This article first appeared in CICS Magazine.

I was very lucky to work in the Cochlear Implant Programme at GOSH for nearly 10 years. I loved the job, and learnt a lot from the all the families who came our way. There were so many different children with all sorts of different needs, and families with different circumstances. I owe all the parents and children, a big thank you for everything that they taught me. But last summer I decided that it was time to hang up my hospital badge. It was time for change and a new challenge.

What’s next?

So now, after a break, I am starting up my new venture, Listening for Learning. This does what it says on the tin, supports parents to develop their children’s listening skills so that they are well equipped for learning when they arrive at school.

I am really interested in working with babies and toddlers, but auditory development is auditory development, regardless of the age of the child. My focus is on using auditory verbal techniques to help children to develop auditory skills, and to give parents the support they need to do this independently.

  • Listening for Learning sessions are available on weekdays and at the weekends, to suit busy families.
  • You don’t need to commit to a set number of sessions, so it is financially flexible. You can try it out and see if it suits your and your child’s needs, over a short or a longer time frame, booking as you go.
  • I charge £100 for what is typically 1½ hour session. You may phone or email to ask for a conversation free of charge. If money is going to be a barrier to your child coming to a Listening for Learning session please do call, we will work out how to make it accessible for your family.
  • To inform parents, I will put material on my website to help parents develop listening and spoken language skills that is scientifically based, but written in plain English. This will build up over time, so do have a look, and give me your feedback. It would be really helpful to get the views of parents, and if we used to work together, I’d love to have news of your child’s progress.

On my website there is information about helping children to develop basic concepts. If you are interested in this, have a look.

Below there are some half-term ideas for developing the concept deep:

Younger children

  1. Hope for rain. Get on your wellies and go to the park. Look for puddles, seeing where you can find nice deep puddles to wade through. You can do this as often as you like. Older children and even adults enjoy this activity. Discuss which is the deepest puddle, see how many deep puddles you can find.
  2. Have a lazy morning and don’t hurry the children to dress, but do make sure they are wearing their hearing technology. Put the washing up bowl on a convenient surface (maybe a kitchen chair is the right height for your child to stand at) and then you and your child(ren) can fill it with jugs of water until it is full. Wow! The water is deep! Play with your boats, dinosaurs or maybe your Duplo or Playmobile people want to go for a swim in the deep water.  If you are staying at granny and grandpa’s and you don’t have your toys, maybe the grandparents would like to help the children to fold some paper boats.Older children may like loading paper boats with paperclips to see how many paperclips the boat will hold before it sinks to the bottom of the deep water.When the children are thoroughly wet it’s clearly time for elevenses, which will require another bailing session to empty the bowl with your jugs. Strip the children of their wet pyjamas so they can dress for elevenses.
  3. At the end of the day, have a clean up of something. Soft toys and dolls / teddies clothes are good candidates, but there’s no limit (Duplo can get terribly mucky too). Put an anti slip-mat and a bowl in the shower. Fill the bowl with water, so your child can sit down and wash the dirty items in deep water.This is best done with one child, so they can sit down and not slip (we don’t want any accidents) and if you do it at the end of the day it’s easy to move on to bed time when you have had enough. Sit down yourself in the bathroom, with your own cup of tea, so you are sure the hearing technology stays safely on the head, and doesn’t get dunked in the water.

Older children

  1. They may enjoy making a deep apple pie, or deep apple crumble. You will need lots of filling with a topping of ready–made pastry, or teach them how to make a crumble topping.  To get a really deep filling you need plenty of apples (they shrink so much) and it helps to have a relatively deep dish with a small surface area.As you need a lot of apples you will probably need to help with the apple peeling so they don’t get bored before preparing enough apple. Or you could use a jar of apple sauce in a ramekin with a ready made packet of topping if you prefer.
  2. Ask your children to make a packed lunch for your trip to the museum, or your journey to visit friends or family. The children can fill the sandwich with a deep filling (because I like lots of lettuce) or, if one doesn’t want a deep filling, that child could have a sandwich that is not deep filled, because they want their tomato separate, or they don’t like lettuce.
  3. Generalising concepts is an on-going project, it never ends. A dictionary of synonyms and of metaphors and synonyms can be a handy resource. Perhaps you can have a conversation about people who are deeply uncool (that’s me, I can’t fathom WhatsAp to save my life), being in deep trouble, or in it over your head.

If you want to know why I have suggested putting water into the bowl with jugs, and bailing it out again, and why I’ve suggested using deep and not deep in your conversations do have a look on my website to find out, or send me an email: Catharine@listeningforlearning.uk and I’ll send you the article as an attachment by return.

Book Review

Siblings Without Rivalry, Help your children live together so you can live too…
by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish, Picadilly Press. Price £12.08 or 1p plus P&P second hand.

I was a very difficult and naughty child, the third of 4 sisters, so there was always someone around for me to squabble with. Our mother would say, more in hope than expectation, ‘little birds in the nest all agree’.

Siblings without Rivalry is written by two mothers who combine their professional experience in communication between adults and children with their personal experience of bringing up three children each. It’s an easy to read book illustrated with great little cartoons, and packed with very practical examples. It is written in American English which, initially, I found distracting. However, the content was good enough for me to get over the Americanisms.

Equal is Less

I particularly liked the chapter called Equal is Less, which is full of ideas for treating children according to their needs, showing how each one is unique, and trying to respond to their unique needs, rather than struggling to do the same for each child. I think this chapter would be very useful for parents of both children with typical hearing and deaf children. There are other helpful chapters: dealing with children fighting, making comparisons between children, and ways to encourage good feelings between siblings are all likely to be helpful.

Parents have reported back positively about this book, and about the other two books in this series, ‘How to Talk so Kids will Listen and Listen so Kids will Talk’, and ‘How to Talk so Teens will Listen and Teens will Talk’.  It would be good to get your feedback on any of these books, so do let me know if you find them helpful, or of any other book you think is better.