The Penny

Example is not the main thing in influencing others. It is the only thing.

[Sunday, December 27, 2009]

CI Update

Laynie has been pretty frustrated with her listening progress, and it's been tough for her to get a good map. She really hasn't had one since May. She got a new map (okay, I know it's MAP, but that just looks so silly... count on me saying map) December 4, but it was painful within three days. Yikes! She went in again on December 8, so her current map is from then. Basically, everything got turned down, especially the higher frequencies. That was great as far as her comfort level--she can now leave her processors on to put away the pots and pans. But it wasn't so great as far as her listening abilities. She's struggling with fricatives and stops, which make up quite a bit of the English language. S and Z (well, /z/) alone are hugely important in English. So that was frustrating. Besides the fact that we haven't done much therapy lately, what with her poor maps and my poor health. Despite all this, I had a hunch that Laynie was still making progress, whether she realized it or not. So, on a day when she was getting kind of down about her listening skills, I gave her the Compass Test. (Again--we had done one in July.)

The Compass Test isn't normed or anything. It's just a way to determine which skills to work on. But it's not a bad way to measure progress, since it's basically criterion referenced. Whew, sorry for the quick nerd-out.

As I'm sure you've already seen, I posted the Compass Test I administered to Laynie in July and again in December. I used a blue pen in July and purple in December. And she has made progress! Now... I have to add a few details, disclaimers and descriptions:

-Both times this was auditory only, using an acoustic screen.

-Notice that her Ling errors were different each time--different mapping problems each time.

-This test involves pointing to one of four tiny pictures. In July, I said any of the words Laynie asked me to, in addition to the target word. In December, I fingerspelled any of the words upon request (sometimes it's hard to tell what the pictures are supposed to be), but I only said the target word. So the test was harder in December, because she had less accommodations.

-She did get as many repetitions of the target word as she wanted--both times.

-In December, I had to say most of the words at a distance of about 6 inches for her to have a fighting chance at distinguishing the sounds. Not very realistic, but it seemed only fair.

-I was so pleased at how well she did on the consonant manner distinctions! That was levels 1 and 2. Consonant place seems to have made real improvement, too, which is wonderful. That can be a difficult skill. I know some kiddos who have had their implants for three years, who are still working on place. Place is the distinction between, say, /t/ and /k/. Or /m/ and /n/.

-This test is hard. You have to listen to a single word, out of context. I mean, it's not hard for a hearing person. When I gave it to a hearing kindergartener (just out of curiosity), she got 98%--missed bat vs. back. But we were in a noisy kindergarten classroom. Still, the test is VERY difficult for those who do not hear as well or are learning to listen. I have students who understand much of what we say but still get 70% or below on the Compass Test (which tells me that they are relying on context and/or have a weak vocabulary). I wish I could give you an example of one of the cards, but I'm in New York right now and don't have them with me.

-Certainly there was some guessing going on, both in July and in December. But in a field of four choices, 64% is much greater than just chance.

-Laynie is doing very well, despite all the challenges!

You might wonder how a person can get 64% on a listening test yet understand basically 0% in conversation. This is mainly because the test has only four choices for each word, rather than the thousands of words that could possibly be used in any given sentence. Finish this sentence: "I saw a _____." Too many possible words I might say. Also, on the test, Laynie does not have to listen for word boundaries in a sentence. That's harder than it seems! It's so easy for hearing people to know which part of a stream of sound is a single word. But it's only easy for you to do that in your own language. Think about when you listen to a foreign language, such as Chinese. Listen to a sentence. How many words did that person say. I would have no idea! I can't tell the word boundaries in Chinese. Or, if you don't sign, watch a signer. Where did one sign end and the next begin? Word boundaries.

Another thing that's a huge impediment right now for Laynie is her auditory memory. She basically has to develop two skills: auditory discrimination and auditory memory. Auditory discrimination is the ability to tell sounds apart (distinguish between them). Auditory memory is remembering what words sound like. Keeping them all in your brain so that you recognize them when you hear them. There are so many words to know! It's one thing to tell two words apart while practicing. It's something else entirely to recognize one of those words just randomly, when you don't know what someone might say.

Another thing that's difficult for Laynie is that she doesn't know what words are supposed to sound like. She's using her literacy skills to bridge the gap, but unfortunately, English is one of the most nonsensical languages in the world when it comes to spelling. Beat and beet? Why?! Time and thyme? Eh? And why don't you say the E on the ends of those words? Have you ever tried to explain the silent K in knee and knock? Or hard C and soft C? Do you even know the rules for hard and soft C? (I do, because I'm so nerdy: hard C is followed by a, o, u or a consonant; soft C is followed by e or i.. probably exceptions, though.) And by the way, why does putting H after C make neither hard not soft C but a completely different sound? What Laynie hears is not necessarily what she's expecting to hear, based on written English. Italian would really be much easier for her to learn. Less functional here in America, though...

Oh, I could go on forever. I love phonology and phonetics. Sigh. (Reveling in my nerdiness.) Better stop here. 

I will just add that Laynie is doing so well with a very difficult task. It has been surprising how much she really wants to learn to listen. I hope she can do it!

Next Laynie post has got to be music... stay tuned.


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