Habilitation, the Audiologist, and Your Child

Posted on: 4 March 2015

Your child's audiologist doesn't just help them to hear. This medical professional can also work with your child to build speech skills. Aural and audiologic habilitation offer non-verbal children a few different ways to begin communicating.

What Is Habilitation?

Habilitation differs from rehabilitation in that the audiologist may be helping your child to build a skill that he never had before, according to the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA). If your child never spoke, this type of therapy means that they are starting from scratch and not working on a skill that has diminished.

The specific type of habilitation process that the audiologist uses depends on a number of factors including, your child's age, the degree of their hearing loss, the type of hearing loss, when the hearing loss began, and the age when they starting using hearing aids or another assistive devices.

What Role Does the Family Play?

The method of habilitation that you and your audiologist choose depends on your family's needs. Different families have communication preferences, none of which are any less valuable than another. Your child's audiologist will review the different options for helping your child to communicate before coming up with a treatment plan that includes both verbal and non-verbal ways of communicating.

After choosing a method, you need to provide constant support to your child. This means exposing your child to language or other types of communication in the home.

What Options are Available?

ASHA notes that there are four primary speech and communication habilitation options that audiologists routinely use. These include auditory-verbal or auditory-oral, cued speech and language, American Sign Language (ASL), and total communication.

  1. During auditory-verbal/auditory-oral, the audiologist coaches the parents on how to help the child use listening and speaking at all times, according to the University Of Virginia School of Medicine. In this type of therapy the child needs to have some level of assisted hearing. The parents then engage the child in communication to practice listening and speaking.
  2. The National Cued Speech Association notes that cued speech uses mouth movements along with visual cues to facilitate communication. This makes the sound-based units of speech visible. There are eight primary handshapes in four positions that combine with mouth movements used in this technique.
  3. ASL is a form of visual communication that is its own language in itself. The National Association of the Deaf recommends that children begin learning ASL at an early age and that the child's parents and teachers become skilled at it as well. Doing so helps the child to learn and benefits their communication.
  4. Total communication includes the use of both oral and visual sign methods.

Habilitation helps your child to communicate with you, those at school, and the world around him. Audiologists provide expert insight into what method works best for your child's unique situation and your family's needs. With a mix of professional help, hard work and love, your child can learn to communicate effectively and enjoy social interactions.