Eric Seneca's blog

How do we learn language? #cochlear #learning #situatedcognition

I recently had someone ask me for advice on how to get their CI child to learn language. What therapy techniques should I use and work best? To which I had to answer, “I am not sure, I am not a speech therapist, but what do they need to learn?” But the question got me to thinking about Landon, what techniques do I use to help him learn language? I am not a speech therapist, but I am an educator, maybe I can help. Here was my answer in a nutshell.

The most contemporary view of why the active learning techniques work for Landon is because people, even infants, construct new knowledge based on what they already know and believe. There is a common misconception that if I perform a technique X number of times with Landon, he will understand and be able to apply the technique in different situations. What it really means is he will memorize (low order thinking), but fail to synthesis and adapt (higher orders of thinking) the knowledge to a given situation.

The most common problem we had with him was trying to get him to understand something was “on top”, “behind”, and “in-front.” The reason is because his learning was situated outside his social context and needs. It was a paper cardboard box and candy we were trying. He could only perceive the information within the context of what he already knew. So instead of using an artificial technique, try to setup a real life social context for the student to allow them to incorporate the new knowledge within their current knowledge. Want your child to learn about a barking dog, forget the picture and saying “woof”, “woof”. Situate them within a real life context of a barking dog. If the child, like Landon, is having problem with “on top”, “behind”, and “in-front”, situate him or her within a social context where the understanding of those terms has meaning and purpose. We do not learn to ride a bike by knowing all the parts of a bike and how to peddle. We must be situated in that context to learn. Once Landon was put into a situation where he needed to know "on top", connections were made, his knowledge base expanded and the understanding was cemented.

Finally, as the child matures, have them take control of more of their own learning. This has been where mobile games and apps have truly helped Landon. He is in a world, he controls full of sounds and images. He is in control of his own learning; we just direct it via the games he is allowed to play. Then I like to have him teach me how to play the game, his language has exploded since I first tried to have him explain Plants versus Zombies to me. Its a real life context where he wants me to know and I am expressing a desire to know how to play Plants versus Zombies, and believe me learning was taking place on both sides of the aisle. 

has it been six and a half years! #cochlear #cochlearimplant #activation

It is hard to believe that it has been 6 1/2 years since Landon was implanted. We have come a long way from that very first day of hearing.

Unilateral hearing loss and academic performance. #cochlear #cochlearimplant #education

 When we were faced with the diagnosis of Landon, we had not idea what a cochlear implant was, nor did we care at the time. When we were introduced to the concept, it was to have a single implantation at one year of age. Still in many cases the current medical standard of care for profoundly hard-of-hearing individuals that qualify is a unilateral CI (UCI), the implantation of one ear only, saving the other ear for future medical advancements. A substantial body of research has demonstrated that pre-lingual hard-of-hearing children are able to develop significant speech production skills through the use of a single CI (Geers, 1997; Geers & Tobey, 1995; Miyamoto, Kirk, Robbins, Todd, & Riley, 1996; Tobey & Geers, 1995; Tobey, Geers, Brenner, Altuna, & Gabbet, 2003).  For example, some of the advantages observed in a case study of a single CI user included an increase in speech and eligibility, an increased receptor vocabulary, a decrease in production of non-words, and increased response to questions (Ertmer, Strong, & Sadagopan, 2003).

The implantation of a single CI does present the student with significant benefits and access to sound for language development. But, does it can be said the idea of hearing through one ear solve the problem for a hard-of-hearing student medically, but what about academically. For a moments, lets remove the idea of cochlear implants from the stage. What do we know about student with unilateral hearing loss as compared to their normal hearing peers?

Children with unilateral hearing loss are at 10 times greater risk for academic failure that children with normal hearing in both ears (Bess, Dodd-Murphy, & Parker, 1998; Tharpe, 2006). Specifically, students who experience a degree of UHL are at a higher risk for educational, speech–language, and social–emotional difficulties than that of their normal hearing (NH) peers (Bess & Tharpe, 1986; English & Church, 1999; Oyler, Oyler, & Matkin, 1988). UHL contributes to a significant risk for reading difficulties and as previously stated. Some studies have shown that high school graduates with hearing loss fall between the fourth and fifth grade reading level (Carney & Moeller, 2003; Easterbrooks, Lederberg, Miller, Bergeron, & McDonald-Connor, 2008; Traxler, 2000). Given this relationship between unilateral hearing loss and academic performance, it stands to reason the assessment standards for UCI recipients should be measure against peers with the same condition.

As previously stated, the research shows that students with a UCI can do well with obtaining access to speech and sound, but can still be at a disadvantage academically. The decision to implant a single CI or bilateral CI goes far beyond the risk presented during the procedure. We know that even individuals with dual CI do not have the same access to sound as an individual with no hearing loss.

