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Learning trip to the Ernst Lehnhardt CI Center in Gustrow, Germany

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The plan was to make the trip to the Gustrow CIC the previous year, but only this year it all finally fell together. We were very keen to see the work of the rehabilitation center from the inside, discuss various topics and find the answers to numerous questions.

Thanks to the support of Jana Frey, we were able to meet Karola Benedict, the Director for Rehabilitation of the Ernst Lehnhardt Cochlear Implant Rehabilitation Center in Gustrow, the land of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern. Booked on this experience exchange trip were two SLPs from St. Petersburg and myself, as translator. We were very warmly received, which was specially appreciated after a long day traveling. We spent a week in the Center watching the specialists at work, and took 1.5 days to discuss with Frau Benedict the concept of the Center’s operations.

The rehabilitation center itself is very comprehensively organized. Patients live on its premises for a week (young children are allocated 60 days of rehabilitation within three years after a CI, that is a week per quarter, while adults are entitled to 40 days within two years after CI). This situation is a very comfortable one for both parents and children as well as the elderly and the wheelchair-bound (i.e. there are specially equipped restrooms). Despite this ‘hotel’ mode, the Center exudes warmth and coziness.

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kitchen and cafeteria

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recreation areas

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a room

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The CIC team tries very hard to cooperate with local experts from where the child lives. The parents (or adult patients) get a pick of the rehabilitation center they prefer, and medical insurance covers their stay.

20150305_130336The Center makes an effort to support children of a roughly similar age within a given week (e.g. under 3 years, 3-7 years, adolescents, 21-30 years, over 30 years. The oldest patient is 89).

The hearing therapist, SLP and ergotherapist classes we witnessed were just amazing! On the first day of the week, children and parents will all meet each other, there will be a first fitting and a technical check of sound processors or hearing aids. An individual class plan is developed for every child, with an average class lasting half an hour (varying depending on the age and somatic status of the child), plus 15 minutes of free play at the end.

Here is an example of a weekly plan:

– Monday: audiometry, introductions, speech-language therapy and motion game;

– Tuesday: audiometry, sound processor fitting, 2 classes with an SLP, speech and hearing therapy;

– Wednesday: ergotherapy (provided to patients of all ages at least once a week), speech and hearing therapy, class with an SLP, group classes;

– Thursday: speech and hearing therapy, ergotherapy, sound processor fitting, group classes;

– Friday: class with an SLP, speech and language therapy, musical and motion games, a goodbye to all, individual parents’ counseling and departures.

ergotherapy room

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Additionally, adult patients might be trained in speech perception through learning to use the telephone and practicing being in a supermarket etc.

Meeting the audiologist was a very enriching part of our experience. It helped us expand our knowledge about sound processor fitting, and to learn the methods of fine-tuning Cochlear processors (the Center fits Cochlear, AB and Med-El devices).

It was very exciting to meet Mrs. Preyn, the social pedagogue who organized the Association of Parents of Hearing Impaired Children. Sh20150304_141048e sets up parent organizations, counsels parents on psychological, social and financial issues, on the child’s educational pathway and accompanying paperwork. The Center employs her for 20-30 hours a month. The lady also works in Schwerin and Rostok, visits parents’ homes to counsel, holds meeting for parents of hard of hearing children in different cities. She also helps children cope with school by inviting special school teachers to visit mainstream schools, and, vice versa, explaining to mainstream school teachers how to work with hearing-impaired children.

We are extremely grateful for the chance to be inside a special school, which is a combined one for speech impairments, HOH and deaf children, issuing graduation certificates as a normal secondary school. Some teachers have training in special education, while others do not. A few teachers can use sign language.

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class for children with hearing impairments (5-7 kids per class)

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class for children with learning and reading difficulties – the teacher doubles his speech with sign language. Amazingly, all the children in the class had clear speech and bilateral hearing devices (apart from one, who had a malformation of internal hearing organs).

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The school is approximately 190 children large. The boarding school houses 55 children between the ages of 5 and 18 from all over Mecklenburg Vorpommern. They are divided into 8 groups, each group having several rooms for 1-2-4 persons allocated to it, its own drawing room and kitchen.

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celebration and socializing room, hall of fame

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circles and societies the school offers to boarders are very varied

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Early rehabilitation (counseling) of children 0-6 y.0. The parents may visit with their child and stay for a week as they are counseled on integrating necessary training into daily life situations. Those unable to come are visited by experts at home.

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We went home grateful, full of new information, impressions and ideas.

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Marina Guryeva, Anna Makukhina and Liubov Volovik

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