An Imposing, Impressive Persona

By Christina Perigoe, Ph.D., CCC-SLP, C.E.D., LSLS Cert AVT

My lasting memory of Helen Beebe is from a conference in New York in the 1980s on speech perception and production of individuals who are deaf and hard of hearing. After a daylong recitation of negative reports detailing the woeful state of the speech of individuals who are deaf, a panel of distinguished researcher and speech scientists took questions and comments from the audience. Beebe stood up and, in her distinctive voice, responded, “If I believed for one minute the things you have said today, I would never have taught hundreds of deaf children to listen and speak!” There was a tremendous applause from the audience for her courage to stand up and make this statement. That was Helen Beebe. She had a unique capacity to gather herself and her ideas into an imposing, impressive persona.

Beebe knew that even the tiniest bit of residual hearing could be used to help develop spoken language. She had been doing it for years. Beebe let her instincts and her teaching success take her down a road that researchers would later follow. Beebe’s gift has been felt, not just by the families she worked with directly, but by many professional who benefitted from her wisdom and experience. Her teaching to auditory-verbal techniques to other professionals has extended her influence to thousands of children who are deaf or hard of hearing. Those of us who have been touched by her feel privileged to continue her mission and to follow her dream.