Mainstreaming a Child with a Cochlear Implant
Pre-implant predictions regarding post-implant performance are very difficult, if not impossible. There are no absolutes and no guarantees in cochlear implantation. For example, there is no definitive way to test the integrity of the hearing nerve; yet, a healthy hearing nerve is essential for success with a cochlear implant. Furthermore, there are a seemingly endless number of factors that can enhance, or limit, a child's performance with the implant. This list of factors includes, but is not limited to: age at onset of deafness, duration of deafness, cause of deafness, condition of the inner ear, condition of the hearing nerve, age at implantation, quantity and quality of speech and language therapy services, mode of communication, educational environment, motivation and commitment by the family and child, and the presence of other conditions that might affect learning.
If all factors are working in the child's favor, mainstreaming by elementary school can be a realistic goal. You must recognize, however, that this possibility can only be realized through a great deal of hard work from the child, the family, and the professionals involved. For a child to be mainstreamed by elementary school requires that he or she not only receive appropriate auditory-based speech and language therapy, but also be constantly flooded with language in the home. The parents and caregivers must provide a consistent and endless variety of everyday learning opportunities. The one absolute that I can offer regarding cochlear implantation in children is that the cochlear implant is not a cure or a quick fix for deafness.