My reading of the research influenced my wife and I’s decision to have Landon bilaterally implanted. As an educator, I wanted to give Landon every advantage possible although I knew that he would always be a academic disadvantage in comparison to his peers. Although Landon can hear medically, he still needs a strong support system and service to reach his full potential.


Academic performance of HoH children #cochlear #hardofhearning #specialneeds #education

Significant research into the pedagogy of deaf education has been conducted and is based on a visual approach to language acquisition (Carlson, Irons, Rusher, & Gentry, 2009). In the United States, the predominate approach to pre-lingual deaf education is visual using American Sign Language (ASL). The problem with a visual approach to language acquisition is that hearing has been found to be the best modality for teaching speech, reading, vocabulary and cognitive skills (Sloutsky & Mapolitano, 2003; Tallal, 2004; Werker, 2006).

Along with not being able to access sound, another factor that can affect hard-of-hearing student performance is the breakdown of the parent as primary language educator. If one considers that 95% of hard-of-hearing children are born into hearing families, it is easy to understand why the educational performance of these students is affected by hearing loss (Mitchell & Karchmer, 2002). The natural language barrier between the hard-of-hearing child and hearing parent can be significant (Bornstein, Saulnier, & Hamilton, 1980). With very few hearing parents being visual language aware, the vast majority of hearing parents instinctively try to teach their children language via the spoken word resulting in a developmental delay in access to visual language (Boudreault & Mayberry, 2006; Herman, Woolfe, & Woll, 2006; Hoiting, 2005; Moeller, 2000). Given that much of our language learning happens from age one through eight (Nicholas & Geers, 2007), it is easy to understand why pre-lingual hard-of-hearing children have a hard time learning language. This breakdown of the parent as the primary educator could be one of the reasons, according to many studies, that the average reading comprehension of hard-of-hearing students remains poor (Carney & Moeller, 2003; Easterbrooks, Lederberg, Miller, Bergeron, & McDonald-Connor, 2008; Traxler, 2000).

The effects of hearing loss on academic performance has been researched and well documented for a number of years. Even a minor degree of hearing loss can affect a student academically and behaviorally, and the more severe the hearing loss, the greater the range of problems experienced by the student (Dood-Murphy & Mamlin, 2002; McFadden & Pittman, 2008). Many problems associated with hearing loss have been documented in various studies and some of the effects include, an inability to respond to a difficult listening task, significant weaker word categorization and difficulty attaching meaning to sound patterns (Dood-Murphy & Mamlin, 2002; Houston, Carter, Pisoni, Kirk, & Ying, 2005; McFadden & Pittman, 2008). These factors can be minor or major depending on the individual situation.

It's obvious that students with any degree of hearing loss is at risk academically. Early detection and intervention seems to be the best solution to help address the issues faced by HoH children.


Increasing Landon's vocabulary #vocabulary #cochlear

Over the past few months the routine has been the same in my house. 8:30 pm turn off all computer, 9:00 pm time for bed, 9:30 pm still getting quiet, 10 pm, kids asleep. Without fail, Landon or one of his brothers will try to sneak an iPod or 3DS into bed with them to play. After a while they have realized that will not work become Mom and Dad can both hear and see. Since the revelation, Landon has decided he wants to read a book at night. At first, I was unsure of this and forced him to put the book away, but then I realized I am missing a teaching moment. Now, he has learned that if he wants to be a rebel and stay up late, then he has to read a book. We provide the books, he can read until he falls asleep. Currently, he is reading the Diary of a Wimpy Kid by Jeff Kinney.

There is sound research to support the idea that reading can increase vocabulary and better a child’s cognitive skills. So many times I focus on Landon’s hearing, I forget he is at a certain developmental stage. In that stage he must struggle with words, hear them and ask question about their meaning. In their article, Reading Can Make You Smarter!, Cunningham and Stanovich point out the benefits of reading. They focus their research on books, but do not discount the reading involved in computer games. Landon loves to play games like Team Fortress 2, but to do so requires he read a lot. Sometimes, he gets it wrong or learns the wrong thing, that is our job to correct him. Landon’s exposure to text base games and chats in games allows him to have a high reading level for his age.



Article Review: Prognostic indicators in paediatric cochlear implant surgery #cochlear #research


Prognostic indicators in paediatric cochlear implant surgery: a systematic literature review.

The researchers in this study conducted a literature review, reviewing all the current research on a specific topic, of six areas: medical/surgical, audiology, psychology; speech/language; education and family. Their study reviewed 92 articles and use 38 in the review. This is a fairly normal procedure in that for various reasons article are identified as potentially good for a student and later eliminated because the results do not meet the stated exclusion criteria for the review. As part of their background on the issue, the authors point out that PCI, pediatric cochlear implants, have yet to reach creditable, predicted outcomes with certainty. As stated by the authors, “research to date has not yet comprehensively identified specific pre-implant factors that reliably predict ‘success’ with a CI.”

