Cued Speech was invented in 1966 by R. Orin Cornett, Ph.D. While working at Gallaudet University, Washington DC 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. Fluency comes from being able to distinguish the smallest parts of the language. Known as phonemes, these are the sounds that we make with our speech, that when put together form words and sentences. Dr. Cornett realised that as profoundly visual people, his deaf students would need to be able to see these phonemes because they were not able hear them.
Dr. Cornett set about inventing Cued Speech to enable those who cannot hear English speech, to clearly and unambiguously see all its phonemic structure. In this way deaf babies, children and adults can gain proficiency in English and reading skills. Deaf children brought up with Cued Speech are able to discover and explore their world through reading. Dr. Cornett’s Cued Speech proved so successful for deaf people and their families all around the world, that it has been adapted into over 60 languages and dialects.