About Cued Speech
A Brief History Of Cued Speech
Cued Speech was invented in 1966 by R. Orin Cornett, Ph.D. While working at Gallaudet University as the vice president for long-range planning, Dr. Cornett was surprised to find that the deaf student body had low reading levels. He had assumed that the students would be avid readers because books would give them access to information that they could not get by listening. He came to the realization that many of the students who had grown up using sign language did not read well because they did not have full mastery of English. To read and write a language proficiently, a person must be fluent in its use. Such fluency has been shown to begin with the ability to distinguish the smallest components of the language, the building blocks known as phonemes. Dr. Cornett proceeded to invent Cued Speech to enable those who cannot hear English to clearly and unambiguously see all of its phonemic components. In this way they could gain proficiency in English and improve their reading skills.
What Is It?
Cued Speech is a system consisting of one hand synchronized with the natural mouth movements of spoken language. In English the hand shows eight different hand shapes, representing 25 different consonant sounds, used in four different positions around the mouth, representing 15 unique vowel sounds. (Although there are only 21 consonants and 5 vowels, there are additional consonant sounds that are created by letter combinations such as "sh," "ch," "th "and "ng," as well as various vowel sounds resulting from long and short pronunciations and vowel combinations known as diphthongs.) The consonant and vowel sounds far outnumber the hand shapes and positions, so each hand shape is used for 3-4 consonants and each position is used for 2-3 vowels. Speaking each of these sounds requires a distinctive shape of the lips and mouth, and Dr. Cornett was careful to ensure that sounds made with similar mouth shapes did not share the same hand shape or position. By combining the shape of the mouth with the shape and position of the hand, he was able to develop a concise system that could make an efficient visual representation of all the sounds of the English language. A deaf child receiving the cues consistently learns to distinguish phonemes visually – in the same way that a hearing child does it auditorily – and is able to steadily and naturally acquire language.
Learning to cue expressively is not unlike other muscle-memory skills such as typing (keyboarding) or playing the piano. The system is finite – eight hand shapes and four positions – and can be learned in twelve hours of instruction. Cueing smoothly and proficiently at the rate of normal speech comes with practice and consistent use of the system. What makes the system so simple is that the cuer is applying the system to the language that he or she already speaks. Parents do not have to learn a new language to communicate with their child! By using the cues in conjunction with the language of the home, parents have the tools to provide the critical language model required by all young children.
Cued Speech Has Come To Be Recognized As An Amazing Tool That Provides Many Benefits:
- First and foremost, Cued Speech provides clear and unambiguous access to the complete language necessary for comprehension, fluency and literacy. Research has shown that profoundly deaf children who consistently receive cued language read on the same level as their hearing peers. This is a truly amazing break-through, especially given that historically deaf children have reached a plateau at the third or fourth grade reading level.
- Cued Speech allows families to continue to use the language of the home. Research has shown that access to the language of the home is critical to the child's age-appropriate development of complete language. The child can be a part of daily language interaction with the immediate and extended family, enabling expanded opportunities for language growth as well as increased security and sense of belonging. Parents and grandparents already have the language to convey their thoughts, ideas, and beliefs. Cued Speech gives them a simple tool to make these ideas accessible for the deaf or hard of hearing child. The child can have access to the same language used by siblings, neighborhood children and school friends, and can avoid the isolation faced by children who don't understand the language that others use.
- Cued Speech works hand-in-glove with cochlear implants (CI). For a new CI user, the cues identify and label sounds. This links the visual and auditory inputs and helps the child remember the new sounds he is learning as well as gain confidence in his ability to interpret what he hears. For the more experienced CI user, cueing fills in the gaps created by noisy environments, new or confusing language, soft speakers and dead batteries.
- Cued Speech helps a child to be a better speech reader (lip-reader). Because half of the cueing system's information comes from the shape on the lips, the child learns to focus on the mouth. Cued Speech allows the child to build a complete language base. When he or she is in a speech-reading situation, the language base acquired through use of Cued Speech allows the child to fill in the gaps in the conversation, the same way a hearing person does in a noisy environment when some of the information is missing.
- Cued Speech is based on phonemes, which make up all spoken languages. It is not language-specific and can be adapted for use in virtually any spoken language. To date, Cued Speech has been adapted for use with well over 50 different languages. (Adaptations are required because many languages use vowel sounds and/or consonant sounds that are not present in English, the first cued language.) This versatility means that a deaf child can learn a foreign language!
- Use of Cued Speech in and of itself will not guarantee that a child will have intelligible speech. However, the Cued Speech system is an excellent tool for teaching a deaf child to speak. A speech clinician can use cues to identify the sounds she wants a child to produce. She can use cues to identify the sounds the child actually did make and show the difference between the sound she asked for and the sound that was produced. She can clearly explain how to make the desired sound. Once it is mastered, the cue provides a clear and distinct label for that sound. Because it is the same cue that is used to represent part of the parent or the teacher's speech, the child will recognize that cue each time he sees it and recognize how it fits in to the language that he receives and uses every day. In this way the deaf child can learn to combine speech and language through use of cues, and eventually develop more natural sounding speech by observing the (cued) speech of hearing models.