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CS - The basics

Why is Cued Speech essential for many deaf children? 

Without hearing it can be almost impossible to understand English or any other spoken language.  Speech-reading, or lip-reading, isn’t much help; it’s only possible to lip-read about 35% of what is said– the rest is guesswork so deaf babies and children can’t learn English through lip-reading alone.  Hearing aids or cochlear implants are effective for some deaf children but do not restore normal hearing.

Over 90% of deaf children have hearing parents and if they can’t communicate they can’t take a full part in family life.  They can become frustrated and isolated within their own family; behavioural problems are common and communication with the general public can be problematic.  They often grow up without the ability to think in full English.  

The use of British Sign Language (BSL) will give deaf children access to the language of the Deaf community but it has limitations both in education and in a hearing home. This is because it is a completely different language from English - the language of literacy and education - and it takes years for families to learn.

If deaf children can’t fully understand English they will struggle with literacy and education.  A 2014 research paper has found that 48% of oral deaf children aged 10 -11 were ‘poor readers’, and that 70% of the children could be considered at risk of future reading problems because of their language difficulties3.  This recent research would suggest that the situation is unlikely to have changed much since much older research found that the majority of deaf children leave mainstream school at 16 with the reading age of 92

Solutions with Cued Speech

Understanding English - With Cued Speech 96% of speech can be lip-read, making it easy for deaf children to learn and understand English1.

Early language and normal brain development – our charity can teach Cued Speech to a hearing parent or teacher in only about 20 hours.  Cued Speech is ‘just’ the English language so once the system has been learnt parents and teachers can make the whole of the English language fully visible; learning it is rather like learning to type if you can already write.  Babies and children can absorb the whole of the English language without delay4 just as hearing children do.

Belonging and self-esteem – an American study of 32 adults who grew up with Cued Speech found ‘high levels of self-esteem and self-confidence, which they credit to their parents’ choice of CS, their early childhood experiences of feeling included in family activities and conversations and in peer groups, and positive feelings of competence and success in school’5.

Literacy - International research demonstrates that deaf children brought up with Cued Speech achieve reading scores equivalent to hearing children6 and that they learn to read using an internal phonetic model7, just like hearing children. 

Access to education - Teachers and other professionals use Cued Speech to give deaf children full access to lessons at school, college and university.

Cued Speech is inclusive - it helps deaf children get the best from their hearing aids and cochlear implants8. and can be used together with BSL to give complete bilingualism. 

Cued Speech can also be used with older deaf children and adults to help them learn or improve their English, with hearing children with language problems and it helps deafened people to continue to communicate in English.

Because Cued Speech has been adapted into over 50 different languages and dialects it can also be used in the home by families for whom English is a second language. 


Research references

1.) Cued Speech and the Reception of Spoken Language, Nicholls, G., 1979, Master’s Thesis, McGill University, Montreal.
2.) The Deaf School Child, Language and Cognitive Function, 1979, Conrad R.  A 1999 govt. commissioned a review of literature found ‘no evidence to demonstrate an overall significant improvement in the education of deaf children since Conrad’s study’.  Preliminary findings from a 2013/14 study into oral deaf children's literacy in the UK found half were ’poor readers’ and 2/3 had poor vocabulary levels Herman, Roy & Kyle, 2014  
3.) Reading and dyslexia in oral deaf children, Herman, Roy & Kyle, 2014, City University London  (A Briefing Paper, reporting findings from the first stage of research, funded by the Nuffield Foundation)  
4) Torres, S., Moreno-Torres, I., & Santana, R. (2006). Quantitative and qualitative evaluation of linguistic input support to a prelingually deaf child with Cued Speech, Journal of Deaf Studies and Deaf Education, 11, 438-448.   
5.) ‘Cued Speech and Cued Language for Deaf and Hard of Hearing Children’ Edited by:  Carol J. LaSasso, Kelly Lamar Crain, Jacqueline Leybaert pages 183-212.    
6.) Use of Internal Speech in Reading by Hearing and Hearing Impaired Students in Oral, Total Communication, and Cued Speech Programs.  Wandel, Jean E., 1989. Unpublished Doctoral Dissertation, Teacher’s College, Columbia University, New York.   
7.) Visual Speech in the Head: The Effect of Cued Speech on Rhyming, Remembering, and Spelling. Leybaert, J. & Charlier, B., 1996, Journal of Deaf Studies & Deaf Education, Vol. 1,pp. 234-248.   
8.)  Cued Speech in the Stimulation of Communication: An Advantage in Cochlear Implantation.’ Descourtieux, C., V. Groh, A. Rusterholtz, I. Simoulin, D. Busquet, The International Journal of Paediatric Otohinolaryngology, 1999.

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