Position Statement: Delivery of Services by Listening and Spoken Language Specialists

It is the position of the Alexander Graham Bell Association for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing (AG Bell) that a Listening and Spoken Language Specialist (LSLS™) is a qualified provider for children with hearing loss who are pursuing listening and spoken language. The specialty skills of a LSLS certified professional are critical in a child’s journey to acquire spoken language; this is especially important following the fitting of hearing aids or the activation of a cochlear implant.

AG Bell fully supports the recommendation by the Joint Committee on Infant Hearing (2007) that families should be made aware of all communication approaches and that this information should be provided in an unbiased manner. For families who choose to include goals for listening and spoken language in their child’s family support and education plans (e.g., IFSP or IEP), this position statement defines the qualifications of a LSLS certified professional and the role this professional should serve in the child’s language development. The process for LSLS certification enhances professionals’ qualifications and their ability to address children’s listening, spoken language communication and educational needs.

AG Bell supports the development of communication for children who are deaf or hard of hearing through evidence-based practices. To support this commitment, AG Bell recognizes a LSLS as a professional who has earned certification from the AG Bell Academy for Listening and Spoken Language. To hold the LSLS credential, individuals must meet high-level requirements in addition to the standard teacher and clinician preparation programs; it is a rigorous credential that demonstrates these professionals have satisfied stringent requirements for continuing professional development, completed a mentored practicum experience, and passed a comprehensive qualifying examination. The practical aspects of the training assure each LSLS certified professional demonstrates requisite knowledge, skills, and abilities to facilitate development of a child’s listening and spoken language.

A LSLS certified professional follows developmental models of listening, speech, language, cognition, and communication; uses evidence-based practices; and strives for the best possible outcomes in listening, spoken language, and literacy for children who are deaf or hard of hearing. AG Bell works to increase the number of qualified professionals to ensure that all families desiring a spoken language outcome for their child have early and ongoing access to appropriate listening and spoken language services and resources.

LSLS certified professionals focus on education, guidance and the rigorous application of techniques, strategies, and procedures that promote optimal acquisition of spoken language through listening. Professionals who hold the LSLS certification offer specialized services based on standardized educational preparation, core knowledge, and verification of professional experience. LSLS certified professionals are prepared to work with children of all ages, including infants and toddlers, children in preschool and kindergarten, and school-age students. The certification for LSLS certified professionals provides parents and guardians a method of identifying teachers of the deaf or hard of hearing, speech-language pathologists and/or audiologists who have demonstrated expertise in using listening and spoken language techniques. A LSLS certified professional may work directly with a child or student and their family. The LSLS certified individual also may provide consultation to other professionals serving the child, including the general education teacher or the child’s audiologist.

Background and Related Initiatives

AG Bell supports and advocates for the families of children who are deaf or hard of hearing, for adults with hearing loss, and for the teachers and therapists who provide professional services to them. For more than a century, AG Bell has strived to ensure that every child and adult with hearing loss has the opportunity to listen, talk, and thrive in mainstream society.

Federal policy has long favored the access of people with disabilities to the mainstream through the provision of public accommodations and education (IDEA, 2004; ADA, 1990, 2008; Section 504, 1973, 2008). In addition, the Early Hearing Detection and Intervention Act of 2010 revises previous legislation (Newborn Infant Hearing Screening and Intervention Act of 1999, incorporated as Title VI of the Labor, Health and Human Services and Education Appropriations Act of 1999) for infants and toddlers with hearing loss under 36 months of age. The 2010 legislation increases the focus on activities related to appropriate professional intervention and specifically mentions the need for providers who are highly qualified along with the recruitment, retention, education and training of qualified personnel.

Federal special education legislation has provided the underlying support for qualified teachers for more than 30 years (P.L. 94-142, 1975; IDEA, 1997; IDEA, 2004). Federal regulations state it is the responsibility of each state education agency to establish and maintain qualifications to ensure that personnel necessary to carry out the purposes of the law are appropriately and adequately prepared and trained [34 CFR §300.156(a)]. This responsibility also applies to personnel delivering related services to assist a child with a disability to benefit from special education (34 CFR §300.34). Based on the language in the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (1965), personnel are to be highly qualified when working with children 3-21 years of age. When serving children birth to three years of age, professionals must meet standards for being fully and appropriately qualified [20 U.S.C. § 1435(a)(8)(A)(ii)].

Unfortunately, despite the intent of the law, many children who are deaf or hard of hearing are not provided access to the high level of qualifications achieved by a LSLS certified professional.


