Doreen Pollack - Marking the Life of a Legend
Dear Alexander Graham Bell Community,
In my special message on International Women's Day last Wednesday, I took the opportunity to commemorate a number of important women who greatly impacted the listening and spoken language community. Today, I'd like to remember another critically important pioneer of our community - Doreen Pollack.
Doreen Pollack's contributions to the field of listening and spoken language are far-reaching and enduring. Indeed, all of us, from professionals to families and adults with hearing loss, have benefitted from Doreen's decades of work in improving the lives of the deaf and the hard of hearing. Doreen was a vanguard in her field, and was the first to establish protocols for newborn hearing screening at Columbia Presbyterian Hospital in 1948. Since then, this practice has become standard and is mandated by law across the United States. Thanks to Doreen's tireless efforts to introduce and standardize this practice, thousands of newborns are identified with hearing loss before they even leave the hospital, making it possible for professionals to begin working with them immediately because early intervention is so vital to successful language development.
Doreen continued to contribute to the listening and spoken language community throughout her lifetime. As the director of the speech and hearing clinic at Porter Memorial Hospital, she mainly focused on developing her system of immersive language therapy for young children, called "acoupedics," which was later named the Pollack method. This method stressed the critical importance of identifying a child's hearing loss as early as possible. The Pollack method functions by introducing language immersion as early as 11 months of age and continuing with immersion until age 5 or later. By using the early
intervention process, Doreen ensured that every child would be given the
highest possible chance of a successful spoken language outcome.
Many clinicians at that time who worked with children with hearing loss used traditional techniques of lip-reading and basic sign language to facilitate language acquisition. However, Doreen quite controversially believed that a purely spoken language-based approach was more effective. In her practice, Doreen observed that her patients were better able to acquire spoken language and listening skills when they were focused entirely on developing the independent use of their hearing technology rather than relying on visual prompts. This innovation in thought consequently developed a system which would allow those with hearing loss to function well in the hearing world.
These principles form the bedrock of Listening and Spoken Language today.
Doreen established The Listen Foundation in 1970 to provide financial aid to children and families who pursued a spoken language outcome. Its mission is to help make spoken language outcomes available to all children with hearing loss, regardless of financial background. The Foundation carries on Doreen's singular vision - that every child with hearing loss should have the opportunity to speak and function seamlessly in the hearing world.
At AG Bell, we are always appreciative for all that Doreen accomplished to bring spoken language to children with hearing loss. Her pioneering work in the development of the clinical process for language acquisition has helped open up a world of knowledge and sound for so many people around the globe that otherwise would not be possible.
In 2016, The Listen Foundation established the Doreen Pollack Scholarship to assist and encourage AVT professionals who are pursuing the Listening and Spoken Language Specialist Certification. Leaning on the foresight of other legacy donors, AG Bell is establishing this year a scholarship for the LSLS Certification on the AVEd track, the details of which will be announced next week. I look forward to welcoming Doreen's children to make these awards at the AG Bell Listening and Spoken Language Symposium in Washington this June. If you are entering your third year of mentoring, be sure to consider applying for the appropriate scholarship!
You can help advance listening and spoken language through your gifts to AG Bell. Thank you for your continued support. I am always available to you at [email protected] and at 202-337-5220.
Until next week,
Let us remember: One book, one pen, one child, and one teacher can change the world.