Your Top Speech and Hearing Questions Answered

May marks the start of Speech and Hearing Month, a time to celebrate the power of communication! Our amazing speech-language pathologists, audiologists and communicative disorders assistants have teamed up to address some frequently asked questions from caregivers and people with developmental disabilities. Keep reading to learn about building literacy skills, augmentative and alternative communication, and hearing health! 

FAQ: Can people with developmental disabilities learn to read and write? Is this something we can improve? 

Answer: Yes! People with disabilities may need specialized instruction or additional time to build literacy skills. Not everyone will progress at the same rate or develop as far, but even basic literacy skills can be life-changing. Being able to follow simple written directions, fill out personal information on forms, read labels, or send a text are essential life skills. Literacy skills make a huge difference in independent living, employment, and social connection. 

FAQ: Should I speak more than one language with my child or only use English?

Answer: We recommend you speak the language you are most comfortable with so your child hears the best example of language possible. Rest assured, speaking more than one language will not cause a language delay. it’ll allow your child to interact with their extended family and community! If your child has a developmental delay or intellectual disability, they can still learn more than one language. It’s perfectly normal for all children learning multiple languages to switch languages frequently and to have one stronger language. When using more than one language at home, try to keep it consistent. You could have one parent speak one language to help your child differentiate their two (or more!) languages. 

FAQ: What is AAC, and will it prevent an individual from using speech?

Answer: AAC stands for Augmentative and Alternative Communication, and it includes signs, picture symbols, speech-generating devices and written text and is commonly used by clinicians to give clients of all ages who have delays in speech and language development. The use of AAC will not prevent the use or development of verbal speech. In fact, we know from many research studies that when AAC is introduced, the AAC user either shows an increase in speech production or no change, and none of the studies showed a decrease in speech. Although the degree of gains in speech production varies across individuals, overall, using AAC encourages communication! 

FAQ: I understand everything the person I’m caring for wants. We communicate in our own way. He points to things or goes to get what he wants on his own. Why would I use AAC? 

Answer: Pointing to or showing objects is a great way to get your message across. We all use multiple ways to communicate every day. For instance, we may smile at a friend, nod our head to say yes, say “hello,” or send a text. Pointing to or showing objects can be part of a total communication approach, which supports all methods that a person may use to express themselves and understand others (sign, speech, gesture, pictures, etc.). However, if that’s the only way that someone is communicating, it can be limiting. It means that you can only communicate about things that are physically present in the immediate environment. 

Using AAC is one way to expand communication beyond just the here and now. It gives you a way to talk about how you’re feeling, a school activity, tell a joke, ask someone for directions, and so much more! AAC also gives you a way to talk about action words (e.g. go, dance), describing words (e.g. happy, blue), or places (e.g. school, park) that can be almost impossible to express with objects. If your child is having a hard time being understood outside of the home, using AAC can be a tool to help them be better understood and connect with others. 

FAQ: The person I’m caring for has a history of frequent ear infections. Could this affect her/his speech or language development?

Answer: This could affect speech and language. While there is no direct causal link between chronic ear infections and speech or language delay, individuals are generally thought to be more at risk for developing communication impairments with this medical history. It would be helpful to have an audiological exam to determine if there is a hearing impairment and closely monitor it. 

FAQ: How often should someone get their hearing tested? 

Answer: It depends on many factors. Everyone should get their hearing screened at birth through the Infant Hearing Program since early detection of hearing loss is key for successful intervention. Hearing is often checked when diagnosing problems related to tinnitus (ringing in the ears) and problems with keeping balance. It’s also typically checked during the initial diagnosis of autism and specific syndromes associated with a higher risk of hearing loss, such as Down Syndrome, Fragile X, and Treacher-Collins. If you have confirmed hearing loss, we recommend having your hearing checked at least once every two years for monitoring purposes. People with recent social behaviour changes, like increased social isolation or being less responsive to auditory stimuli, should also have their hearing checked. 

FAQ: What happens during a hearing test?

Answer: There are various approaches based on the individual’s level of functioning and chronological age, but in general, the audiologist will record the softest level that the individual can hear across the frequency range. This is accomplished by either asking them to push a button when they hear a sound, play a game when they hear a sound, or teaching them to turn their head in response to a sound. There are also physiological tests that the audiologist can complete with the client to ensure the results are accurate. 

FAQ: How much do hearing aids cost? 

Answer:  Hearing aids are often fully covered for clients at Surrey Place. One funding source is the Assistive Devices Program (ADP), which covers $500 for each hearing aid. For clients on the Ontario Disability Support Program, the remaining amount of the hearing aids are covered. Pediatric clients may also be eligible for funding through the Assistance for Children with Severe Disabilities (ACSD) program

To find out if our services are right for you or your child, contact us at 1-833-575-5437 for children under 18, or 1-855-372-3858 for adults aged 18 or older. 

