Disability Issues

Program helps children with cochlear implants

Sunday, May 27, 2012

There are high hopes for an innovative program that aims to increase language development for young children with cochlear implants.

Project Aspire was developed at the University of Chicago. Dr. Dana Suskind is the co-director of the pediatric cochlear implant program.

"What we wanted to do was develop a program so that all parents, even if they didn't naturally talk a lot with their children, would understand that importance and enrich their children's language environment," Suskind said. "This program is really being developed for babies between zero and 3 and between zero and 3 is what we call the critical language period it's the time when your brain is set up to learn language."

Project Aspire is a 10-week program that has an early intervention curriculum for therapists working with family.

"We have a combination of animation and real parents videos," Suskind said. "And then a very innovative piece of technology, which we call the LENA.

"The LENA is like a language pedometer and it really let's parents understand how much they're talking with their kids, how much they're interacting verbally with their kids and we use it almost as a feedback mechanism.

"The idea that it's word that help grow your baby brain the language part of your baby's brain and in our animation you can actually see words coming into the brain, stimulating the neurons, when the hearing aid or cochlear implant is on and then we have another animation when the hearing aid is off and you can see the words not being able to go in and stimulate the spoke language part of the brain".

Andrea Bivian and Arturo Alejandre are parents of Aaliyah. She is a year and half.

"We found out when she was born that she was profoundly deaf," Bivian said."She got her implant when she was 9 months old."

"So far, she has been improving a lot," Alejandre said. "She definitely hears, we can tell that she hears even without the study and everything of the science to prove it we can tell she can hear because whenever we talk to her or make a noise she turns.

"We work with her every single day and she has a therapist that comes once a week and works with her for an hour."

"Andrea and Arturo are part of the example," Suskid said. "They're amazing parents who had Aaliyah fairly young and who was born deaf and watching them really develop and embrace the idea that their words helps are helping Aaliyah develop listening and spoken language has been great."

The University of Chicago has received a three-year grant for this project. They hope it succeeds so that it can be used around the country. For more information, call the Project Aspire research office at 773-834-8629. .

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