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April 6, 2007

Program helps children learn to speak

From: The Daily Evergreen, WA - Apr 6, 2007

OLE! seeks to assist children with trouble speaking due to hearing disabilities.

Christina Watts
The Daily Evergreen

For most children, learning to speak is a process that occurs naturally. Children listen to those who can speak, and eventually begin to imitate them. The process is much more difficult, however, when children are unable to listen.

The Oral Language Enrichment program at WSU, called OLE!, seeks to make that process a little bit easier.

“There are a lot of total communication programs [in the area],” said Carla Jones, Speech and Hearing Sciences Clinic coordinator and OLE! supervisor. “Parents wanted a [program for] listening and audio-verbal skills..
While total communication programs focus on teaching children with hearing impairments how to use sign language, OLE! focuses on teaching them how to speak and make sense of the sounds they hear.

“Audio-verbal programs are vastly becoming the most popular areas for [hearing-impaired] children’s education,” said Kristy Leitze, a senior speech and hearing sciences major.

Programs such as OLE! are becoming more important with advances in cochlear ear implants, Jones said. Children who were nearly deaf can now hear.

“People who have never heard before have to start from the beginning,” she said. “They have to learn how to listen and how those sounds are meaningful..
The WSU program is in its second year and enrolls four children. It began in January 2006 with the help of a $5,000 donation from Michael Pavel, associate professor of higher education and student affairs, and his wife, Susan, who enrolled their son in the program. OLE! is affiliated with WSU’s Speech and Hearing Clinic, allowing WSU students to be involved.

“It’s been fun,” said Jasmine Schneidmiller, a senior speech and hearing sciences major. “It’s definitely been very rewarding..
Children come to the clinic twice a week for two hours. The program is designed to be like a preschool. It received praise from the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association for the integration of culture topics into the curriculum, especially for a unit about American Indians.

“It helps give [students] a vocabulary they can use in their home that’s useful to them,” Leitze said.

There are many benefits for children who learn language skills, she said. The skills allow them to branch out and be a part of the hearing-impaired and hearing cultures.

“It also helps them to learn how to communicate and interact with other children,” said Carrie Barnes, a senior speech and hearing sciences major who has also worked with the children. “It helps them develop social skills..
The program is designed to supplement, not replace, the public school programs, Jones said. The high student-teacher ratio in the WSU program is beneficial, and the program focuses on specific goals and objectives. There also is a focus placed on the individual students.

“It’s absolutely amazing watching these children learn,” Leitze said.

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