To me this is not an unexpected result given that most medical communities view ‘surgery’ with a procedure and recovery time. Many do not include in their predictive analysis model, environmental factors, socio-economical factors as well as learning theory as part of recovery time. Speech threapy and academic endevors are just not factors in the equation. Based on my experience, they level of effort for PCIs is significantly higher than that of a normal hearing child. Also, one of the great drawbacks to speech therapy is the behavioral nature of its approach. The "skill-n-drill" approach does not always lead the the desired results. At some level, all humans learning things through repetative behavior. But, when you want to progress to ever more sophisticated activites with knowledge, behavioral skills will just not do the job. We know through much empirical evidence, humans do not learn entirely in a behavioral manner. Memorization does not equal a complex use of language or knowledge. Learning, including language acquisition, happens over a period of time through a informed process of trial and error. Learning a vocabulary word does not equal sufficent vocabulary usage. Most medication institutions see CI surgery as the beginning and end of the procedure, they leave out the vast majority of the work that goes into resolving the "medical condition."

Interestingly, the areas that can most inform long-term prognosis for PCI recipients is education and family structure. Interestingly, the authors stated that all article from the journals of those domains were excluded from the study. They stated, “There were no studies included in the final analysis from the audiology, psychology, family, or education domains. The most common reason for exclusion was that potential papers from these domains were not prognostic and did not meet the inclusion criteria.” This is not a surprise in that most medical studies focus on quantifiable results, but in many cases family and educational domains use studies that are mixed or qualitative in nature. This means instead of being balled down to some numbers, many areas of education explain the results through a narrative process. It can be said that there is a bias in many journals.

And so it begins... #cochlear #research #scholarship

What a great movie line. An acknowledgment of a triggering event and the resignation to see events through regardles of the result. This site has been many things over the past few years: app promotion, doctoral student journal and family updates. But, this site has a mission. I stated in the “My Mission” section of this site, my goal for this website to “chronicle the latest information in distributed learning and assistance technologies” because “hearing and active listening become an integral part of communication, recreation, socialization, education and work.” My son Landon has come a long way in seven years and we have learned a lot on that journey.

Over the past couple of years, this blog has served as a mechanism to document my journey academically. The entire purpose of that journey was to develop the skillset necessary to conduct and synthesis research for this blog. The amount of time and effort one has to put in to complete a research PhD precluded me from pursuing other scholarly interest, updating my learning apps, or publishing on this blog regularly. As with any doctoral candidate, after the process you feel a void, but also an exhaustion. I have needed time to recharge the batteries and push forward with this line of inquiry.

Over the past six months, I have spent a number of hours updating the apps that generate the revenue that supports this endeavor.  I am now to a point where I can begin more scholarly activities. To that end, I am going to start posting a review of a scholarly article once a week on this blog. The purpose of these postings will be for me to provide you access to the latest research concerning cochlear implants and their effect on students academically.

Let me be clear, I have no intention of writing this blog in verbose academic language. I hope to synthesis this literature in such a way that a non-academic can understand the meaning and results. I apologize in advance if I tend to explain issue you may already understand or simplify someone's academic work too much. My hope will be to provide information, both good and bad, to parents so they can make informed decisions. These critiques will represent the researcher's opinion of the presented evidence and should not be taken as any form of recommendation.

UseMyEars Store

I have added some of the most common toys and items purchased to use for therapy with Landon. We buy most of our items from online vendors, specifically Amazon, to get the best prices. Check out our store.


Ling 6 now for Android #ling6 #cochlear #mobile

I have just released a new free version of the Ling 6 Sound App in the Google Play Store.



Moving into new platforms

I have not posted a while because I decided to take a bit of time off after the completion of my doctoral program. Although I have been pretty quiet on the blog, I have been working hard on understanding some new platforms. Over the past five months, I have been working with Android and Windows Phone to try and expand the number of students that can use the sound applications. Although this is a labor of love to help other children like my sone, it still requires monitary support to purchase all the hardware and software needed to develop and publish to the various app stores. I have also worked on making the apps free with advertising. I think is the best way to support the HoH community and my research. So, please support the advertisers in my apps, the money goes directly to support my research and development efforts.

My goal over the next few months is to publish a Windows version of the Ling 6 as well as update the Android version of Ling 6. I want to also work on Android and Windows version of the Learn 2 Listen sound apps. I have started working on an app for realistic enviornmental sounds, more on that later. I have aligned all these apps to work with some learning activites I plan to publish on the website for how to use the apps with young children.

Stay tuned, I am always researching and developing new ways to help students.


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