The sooner the better! Use Cued Speech with a deaf baby just as you would use speech with a hearing baby. Cued Speech is only a visual mode of speech, so think of it in the same way as speech.
A baby or young deaf child will learn English through Cued Speech just as hearing babies learn English through speech – they are not specifically taught the Cued Speech system. (On the other hand, it is never too late to start to cue with a deaf child and older children benefit from being directly taught.)
Hearing children always have to understand language before they start to speak. Quite often there is a considerable time lag before their expressive language (their speech) catches up with their internal language (their thoughts). Cued Speech children are the same. Almost all Cued Speech children, with some use of aids or implants, express themselves through speech (although their diction may be poor, particularly in the early stages) and do not cue themselves. Some children, usually those with no useful hearing, will use Cued Speech as a method of communication. Children who use Cued Speech as a method of communication in the early years often move to spoken communication later and of course may also sign.
This varies, but most families find that their child needs Cued Speech continually in the early years to acquire a thorough knowledge of spoken language. Later, most children understand some spoken language without the support of Cued Speech and families often use it less at this point. Many cochlear implanted children need Cued Speech less after they have learnt to listen with their implant. However, if a child cannot hear all the sounds of speech, families must continue to cue sufficiently to allow the child to see the full pattern of the English language. Regular cueing is sometimes dropped for every-day situations once full language has been established, but Cued Speech continues to be useful to introduce new vocabulary, to correct mispronunciation and in situations where both listening and/or lip-reading are insufficient.
The inescapable problem is that if you have a profoundly hearing-impaired baby and do not assume that he/she may need all this extra effort and input, you may wake up after a year or two to the fact that he/she needed it desperately, and that it is now too late for those early benefits.
Do it, and if it turns out to be an insurance policy you didn’t have to collect on, you will rejoice in the knowledge that your child has more auditory potential than you could be sure of in the beginning.
Speech is much more complex than the ability to make speech sounds. In order to speak, a child needs to know how:
- sounds combine to make words and phrases
- to build a sentence from the words they know
The consistent use of Cued Speech will allow a deaf child to build an understanding of spoken language – sound by sound. They can use this understanding to know how to build words, phrases and sentences and apply the rules of grammar. This will prime their speech.
Imagine that you have a deaf child who can’t hear (all) the sounds of the English language and they’ve been taught how to say the /s/ sound even though they can’t hear it – how can they then use it in language? They don’t know it’s at the beginning of the work ‘city’ or that it’s not on the end of the word dogs (‘dogs’ ends in a z sound!). But a child brought up with Cued Speech does know – and if the CS child learns to say the /s/ sound they can put it on the beginning of ‘city’ when they talk. In fact the CS child knows how the whole sound-based language of spoken language is put together. Take a look at the body of research Alegria and Leybaert, with collegues led by Périer which started in Belgium 20 years ago.
So, although we can’t promise you that your child will talk, we know that using Cued Speech to support what hearing they have will put them in a very advantageous position – and that most do! For more information see a survey reported in chapter 9 of the book ‘Cued Speech and Cued Language for Deaf and Hard of Hearing Children’, Edited by: Carol J. LaSasso, Kelly Lamar Crain, Jacqueline Leybaert.