By 2 months

Has your baby had their hearing screened? YES NO

By 6 months

Does the child?

Startle in response to loud noises? YES NO
Turn to where a sound is coming from? YES NO
Make different cries for different needs (hungry, tired)? YES NO
Watch your face as you talk? YES NO
Smile/laugh in response to your smiles and laughs? YES NO
Imitate coughs or other sounds such as ah, eh, buh YES NO

By 9 months

Does the child?

Respond to their name? YES NO
Respond to the telephone ringing or a knock at the door? YES NO
Understand being told no? YES NO
Get what they want through using gestures (reaching to be picked up)? YES NO
Play social games with you (Peek-a-Boo)? YES NO
Enjoy being around people? YES NO
Babble and repeat sounds such as babababa or duhduhduh? YES NO

By 12 months

Does the child?

Follow simple one-step directions (sit down)? YES NO
Look across the room to a toy when adult points at it? YES NO
Consistently use three to five words? YES NO
Use gestures to communicate (waves hi/bye, shakes head for no)? YES NO
Get your attention using sounds, gestures and pointing while looking at your eyes? YES NO
Bring you toys to show you? YES NO
Perform for social attention and praise? YES NO
Combine lots of sounds together as though talking (abada baduh abee)? YES NO
Show an interest in simple picture books? YES NO

By 18 months

Does the child?

Understand the meaning of in and out, off and on? YES NO
Point to more than 2 body parts when asked? YES NO
Use at least 20 words consistently? YES NO
Respond with words or gestures to simple questions (Where's teddy? What's that?)? YES NO
Demonstrate some pretend play with toys (gives teddy bear a drink, pretends a bowl is a hat)? YES NO
Make at least four different consonant sounds (p ,b, m, n, d, g, w, h)? YES NO
Enjoy being read to and sharing simple books with you? YES NO
Point to pictures using one finger? YES NO

By 2 years

Does the child?

Follow two-step directions (Go find your teddy bear and show it to Grandma.)? YES NO
Use 100 to 150 words? YES NO
Use at least two pronouns (you, me, mine)? YES NO
Consistently combine two to four words in short phrases (Daddy hat. Truck go down.)? YES NO
Enjoy being around other children? YES NO
Begin to offer toys to other children and imitate other children's actions and words? YES NO
Use words that are understood by others 50 to 60 per cent of the time? YES NO
Form words or sounds easily and without effort? YES NO
Hold books the right way up and turn the pages? YES NO
Read to stuffed animals or toys? YES NO
Scribble with crayons? YES NO

By 30 months

Does the child?

Understand the concepts of size (big/little) and quantity (a little/a lot, more)? YES NO
Use some adult grammar (two cookies, bird flying, I jumped)? YES NO
Use over 350 words? YES NO
Use action words such as run, spill, fall? YES NO
Participate in some turn-taking activities with peers, using both words and toys? YES NO
Demonstrate concern when another child is hurt or sad? YES NO
Combine several actions in play (puts blocks in the train and drives the train, drops the blocks off.)? YES NO
Put sounds at the beginning of most words? YES NO
Use words with two or more syllables or beats (ba-na-na, com-pu-ter, a-pple)? YES NO
Recognize familiar logos and signs involving print (Stop sign)? YES NO
Remember and understand familiar stories? YES NO

By 3 years

Does the child?

Understand who, what, where and why questions? YES NO
Create long sentences using five to eight words? YES NO
Talk about past events (trip to grandparents house, day at child care)? YES NO
Tell simple stories? YES NO
Show affection for favourite playmates? YES NO
Engage in multi-step pretend play (pretending to cook a meal, repair a car)? YES NO
Talk in a way that most people outside of the family understand what she/he is saying most of the time? YES NO
Have an understanding of the function of print (menus, lists, signs)? YES NO
Show interest in, and awareness of, rhyming words? YES NO
Read to stuffed animals or toys? YES NO
Scribble with crayons? YES NO

By 4 years

Does the child?

Follow directions involving three or more steps (First get some paper, then draw a picture and give it to Mommy)? YES NO
Use adult type grammar? YES NO
Tell stories with a beginning, middle and end? YES NO
Talk to try and solve problems with adults and with other children? YES NO
Show increasingly complex imaginary play? YES NO
Talk in a way that is understood by strangers almost all the time? YES NO
Generate simple rhymes (cat-bat)? YES NO
Match some letters with their sounds (letter b says buh, letter t says tuh)? YES NO