This position statement should serve as guidance for the development of new legislation or regulations, or for revision of existing laws and their associated regulations and guidelines to support access to qualified professionals who can promote a child’s development of listening and spoken language. The Gallaudet Research Institute (2008) reports that 52% of students who are deaf or hard of hearing nationwide learn in speech-only environments. An additional 35% of the nation’s students who are deaf or hard of hearing use speech with accompanying signs.

A Government Accountability Office (GAO) report, Deaf and Hard of Hearing Children: Federal Support for Developing Language and Literacy (GAO-11-357) was issued May 25, 2011. The report described the extent of hearing loss among children in the United States; settings in which these children are educated; factors that have been shown to help these children acquire language skills; and challenges to the provision of appropriate interventions. In this report, parents, educators, and advocates agree that while decisions about a child’s education should be based on his or her unique needs as required by IDEA, the cost or availability of services often determines what a child receives. Some of the stakeholders cited in the report stated that schools may be hesitant to provide particular special education services because the costs incurred would be prohibitive. However, the law is clear: IDEA requires schools to provide an individualized education to children with disabilities based on input from a team that includes specialists working in cooperation with school staff and parents when making decisions about how to meet a child’s needs.

State initiatives are beginning to recognize LSLS certification for personnel who provide services to children who are deaf and hard of hearing, and who are pursuing a listening and spoken language outcome. The Florida Public School Accountability Act was signed into law in June, 2011 (CS/CS/HB 1255). This act adds LSLS certified professionals to the list of specialized instructional service providers for children who are deaf or hard of hearing and pursuing a listening and spoken language outcome, and it defines standards for auditory-oral education (i.e., communicating through listening and spoken language). This forward-looking law allows parents to enroll their child in either a public or private auditory-oral program with funding for that child’s education allocated under Florida’s special education funding matrix. This is consistent with federal requirements for professional qualifications, because the LSLS certification offered and monitored by the AG Bell Academy for Listening and Spoken Language defines a professional who has a high level of qualifications.

Summary and Future Directions

AG Bell recommends that LSLS certification should be an internationally-recognized quality indicator in English-speaking countries for professionals who are highly qualified to serve children who are deaf or hard of hearing and their families who choose listening and spoken language for communication. LSLS professionals are certified by the AG Bell Academy for Listening and Spoken Language after completing stringent continuing professional education and supervised mentored practice over several years, and having passed a thorough, comprehensive examination. By meeting the requirements of the AG Bell Academy, certified LSLS professionals demonstrate that they have met the highest professional standard available in the area of listening and spoken language. LSLS certified personnel are thoroughly prepared to provide an appropriate educational or therapeutic intervention program that integrates auditory learning with spoken language skills. Further, in order to maintain certification they satisfy core LSLS competencies by earning at least 15 CEUs from Academy-approved programs every two years.

AG Bell believes that LSLS certification should be a standard that defines professionals working with children who are deaf and hard of hearing who are learning spoken language in educational and therapy settings. LSLS certification should be considered the standard, in federal and state legislation and regulations, for providers with the highest level of qualifications who serve children pursuing a listening and spoken language outcome. The goal is for all families who choose a spoken language outcome for their child to have early and ongoing access to professionals who have achieved a high level of training and qualifications to facilitate listening and spoken language development.


  • Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, as Amended, 42 U.S.C. 12101 et seq. (2008).
  • Early Hearing Detection and Intervention Act of 2010, Pub. Law 111–337, 124 Stat. 3588 (2010).
  • Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965, 20 U.S.C. 6301 et seq. (1965)
  • Florida Public School Accountability Act (CS/CS/HB 1255).
  • Gallaudet Research Institute (November, 2008). Regional and National Summary Report of Data from the 2008-08 Annual Survey of Deaf and Hard of Hearing Children and Youth. Washington, DC: GRI, Gallaudet University.
  • Joint Committee on Infant Hearing. (2007). Year 2007 position statement: Principles and guidelines for early hearing detection and intervention programs. Pediatrics, 102(4), 893–921.
  • The Education for All Handicapped Children Act of 1975, Pub. L. No. 94-142, § U.S.C.C.A.N. (1975).
  • The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act Amendments of 1997, Pub. Law, 105-17.
  • The Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act of 2004, 20 U.S.C. §1400 et seq. (2004). Access from http://idea.ed.gov/
  • Oral Deaf Education (2011). List of Schools. Retrieved August 15, 2011 from www.oraldeafed.org
  • Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, as amended 29 U.S.C. § 794
  • U.S. Government Accountability Office. (2011). Deaf and Hard of Hearing Children: Federal Support for Developing Language and Literacy (GAO-11-357). Washington, D.C.: Author.