Helen Beebe was a pioneer in the field who believed that children with hearing loss could listen, talk and thrive in the educational mainstream during a time when it was widely believed that they could not.
Affectionately known as “Beebe” to all that knew her, she pioneered a method that changed the lives of many children, their families and a multitude of professionals. The AG Bell Association partnered with the Helen Beebe Speech and Hearing Center through a generous grant to fund the development of the Listening and Spoken Language Knowledge Center.
The Power of Mentoring
Beebe’s career demonstrated the power of mentoring – a critical foundation in the area of listening and spoken language and an influence that she would pay forward many times over. Beebe worked briefly as a teacher of the deaf for several different programs, but later sought a career that would allow her to work with children with hearing loss in a different capacity. A fortuitous connection with the famed Austrian physician and speech-language pathologist, Emil Froeschels, was the beginning of a mentoring relationship that would last 25 years and set her on a path to becoming a speech-language pathologist.
Beebe adapted the methods of her mentor to teaching children with hearing loss and established the “Unisensory Approach” or what is now known as the auditory-verbal approach. Beebe believed that children with hearing loss could make use of whatever residual hearing they had, no matter how little, to develop spoken language with a natural intonation. In 1950, Beebe presented the philosophy at the International Association of Logopedics and Phoniatrics (IALP) meeting in Amsterdam. Contemporaries Doreen Pollack and Henk Huizing presented the same philosophy at this meeting, giving it the label, "Unisensory."
A Woman of Boundless Energy
A woman of boundless energy who did not possess the word “impossible” in her vocabulary, Beebe offered hope to parents, teaching them to help their children develop listening and spoken language, even in the face of significant criticism and skepticism in the field. Beebe’s practice grew and moved several times to larger quarters. To make her work available to families worldwide, Beebe opened the Larry Jarrett House in 1975. This intensive weeklong residence program allowed hundreds of families from all over the United States and several foreign countries to come and learn how to maximize their child’s residual hearing and develop listening and spoken language.
Over the years, Helen Beebe influenced thousands of professionals in the field, parents of children with hearing loss and adults who were once the recipients of her clinical talents. The Helen Beebe legacy continues today through the Listening and Spoken Language Knowledge Center, which was made possible through the generosity of the Helen Beebe Speech and Hearing Center. It will become a resource for parents all over the world who need information about listening and spoken language and who hope that their children will be able to listen, talk and learn in the mainstream. The Knowledge Center will also be a vital resource for professionals seeking new strategies for service delivery and a connection with a mentor that can guide them along the path to becoming a certified LSLS.
Beebe worked to teach children who were deaf to speak with admirable patience. It required constant repetition to teach the proper pronunciation of words, but Beebe truly made a difference and her legacy continues to live on.