Getting Ready to Learn
Prior to personal experience with a diagnosis of deafness, families, interested parties and those in society at large are often unaware of the differing methods of communication and education for children with hearing impairments. Proponents of all methodologies agree that full participation by the family in any of the communication styles is one of the keys to the child’s effective learning of that style.
As they attempt to plan for the future of their child, it is important that parents seek out as much information as they can about all the methods, techniques and educational settings that are utilized in the field of deaf education. After reviewing this information, visiting sites and talking with supporters of each approach, they can then determine what will best fit with the lifestyle and the expectations of their family.

Description of Terms
Spoken language, that is words and ideas expressed in standardized human speech, is otherwise described as “oral” or “verbal.”

The use of listening utilizing hearing aids, cochlear implants or both either casually, or directly in structured teaching is described as “aural” or “auditory.”

“Lipreading” or “speechreading” is a means by which one can get clues about what was said by watching the movements of the speaker’s mouth and accompanying facial expressions.

“Manual” or “Sign” is the use of hand and/or finger movements in place of speech to represent ideas and words. There are various forms and styles of “sign language.”

The use of both hand-finger movements along with speech to express language is described as “total” or “simultaneous” communication.

The use of specific prescribed hand placements around the mouth and face to indicate specific sounds for speech is called “cued speech” and does not represent ideas or language but is simply an aid to help clarify visually those speech sounds that look the same through lipreading and therefore may be confused as people talk.

Rationale for the Aural/Oral Approach
Because spoken language is the basis for so much of standard social and academic communication, and because the human system is designed (pre-wired) to learn language expressed in speech, Oralingua School has based it’s educational philosophy on the need to learn about and to learn from spoken language presented naturally using audition as a major portion of the learning system. Thus, the “Aural/Oral” approach.

Early Stimulation for Spoken Language
As the human system is designed to build much of its later development on understanding the function, use and rules of language by the age of three or four, it is critical that education and stimulation in spoken language begin as soon as possible after a diagnosis of hearing loss is made. If a child has intact and operational all the other components of the human system except perfect sensory reception of sound, the system is still able to learn spoken language and listening if sound can be delivered at a young age to the appropriate receiving areas of the brain. Today, technologically advanced hearing aids and cochlear implants can provide this for the vast majority of deaf or hard of hearing individuals.

Development of Speech Through Play
In Oralingua School’s aural/oral approach, speech is taught using audition to stimulate playing with sounds of speech, using the spoken word to get needs met and to tell about actively shared experiences, motivating and modeling speech in an accelerated developmental process. Babbling, repetition of syllables, exercising the voice using pitch, duration and vocal play, is presented in baby games, songs, and situational play. Parents are a critical part of both the infant tutoring and classroom programs and are encouraged to immerse their children in spoken language, just as they might with a hearing child who is just learning how to talk. Consistent use of appropriate hearing devices is critical to this methodology .

Manipulating the Environment Using Language
Specific practice and reinforcement of the use of hearing as a learning tool is presented in age-appropriate activities and then practiced using visual aids, photos, experience “stories” and games as children learn to apply spoken language in play and learning activities applied to life experiences. Spoken language thus becomes a means of getting attention, explaining, questioning, arguing, requesting and understanding events and ideas. Classroom curriculum involves hands on activities and social situations designed around life circumstances. Expectations for vocabulary, language structures and cognitive skills are increased in complexity as the child demonstrates an ability to be challenged to expand language use and understanding.

Candidates for Using this Approach
Hearing level or severity of loss is taken into account to the extent that early expectation for “performance” might require professionals to give more repetition of language and sound, more careful attention to selection of hearing devices and more time for initial response to specific sounds to those with more profound losses. We have found that the degree of loss is not necessarily the determining factor in predicting success in becoming an “auditory/oral” communicator.

Children who succeed in learning to use spoken language for communication are usually those:

  • who are interested in the people and events around them;
  • whose hearing devices can reach them and are worn consistently;
  • who do not have other learning difficulties that preclude them from expressing or receiving information by this means;
  • who are given the opportunity to learn concepts and content in a meaningful and rich environment;
  • whose parents believe in this as a preferred means of being in the world and are committed to using and inspiring this in their children.

Realistic Expectations
There is no doubt that even a moderate hearing loss is a condition that poses difficulty in learning and in receiving information, and that accommodations should be made in both school and the workplace, no matter what the communication mode.

The Oralingua belief is that the “handicap” of hearing loss can be reduced with a strong foundation in the use of listening as a tool, an understanding of the use of language and socially appropriate behavior, and the knowledge that words, ideas and feelings can be accurately expressed in spoken language following specific rules. Thus, our students are better prepared to understand and to express themselves in writing, in extended discourse, in academics and in social interactions.

Oralingua Staff believes that by discounting audition as a modality to be utilized, and by setting limitations on the learning of our richly complicated spoken language, we limit even further the potential for growth and achievement of much of our hearing impaired population.

(article by Linda Hyde)