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NORMAL - The same man who inspired Kirsten Kempe to become a teacher of deaf students had further impact on her career choice Tuesday.

Ben Lachman announced his parents' foundation will donate $100,000 over five years to Illinois State University to promote the teaching of cued speech for deaf and hard-of-hearing students.

Kempe, who is not deaf, is a senior from Riverside majoring in deaf education. She was inspired to become a teacher by her 10-year friendship with Lachman, who uses cued speech.

People who use "cued speech" speak English and read lips, but they augment that by using hand signals to differentiate some sounds, such as those of the letters B and P, that are hard for lip readers to distinguish.

Lachman, who will consult on the program's startup for the Ronald and Mary Ann Lachman Foundation, said cued speech is just one form communication. Some deaf or heard-of-hearing people prefer American Sign Language as their first language, but others choose speech-oriented techniques.

"There are success stories (with all these methods)," he said.

Cued speech helps with literacy in English because it uses the same vocabulary, unlike American Sign Language, Lachman said.

American Sign Language may use the same sign as the equivalent for multiple English words. For example, one sign means "fantastic," "marvelous" and "wonderful."

Cued speech lets the user differentiate between the words, said Maribeth Lartz, coordinator ISU's deaf and hearing education program.

Kempe met Lachman when she was a teenager, and he became her first friend who was deaf. Over their 10-year friendship, she was impressed with his proficiency in English.

"In his e-mails, he is a better writer than I am," she said.

Lachman started learning cued speech when he was 2 years old.

Today, he speaks and communicates in English, Spanish and Hebrew and uses some American Sign Language. The University of California graduate works in the Chicago area in tourism real estate.

The ISU program is committed to helping future teachers develop skills in all communication methods used by students who are deaf or hard of hearing, Lartz said.

The grant will be used in three components during the five-year project, said James Thompson, chairman of ISU's special education department.

An awareness component will allow future and current teachers to visit the Alexander Graham Bell Montessori School in Mount Prospect, which specializes in cued speech. Lachman attended this school.

The beginning-skills component will offer short courses in cued speech. The final component will offer scholarships and paid internships to achieve more advanced competency in cued speech.

Lachman will consult with Laurie Sexton, an ISU education professor who will develop the cued speech program for the school.

ISU is the only public college or university in Illinois that offers a teacher certification program in deaf education. That program has about 100 students a year.


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