One of my favorite Auditory-Verbal strategies is also one that, at first, seems ridiculously couterintuitive — whisper!

Yeah, right.  The kid is deaf and you’re supposed to talk quieter!?!  Doesn’t that sound backwards?  But it works!  Phonemes, or speech sounds, are classified as “voiced” or “voiceless”.  If you put your hand on your throat while saying a speech sound and feel it vibrate — that’s a voiced sound.  For example, the /t/ (as in tip) and /d/ (as in dip) are made at the same place in the mouth, the alveolar ridge right behind your top front teeth, but /t/ is voiceless and /d/ is voiced.  Try it!  Vowel sounds are always voiced.

So how does whispering help?

  • Sometimes, when a voiceless sound is followed by a voiced sound (usually a vowel), the “voicing” quality of the vowel actually has a backwards effect and acts to “cover up” the voiceless phoneme that precedes it, making that consonant sound harder to hear.  By whispering, you de-voice ALL of the sounds in the word, making the already voiceless consonants more audible to the listener.


  • Whispering also encourages the child do listen.  Any time you change up your voice (acoustic highlighting) by singing, speaking louder or softer, changing pitch or intonation, holding out a sound or syllable, etc. you draw attention to your speech and make it more interesting to listen to and easier for the child to hear.

I love this trick because so many people think it’s impossible.  A child will miss a word and be not getting it, not getting it, not getting it… and the teacher will be talking louder, and LOUDER, and LOUDER… and all it takes is one little whisper for a deaf child to hear it just right!

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