Ling’s Legacy: Speech in the 21st Century
Mary D. McGinnis, Ph.D.c, LSLS Cert. AVT. John Tracy Clinic
Dimity Dornan, AM, A/Prof UQ, PhD UQ, HonDUniv USQ, BSpThy, FSPAA, CpSp, LSLS Cert AVT. Hear and Say Centre
Carol Flexer, Ph.D., CCC-A, LSLS Cert. AVT. University of Akron
Christina Perigoe, Ph.D., CED, CCC-SLP, LSLS Cert. AVT. University of Southern Mississippi
AH OO EE M SH S. Everyone in the world of listening and spoken language is familiar with the Ling Six Sound Check. Say, “The Green Book” to any professional, and it’s likely they’ll know you’re referring to Speech and the Hearing Impaired Child. These are just two of the many innovations brought to our profession by the amazing Dr. Daniel Ling. But did you know that Dr. Ling was also a radio operator, violin maker, fisherman, and devoted father? On Friday morning, a panel of distinguished professionals gathered to discuss the life, and legacy, of this incredible man and the applications of his work that are still so relevant today.
Todd Houston began the presentation with a brief history of Dr. Ling’s life and work. Daniel Ling was a member of the Royal Air Force in England before beginning college training in music education. During one of his practica, he had a chance encounter with a student with hearing loss that forever changed the course of his life — and our field. He then changed career plans and became a scholar, researcher, professor, and dean, author, teacher, mentor, and friend to generations of listening and spoken language professionals. Dr. Ling was a founding member of ICAVC, the International Committee on Auditory Verbal Communication, which later became AVI, Auditory Verbal International, the predecessor to today’s AG Bell Academy for Listening and Spoken Language. Along with other Auditory Verbal pioneers like Helen Beebe, Ciwa Griffiths, and Doreen Pollack, Dr. Ling’s passion and vision laid the groundwork for the field of listening and spoken language.
Carol Flexer discussed Ling’s work in light of current research on the brain, noting that Ling, “Thought about developing auditory brain centers before “brain” terminology even existed.” Ling’s approach to teaching speech recognizes that generating and cementing the auditory neural connections necessary for developing spoken language through listening requires an enormous amount of exposure, repetition, and practice. So how much practice is enough?
To perfect a new skill, you need approximately 10,000 hours of practice — and once achieved, you must keep practicing to maintain it (Gladwell)
Children need to hear 46 million words by age four for optimal development (Hart and Risley)
Children need 20,000 hours of listening to build the prerequisite skills for reading (Dahaene)
Children with hearing loss require about three times more exposure than their peers with typical hearing to learn new words and concepts (Pittman)
Mary McGinnis presented on why Ling’s approach to teaching speech, developed over forty years ago, remains theoretically sound and relevant for the 21st century. Unlike traditional methods of teaching speech, which may not incorporate previously learned skills, focus on auditory learning, or spend enough time on phonetic skills (individual speech sounds) before moving to a phonologic level (speech sounds in words), Ling’s approach is specific to children with hearing loss learning to speak through listening. It takes into account the suprasegmental aspects of speech (pitch, intensity, intonation, etc.) that differentiate natural sounding speech from that which is forced, monotonous, or hypernasal. This system provides a systematic way of assessing phonemes (speech sounds) and eliciting the, through facilitative contexts, and encourages diagnostic teaching and instant analysis of student responses, a hallmark of Auditory Verbal Therapy.
Christina Perigoe explained the Ling Phonetic Level Speech Evaluation (commonly known as the PLE). She related it to best practices in the field of listening and spoken language, including early intervention that involves parents, a model that is developmental, not remedial, a foundation of auditory access, and teaching and goal setting based on assessment data. Ling’s Six Sound Test, Phonetic Level Evaluation, and Phonologic Level Evaluation are criterion-referenced assessments. Intervention targets are developed after careful analysis of the results. Ling’s strategies work through elicitation, development, generalization, and carryover of speech sounds into naturalistic conversational interactions. A seven-stage model of speech development, which integrates speech sounds and linguistic targets, can be found in Speech and the Hearing Impaired Child.
Marietta Paterson tackled suprasegmentals, the intonation, pitch, duration, intensity, and other characteristics of speech that affect more than one speech sound. They are changes in a period of time over the acoustic envelope of a sentence. Prosody, the rhythm, intonation, and stress of speech, is a characteristic that often determines whether listeners perceive speech as “natural” or “impaired.” Prosodic features are not visible — that is, they cannot be lipread. Ling’s system evaluates speech at the suprasegmental level and helps learners to manipulate their vocal mechanism to achieve natural speech and suprasegmentals through audition. The suprasegmentals of a sentence can change the meaning. Depending on which word you stress, the sentence, “I have a blue car” could emphasize the possessor (I), the feature (blue), or the object (car). Add rising intonation at the end, and you could even make it a question. In short, the melody is the message!
Judith Simser spoke about ways to facilitate speech production in speakers with hearing loss. For speech development, ensure the best use of residual hearing, remember that as speech perception improves, there should be reciprocal development in speech production (so use hearing!), and if the child hesitates or refuses to imitate, give more input (you can’t force speech!). Ling’s approach helps learners produce new sounds by placing them in facilitative contexts — putting them in combinations with others sounds that naturally lead to production of the new sound. For example, all consonants have both prerequisite skills for production and vowel contexts that make them easier to produce. Professionals can also think about consonants in terms of their features — manner, voice, and place. Simser shared a variety of techniques from Ling for facilitating different classes of sounds. Her tips can be found in the slides from the presentation, available HERE.
Over the course of three hours, these incredible presenters shed new light Ling’s timeless system, relating it to today’s research and best practices and helping a new generation of professionals incorporate this proven system for developing speech into their practice.
Though the short course was amazing and gave me lots of food for thought, the highlight of the morning was the launch of the Ling Consortium, an international consortium of university accredited post-graduate training institutes for educating listening and spoken language professionals. Speakers from Dr. Ling’s life, including his wife, sons, and former student spoke movingly about the legacy of this incredible man. Though I never had the chance to meet Dr. Ling, his legacy extends far beyond his life, and I am forever grateful for his contributions in the field. Dr. Ling’s legacy lives on in all of us pursuing listening and spoken language today. The impact of his work goes far beyond his life, influencing generations to come. What an example of a life of service, what a testament to a life well-lived!