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Auditory-Oral Education: Teaching Deaf Children To Talk

Auditory-Oral Education: Teaching Deaf Children To Talk
Jean S. Moog
May 17, 2000

It is my belief that an auditory-oral approach to education teaches deaf children to use their residual hearing in combination with speech reading and contextual cues to better comprehend and use spoken language. Sign language is not used in this approach. The benefits of auditory-oral education are great, but success in this approach requires hard work from the teachers, parents and the children. I will outline my thoughts on this topic below.

Expected outcomes for Auditory-Oral education include:

1- Mainstreaming:

The goal of mainstreaming is to give the deaf individual the necessary spoken language skills to be mainstreamed educationally and to function independently in the hearing world without a sign language interpreter. Mainstreaming is implemented as early as possible, first through interaction in the family and neighborhood and later in schools with normal hearing children with full inclusion being the ultimate goal. Graduates of auditory-oral schools are typically capable of being mainstreamed academically, socially and professionally to a large degree and being able to talk gives them ''mainstream life'' as an option if they so choose.

2- Improved Reading Levels:

The auditory-oral approach facilitates development of reading and writing skills because proficiency in the English language is critical to developing good reading ability. Studies support the notion that an emphasis on spoken English results in higher reading levels for deaf children than that which is achieved for children using signing approaches (Moog and Geers, Volta Review, 1989)

3- More Opportunities in the World:

The ideological basis of the auditory-oral approach is that spoken language is the predominant means by which the majority of people interact. Deaf adults are surrounded most of the time by normally hearing people and the demands of everyday life necessitate a considerable amount of interaction with people who speak and do not sign. If an individual does not have the ability to speak and understand the speech of others, that individual's associations and links with the vast majority of society are severely restricted.

Increasing Demand for Oral Education:

There is renewed interest in auditory-oral education and there are a variety of factors which account for the increasing demand from parents of deaf children for their children to learn to talk in auditory-oral programs. These factors include:

1- The improved technology in hearing aids and cochlear implants makes it possible for most deaf children to receive enough auditory information so that learning to speak can be a realistic objective. A combination of intensive, directed auditory training, speech reading and contextual cues, enables most deaf children to comprehend spoken language and use intelligible speech to communicate.

2- Earlier diagnosis and earlier fitting of hearing aids stimulates a deaf child's auditory system while capitalizing on whatever residual hearing the child has at a very early age. Universal Newborn Screening is resulting in even earlier identification and intervention than ever before.

3- There is greater awareness and expectations that deaf children can indeed learn to talk thanks in part to the mass media. A few short years ago, Miss America (Heather Whitestone) made the general public aware that profoundly deaf individuals can learn to talk. Since then, popular TV shows such as ER and Guiding Light have further advanced the idea that deaf individuals can talk.

4- As more is learned about the process of language acquisition, improved teaching techniques have been developed which help deaf children learn to talk better and do so in less time.

Characteristics of the Teacher and the Educational Environment:

Small, self-contained classrooms coupled with daily, individualized instruction provide the intense early intervention needed in this approach. I believe the successful Auditory-Oral program includes:

1- Teachers who believe deaf children can learn to talk. Profoundly deaf children who are successful in learning to talk, learn to talk from teachers who believe in the childs' abilities.

2- Great emphasis on development of auditory skills and maximum use of residual hearing. The more speech a child hears, the more easily the child can learn spoken language. Attention is given to the auditory environment to capitalize on small amounts of residual hearing. Almost all children, no matter how deaf, have some residual hearing which may be accessed if properly fitted with hearing aids or cochlear implants and given appropriate and intensive auditory training.

3- The development of spoken language as the primary objective of the teacher. Teachers should expect children to use spoken language as their primary means of communicating and teachers must help children be successful in their attempts to talk.

4- Children immersed in spoken language throughout the day. Children are provided with many opportunities to converse and talk in a variety of communicative contexts as well as participating in practice activities designed to improve their listening and talking skills.

5- Classroom teachers who are knowledgeable about, and experienced in, teaching speech and spoken language. Although speech is given its own ''dedicated'' instructional period during the day, spoken language work is incorporated into all classroom activities. As children communicate throughout these daily activities, they practice using their spoken language skills.

6- Children must become dependent on spoken language for communicating. Talking is the means of communicating all day long. Children must express themselves using speech before children and teachers respond to them. When speech is used for communication throughout the day, the goal is reinforced. Talking is not just a lesson to be conducted at school.

7- Direct teaching accelerates the acquisition of spoken language in deaf children.

8- A family with a true commitment to helping their child learn to talk. This includes getting the child started early in developing spoken language, ensuring the child has appropriate amplification and helping the child talk at home.

For more information about auditory-oral education, please visit the Oral Deaf Education website at or contact Jean Sachar Moog at or
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Jean S. Moog

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