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Auditory Verbal Therapy (AV)

Photo: Speaking and listening for deaf children using AVT

Auditory Verbal Therapy (AVT) is an intensive programme of therapy that focuses on the development of active listening (auditory) and speaking (verbal) skills.

AVT seeks to maximise learning through listening so it requires children to have the best possible access to sound through the use of hearing technology, such as hearing aids or implants (most commonly a cochlear implant).

AVT is considered an early intervention strategy, rather than a communication approach in itself, and is usually delivered in a child’s first three and a half years, when, it is claimed, the brain’s connections for processing sound are developing fastest.

Professionals who promote AVT believe that by working intensively with children in their early years they will require much less support as they get older. Its aim is to ensure that deaf children develop age-appropriate language by the time they start school.

How does Auditory Verbal Therapy work?
  • Therapy sessions are based on play, conversation and natural activities, in a highly-focused way, to develop listening and speaking skills.
  • Parents are coached to use techniques used in sessions as part of their family’s everyday routines.
  • AVT focuses on developing the listening skills of the child brain and discourages the use of visual clues including sign-based approaches.
  • Parents are trained to be able to closely manage their child’s hearing technology and ensure they get best access to sound.

Once AVT professionals have a clear picture of how much your child is able to understand through listening with the help of hearing technology a programme of therapy is drawn up. 

In sessions, activities based around play and conversations are used to develop a child’s listening skills in a way that is intended to be natural to them. At the same time, you will be trained how to use these techniques at home. Goals are set regularly to track your child’s progress and are integrated into your daily routine with the aim that listening becomes part of everyday life.

AVT sessions typically last an hour and are delivered once a fortnight. It usually takes two to three years to complete an AVT programme.

In school

The goal of Auditory Verbal Therapy (AVT) is to improve expressive and receptive language so that children are ready to maximise the benefits from learning in primary school with the aim of improving confidence. Auditory Verbal UK reports that the majority of children who graduate from their programme go on to attend mainstream school.

After completing an AVT programme, your child may still receive support in school from a Teacher of the Deaf (ToD), speech and language therapist or specialist teaching assistant.

For children who have additional and complex needs AVT aims to support them to reach their language potential. Therefore, a child with additional and complex needs may go on to attend a specialist school or specialist unit, some of which are linked to mainstream schools.

Learning to read and write

Professionals who support AVT believe that by focusing on developing the parts of the brain responsible for listening and speaking AVT helps to lay the foundations for developing reading and writing skills.

Social life and friendships

The aim of AVT is that your child will mix on a par with hearing friends and experience fewer barriers to joining in with activities that hearing children enjoy.

In some instances this is done through role play and even play dates where friends and siblings are invited to sessions so that you learn strategies to help your child join in with their hearing peers.

How can I access Auditory Verbal Therapy for my child?

The availability of Auditory Verbal Therapy (AVT) delivered by language therapists and Teachers of the Deaf through local authorities is growing but it is, as yet, not widely provided. Check your local authority’s Local Offer, on their website, to see what is available in your area.

In some cases local authorities may provide funding to help your child access AVT. It might be helpful to explore how your local services can work with AVT providers to enable you to access AVT.

If your child has a cochlear implant they may have access to AVT through the cochlear (or auditory implant programme) delivered by their implant centre.

What if I can’t access AVT locally?

The charity Auditory Verbal UK (AVUK) provides access to AVT for families through its own services. It has centres in Oxford and London, and offers an initial consultation via telephone.

Currently, AVUK charges for its services, although there are some sources of financial support to help parents pay for this, including a bursary scheme, for families who live in the UK, run by the charity. Visit the AVUK website for more information about their programme and the costs involved.

AVT requires a high level of commitment from parents to using the strategies learnt in therapy as part of everyday life. Therefore, it’s important to be aware that you will need to follow the programme closely.

If you choose to access AVT through the charity AVUK you may have to travel to one of their centres in Oxford or London and you will need to think about whether this is possible for your family.