THE INTRODUCTION FROM SOUND WAVES
Imagine for a moment that your are the parent of a profoundly deaf child and you learn of a pioneering teaching method that could enable your child to grow up a "hearing," "speaking," and socially adjusted child. Would you choose this approach for your child?
Each year thousands of parents, some by choice, most because they are uninformed, reject such an opportunity. Instead, they enroll their children in programs that emphasize sign language, finger spelling, and lip-reading as methods of communication.
These children are destined to hear only partially, if at all, and to speak and be understood with difficulty. Many can communicate only with their deaf peers and are comfortable only within their own ranks.
Parents who are told their children are deaf experience an overwhelming sense of despair. Where can they turn for help? How can they tap the potential that lies locked within their children's brains?
Instinctively they recognize that deafness strikes at the roots of intellectual development.
The manual methods of communicating are gaining wide acceptance and popularity in the united states today. The ubiquitous deaf interpreter on television is but one example. The availability of books on the art of signing is another. The manual methods are taught from the assumption that profoundly and severely deaf children cannot learn to hear and speak. In fact, most education programs for the deaf de-emphasize or ignore the development of hearing and speech, in large part because the teachers do not believe that stone-deaf children can be taught both. In consequence, the bulk of graduates from the nation's schools for the deaf hear poorly, if at all, and speak with little melody and fluency.
In the last forty years, however, pioneers in the field of deaf education have demonstrated that deaf children can acquire normal speech and language by focusing on the development of hearing. At an early age these children are equipped with powerful hearing aids and "taught" to hear over a period of years. The results are so revolutionary that many teachers of the deaf, accustomed to using other methods, refuse to believe that these "auditory" children trained to hear are, in fact, profoundly or severely deaf.
The thrust of this unique method is the development of that small remnant of residual hearing found in all but a few deaf children. Use of visual or tactile modes of communication - lip-reading and sign language - is discouraged. Years of training in listening skills enable the deaf child to develop speaking skills, clumsy at first, but near normal later on. Generally children so trained are easily "mainstreamed," and able to attend regular schools beginning at the nursery level. They are assimilated into society easily and unobtrusively. They are unaccustomed to being a part of the handicapped world.
Sound waves is the story of a mother's struggle to bring her daughter into the world of the hearing against the advice of all but one woman, Helen Hulick Beebe, a speech and hearing specialist in Easton, Pennsylvania. Beebe assured Joan Huber, a young mother from Allentown, that her profoundly deaf daughter, Mary Ellen, would grow up in the hearing world, learn to speak and develop just like any normal child. There was no magic or quackery in Beebe's belief. She had practiced it on a few children in the previous twenty years, learning the method in New York from a Viennese-born physician. The essential ingredient of the Unisensory method employed by Beebe, son named because it concentrates on the hearing sense alone, is work and discipline for both parent and child. Joan Huber never ceased in her efforts to teach Mary Ellen to hear and to speak. Doctors and educators scoffed. Others warned of dire emotional consequences. Joan Huber persisted. This is her story.