Cued speech is a less widely used approach towards communication development in deaf children, but it is becoming more popular in recent years. Here are some facts on what it is, and how it aims to help children with hearing loss to learn effective communication skills.
Cued speech in many ways is a mix of the signed approach and the auditory oral. It is a sound based system where signs are used (eight hand shapes in four different positions) alongside natural speech to indicate sound patterns.
Cued speech can be used from hearing impaired children’s earliest months with other strategies to help give broader access to communication development. Its purpose is to make speech clear and more accessible to a hearing impaired child and vice versa, to make deaf children’s own speech more easily understood by others. Many sounds cannot be distinguished from each other by lip pattern (such as b, p and m) and cues to a deaf child make clear which sound was used, giving full and complete access to speech. Cued articulation can also be very helpful in developing literacy skills as deaf children learn to associate signs with sounds, just as letters of written English are associated with them when reading.
The hand gestures used for cued speech can be learned in around 20 hours but consistent use will be needed to become fluent enough not to slow down normal rhythm of speech. Consistent use of children’s hearing aids or cochlear implants for all waking hours is also central in the effective use of the cued speech approach. Cued speech is slowly becoming more popular but is not widely used, so professionals supporting your child may need to actively learn to cue. Cued speech is used to support spoken English but can be used in Total Communication alongside BSL or Makaton.
It is useful in home or educational settings but for deaf children to benefit the most, it is helpful if school staff learn to cue well too. Teachers of the deaf can work to support staff in mainstream schools and it can also be used in specialist schools for the deaf.
Cued Speech Organisation (CSO) state that 96% of speech can be lip-read accurately when using cued speech, helping children with hearing loss to acquire an understanding of the spoken word equal to that of hearing children. Having a more consistent access to spoken language in its entirety can help deaf children to progress in literacy, to use spoken language as effectively as possible and to lip-read. Much like any other approach, communication in social settings is still likely to be harder work for a hearing impaired child but obviously, the more people can cue alongside your child, the easier this will become.