.

After each holiday season, I run to the craft store and go on a shopping spree.  I take advantage of the sales and purchase more seasonal decorations and toys.  I keep them out all year round because these are the toys that give the most bang for the listening and language-learning buck.

Seasonal Toys


The dreidel is a classic Learning to Listen (LTL) toy.  When using the dreidel, we can talk about it by using phrases, questions and directions that include future, present, and past tenses, predictions, counting/numbers and concepts such as more, again, after, before, etc.  There are many songs that can be sung with the dreidel that can be found in Hear and Listen! Talk and Sing! (Estabrooks, 2006). The language used during play with the dreidel is meaningful, repetitive and most importantly, easy to hear, say and sing.

“If we count to three, we will spin the dreidel and watch it go around and around until it stops!”
“Wanna spin it again?”
“Let’s do some more spinning.”
“Oops, the dreidel went flop!  The dreidel fell down.”
“Pick it up and I’ll help you spin it around again.”
“Okay, get ready to count!”
“Oo, look at it go around and around and around!”
“Before we spin the dreidel again, let’s sing the song.  After we sing the song, we will spin the dreidel.”

Christmas Present/Advent Calendar Toy

This a toy that was meant to be used as an advent calendar.  The gift boxes are decorated in various patterns, colors and numbers.  There is a door that opens to reveal the gifts (tiny toys) that are placed inside.  I like to keep this toy accessible throughout the year as it gives me the opportunity to:

  • ask the children to follow multi-element directions such as:

“There is a toy for you in the purple present with the yellow polka-dots”

“If you add the numbers on the gift that is red with the yellow bow and the gift that is blue with the yellow stars, what number would you get?”

  • ask children to identify items in a box upon hearing descriptions such as:

“There is a fruit that monkeys like to eat in the present that is the same colour as grapes with stripes that are the same color as the sky.”

  • Assess or develop auditory memory skills by asking the child to:

“Give mommy the present with the number 13, and Daddy the present that has the number that goes before 4.”

The above are just a few examples of how an advent calendar can be used once the boxes have been opened.  Decorations and gift boxes can be recycled again and again for the purpose of developing listening and spoken language competence during meaningful and fun contexts.

So, instead of putting away the toys and decorations of the Holiday Season, use them throughout the year.  The repetition of the words, phrases, songs and stories will help our children prepare for the next round of Season’s Greetings, and give them something to talk about!


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 (http://soundintuition.com/blog/use-seasonal-toys-year-round), as being the originator of the content.

Birkenshaw-Fleming, E. & Estabrooks, W. (2006)  HEAR AND LISTEN! TALK AND SING, Songs for Young Children who are Deaf or Hard of Hearing and Others Who Need Help in Learning to Talk, 2nd Edition.

It will be okay

Melanie Ribich short bio


“The Click ABR and Tone Burst test results correlate with a severe to
profound degree of hearing loss in each ear. Auditory steady state
responses were also evaluated and correlated well with the tone burst results.
These results indicate that Noah will be unable to detect speech when
the speaker is talking at an average level in a quiet room.
Noah should return for the fitting of super power
hearing aids for both ears.”

When we received the news that our infant son Noah had a profound hearing loss in both ears, we were left stunned.

There was no history of hearing loss in either of our families, and our other two children were born with normal hearing.

 We drove home from that appointment with an audiogram that we did not know how interpret and a report we did not understand. We didn’t have the slightest idea of what would happen next.

Hours of online research later and we were confronted with the stark reality that Noah’s audiogram and report meant that our little boy was deaf.

Our hearts sank as the words repeated: Deaf. Deaf. Deaf. Deaf.

Noah couldn’t hear us singing while we rocked him to sleep like his brother and sister could. We feared that our child would never enjoy music, never have friends to chat with, never talk on the phone and would never hear the rain on our roof. He would never giggle at the dinner table with his twin brother and older sister. He would always be different.


We cried and cried and we began to grieve the loss of our dream of having two perfect baby boys. We were heartbroken that day, because we knew little about hearing aids or cochlear implants. We simply didn’t know what was possible for children who are born deaf and hard of hearing.

We chose Auditory-Verbal Therapy when Noah was just four months of age. Our desired long-term goal was for Noah to hear, listen, talk and attend our local school with his siblings. We had no idea if this would be possible with his level of hearing loss but we were determined to try to have faith this approach would be the best way for our family to get there.

Every Friday morning our auditory-verbal therapist came to our home. Noah’s huge hearing aids squealed. They fell off and often ended up in his mouth as chew toys. My baby would sit on my lap while we tried to get him to respond to any kind of sound, but he didn’t. It became very apparent that I was the only one benefitting from the therapy sessions.

During the week, I spoke, sang, made Learning to Listen (LTL) sounds constantly while I fetched bottles and fed him. I talked to him incessantly while I changed his diapers and clothing. I was desperate for Noah to hear something, to recognize my voice, his name, a song—anything!

But he never did, and I would burst into tears and sob.

We then pursued cochlear implants for Noah because his hearing aids were not giving him enough access to sounds to learn to listen and speak. As soon as Noah’s cochlear implants gave him auditory access, I began to see him respond to sounds and I felt encouraged!

As I learned more in our therapy sessions, I became empowered. The more skills I learned, the less heartbroken I felt.

Our auditory-verbal therapist provided guidance, coaching,
correction through suggestions, and she listened, empathized and
never wavered in her commitment to our entire family.

With the weekly therapy sessions, cochlear implants, and his audiologist, slowly but surely Noah’s words came. Every sound our boy uttered was a miracle at first. I kept a log of every word until I couldn’t keep up anymore.

He began speaking in sentences, then paragraphs, and stories. He even began to sing.

Noah is now the most animated storyteller I have ever met.

The list of things that we had feared that Noah would never do were slowly dissipating.

A parent of a newly diagnosed child once asked me when I knew it would be “ok” and I guess that moment came a few summers ago.

Noah and I went outside to water the flowers and heard bugs humming in the trees; the most incredible sound that you can only hear in the tail end of summertime. Noah immediately exclaimed: “Mommy, I hear so many bugs!”

It stopped me in my tracks.

His eyes were wide and his smile was enormous. It was the first time he had ever noticed this chorus of nature and he was ecstatic.

Those bugs were performing a symphony in my backyard and my little boy who is profoundly deaf heard them.

I suddenly realized that this moment mattered to me just as much as any word he ever said. At this moment, I knew our time of grief was over.

Noah may not have typical hearing but absolutely everything else about him is typical in every way.

Listening has been integrated into his personality.

melanie-noahNoah is now six years old and excels at mainstream school with his siblings, reads above his grade level, and is very eager to learn.

He is primed for anything life has in store for him. The sadness of those early days is gone and we are left with only the joy that comes from being around our exuberant little boy.

With six years of hindsight, looking back on the report that gave us the news that our son was profoundly deaf, I wish it had said:

“Noah is deaf. It is nothing you did—it just happened.
He needs hearing aids now. He may need cochlear implants later.
We will help you learn about both. Go home and drink a bottle of wine and cry.
Then find a great therapist who will teach you skills to help your son
learn to listen and speak. Even though you feel devastated and helpless
right now, eventually, it will all be ok.”


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 (http://www.soundintuition.com/blog/blog-it-will-be-ok), as being the originator of the content.

PHOTO CREDIT: denistorm.com