Dr Carol Flexer recently presented a two day workshop entitled: ‘The Listening Brain: From Research to Practice’ to teachers, therapists and school support staff working with students with hearing loss at VDEI on 24 and 25 March 2014.
Dr Carol Flexer received her doctorate in audiology from Kent State University in 1982. She was at the University of Akron for 25 years as a distinguished Professor of Audiology in the School of Speech-Language Pathology and Audiology. Special areas of expertise include paediatric and educational audiology.
Dr Flexer continues to lecture extensively nationally and internationally about paediatric audiology issues and has authored more than 155 publications. She has co-edited and authored twelve books. Dr Flexer is a past president of the Educational Audiology Association, a past president of the American Academy of Audiology, and a past president of the Alexander Graham Bell Association for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing Academy for Listening and Spoken Language. Dr Flexer is a Certified Auditory-Verbal Therapist (LSLS Cert. AVT) and a licensed audiologist.
The first day focused on ‘Auditory Brain Development: The Foundation of Listening, Language and Literacy’. Dr Flexer provided information about the pivotal role of auditory brain development in the acquisition of spoken communication, reading, and academic skills in all children, and particularly those with any type and degree of hearing loss. Dr Flexer discussed the roles of neuroplasticity, hearing loss, technology, and auditory brain stimulation on central auditory neural maturation and pre-literacy development for today's infants and young children. The concept of experience-dependent plasticity was linked with the amount of auditory practice that is necessary to generate and change neural pathways. She noted it was likely that we had substantially underestimated the amount of auditory/linguistic practice time than is actually required to wire and rewire the brain for high performance.
The exciting news emphasised in this talk was that appropriate early and continuing auditory intervention that capitalised on brain neuroplasticity allowed for spoken language and literacy outcomes never before imagined for today's infants and children with any type and degree of hearing loss. Participants were supported to generate strategies for growing the brains of infants and children to "make them smart" in 2014.
Day Two was entitled ‘The Auditory Basis of Literacy and Acoustic Accessibility: A Brain-Based Perspective’ and expanded upon the concepts discussed on the first day. During the first part of the presentation, Dr Flexer focused on ‘The Auditory Basis of Literacy’. Brain development and infant pre-literacy skills were initially discussed then Dr Flexer moved to literacy development in the pre-school and school-age child from an auditory perspective. How do we attain age-appropriate skills, and importantly, how do we sustain a child's literacy and academic progress? What does audition have to do with literacy? What are some ideas for incorporating current apps to allow the child to practice reading fluency, storytelling, and listening in degraded situations to strengthen their auditory feedback loop? How can we create an electronic experience book?
The second part was entitled ‘Acoustic Accessibility: A Brain-Based Perspective’. This seminar explored how children "learn" to hear, and how acoustic environments, and use of personal-worn FM systems and Classroom Audio Distribution Systems - CADS (also called soundfield systems) affect their literacy achievement and academic progress. The workshop comprehensively covered strategies that teachers may use in mainstream classrooms to create acoustic accessibility and discussed consideration of the environment of the classroom.
This event was a collaboration between the Victorian Deaf Education Institute and the RIDBC Renwick Centre, NSW.