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Warren Estabrooks: A Career in Auditory-Verbal Practice

February 7th, 2013 by | Tags: , , | 1 Comment »

WarrenWhat inspired you to become an Auditory-Verbal therapist?

I was a teacher by profession and had alway taught in mainstream classrooms in the city of Toronto.  In my 7th year of teaching, I went on a teaching exchange programme to the UK where I taught in an infant school that had a “partial hearing unit” on the campus.  I was intrigued by the hearing aids worn by the children and that thought always stuck with me.  I returned to Toronto and looked for an opportunity to become involved in a graduate school programme working with children with special needs.  At the same time, I had a friend in New York whose child was deafened by meningitis.  On one of my visits there, I visited the child’s “special” school.  It was there that I was certain of a divine intervention (believe it or not).  Back in Toronto, I applied to the teacher training programme for “deaf” children and was chosen with the proviso that I teach in the system for at least four years following graduation.  I went to the school for deaf in Toronto, which was essentially an “oral” school, where most of the FM systems needed repair daily and many children arrived at school with their hearing aids in their school bags!  I worked with children and not their parents.  I knew that was not the best way to reach the outcomes that most parents wanted.  I also noticed that many of the children really could “hear” with their FM systems, and I knew there must be some great hope for them.

I attended one of Doreen Pollack’s “acoupedic” workshops in Denver and I was totally mesmerized.  Along with Helen Beebe, she was the quintessential auditory-verbal practitioner.  That course inspired me to become what is known today as a LSLS Cert. AVT.

I received a lot of help and support over many years of directing the Learning to Listen Foundation programme at North York General Hospital in Toronto. I had many amazing parents, professionals and friends who encouraged me over many years.


Why is going into Auditory-Verbal Practice a meaningful career?

There is great joy in helping parents to become the primary agents of change for their children.  They are typically their child’s first and best teachers.  This career also brings in many wonderful friends around the world and today, it is ever easier to connect through all the electronic media and social networks.

In many places, there is a great support for Auditory-Verbal Practice and in others, there is a long way to go, which means that there are still great global challenges to bring in the best of the practice to everyone who might want it.

Today, there is evidence-based practices, outstanding hearing technologies and a community of LSLS ready to help.

In this profession, one also meets amazingly passionate people and makes some of the very best of friends.  If teachers and therapists are interested in research and best practices, this is one of the finest professions.


What tips do you have for Auditory-Verbal professionals who just received their certification in Listening and Spoken Language Specialist?

A career professional, who has chosen to study for and complete the LSLS examination, has invested a great deal of time, money and energy into “raising the bar” for himself or herself, for parents, and especially for children who are deaf or hard of hearing.  I know that to be in the field of Auditory-Verbal Practice is to be a lifelong learner.   Many of the professionals, who obtain the LSLS, have been in the field for many years.  Thus, they are likely to have their own tips, but here are  five “top tips” for professionals, who have just received their certification, as I see them.

1.  Take a break and rest a bit.  Recover from all the hard work and enjoy the new letters after your name, which signify that you have chosen to go above and beyond the “required” degrees to provide service in your region.

2.  Continue learning.  Try to become involved in evidence-based outcomes by supporting and/or doing research in the field.  We live in an age when any practice has to have proven outcomes based on demonstrated research.  Attend any courses about listening and spoken language, child development, adult learning, and about any of the nine specific domains determined by the A.G. Bell Academy.  Also pace your acquisition of required CEUs over time and do not be remiss in keeping up your certification, which has to be done every two years.

3. Listen very carefully to parents.  It is the parents who are the real agents of change in the lives of their children.  In fact, there are still not a lot of LSLS outside of Canada, USA, Australia and UK.  So, many parents do a lot of what is required on their own without the support of a LSLS.  Parents typically can guide us in what they need to do with their children, but to be most effective, we need to listen to their needs and their wants, and then make a roadmap as a team to help them arrive to a destination and then prepare for the next one.

4. Think “outside the box” about how you deliver your service.  Our children, for the most part, hear much better today than ever before, and therefore we can “do” so much more now in everyday life that does not require formal lesson plans.  We have to know the session targets in audition, speech, language, communication, cognition and behaviour, but we can coach and guide parents with their own ideas to keep them on the right track. Think “outside the box” also about technology.  Many LSLS  specialists now provide services through telepractice so that many parents do not have to go outside their own homes to receive service.

5.  Share what you know about Auditory-Verbal Practice with anyone who is willing to listen.  Pay it forward, and in doing so, remember with respect the women and men were the pioneers of the auditory-verbal movement (Doreen Pollack, Helen Beebe, Ciwa Griffiths, Daniel Ling, Susan Schmid- Giovannini, and Marian Ernst), and all the other professionals and parents who helped you to achieve your dream of the LSLS credential. Then, continue all you do in the spirit of community.



Warren Estabrooks speaks with Karen MacIver-Lux, his former client, and Karen’s daughter, Emily.

What changes have you noticed in the field of hearing loss over the course of your career?

I think the most significant change is the amazing acoustic and electronic hearing options that are now available for children and adults with hearing loss.  Around the globe, hearing aids are still the device used by most children.  The hearing aid technology is a far cry from when I started in this field and worked at a school where the children did wear them but most did not benefit from them.  And, of course, the advent and subsequent advanced development of cochlear implant technology has been revolutionizing the way children learn through listening.  This question begs a book, I am sure, and as I write this, I think in exclamation marks.  This profession has come a long way in terms of its organization.  The AGBell Academy for Listening and Spoken Language has a mission to promote certification in this field.  Even though the certification is “optional” for professionals, there are now many employers and parents globally who are looking for professionals who have “gone the extra mile”.  In addition, universal screening for hearing loss in babies is now required in many places, but we still have a long way to go with this issue globally.


What do you predict for the future of Listening and Spoken Language?

I have great hopes for Listening and Spoken Language.  There are now several generations of parents since I started in the field and with all the technology and help in the Western countries, there should be more opportunities for children with hearing loss and their parents.  In some regions, there are opportunities and in many others, there are not any, and so parents and professionals need to remain vigilant so that the children can achieve the outcomes that are so desired by the families.

To quote directly from 101 Frequently-Asked Questions About Auditory-Verbal Practice, “Over the past few years, auditory-verbal practice has transformed into a continuum of services for individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing, their families, and those professionals who are honoured to work with them.  Today there are global alliances of parents, practitioners and individuals with hearing loss who provide hope and encouragement to the next generation”.

It is a journey and not a destination.  It is brought together by social media and the desire to do the right thing.  We will all work to bring bountiful life experiences to all who are touched by our children.


1 Comment

Marcia Zegar

February 8, 2013 at 10:01 pm

Thank you for sharing this interview-Warren has always been such a powerful influence in how I provide therapy intervention with the elementary-age students with hearing loss at my school. I am very proud to say I work with the most wonderful children & famines-who never go a day without gratitude for the gift of hearing. Thank you Warren for your life commitment in our field of Listening & Spoken Language. Most sincerely, Marcia Zegar