Cued speech for babies 0 to 3 year olds

With a deaf baby or a young child, you use Cued Speech just as you would use ordinary speech with a hearing baby!

Since it only takes about 20 hours to learn to cue, the twin problems of early communication and language development can be immediately solved. Use CS to give babies and toddlers full, easy access to language so that they can start to think in language, and order their own world.

Although, with modern hearing aids or cochlear implants, many deaf children can now learn the English language by listening, using Cued Speech is invaluable…

Before an implant – even if deaf children are implanted ‘early’, before the age of one year old, that’s still up to a year when they are not learning language and not understanding you. In order not to lose linguistic progress, there is increasing pressure to implant before one. When you learn to cue, and use it as you talk, your deaf child’s understanding need not be delayed; they can learn sound-based English whether or not they are implanted. Because Cued Speech is visual English, it allows deaf children (even those with no hearing) to understand the same sound-based language that they later hear through their implant. After their implant the cues will help them make sense of the words they hear – and help as they learn to listen.

Some children can’t be helped by implants or hearing aids, for example they may have absent auditory nerves, but with Cued Speech children can learn English and you can talk to them without ambiguity, even if they hear nothing.

A hearing aid may not give access to all of the sounds of speech; some of the quiet ones (e.g. ‘s’ and ‘t’) may be not heard, particularly if they are at the end of a word where they are especially quiet. Even not hearing a few sounds can be quite a problem, for example ‘s’ at the end of words shows both plurals and possessive, and is therefore very important for the grammar of English. It is necessary to hear (or see, through CS) all the sounds of English to fully learn the language.

With an implant or hearing aid your child may make good progress learning English in quiet listening conditions, but hearing aids and implants are inefficient in situations where background noise is a factor, and when the listener is any distance from the speaker. So in some situations (nursery, school, and noisy play conditions) your child may struggle to hear, and they will be unlikely to over-hear; understanding only language that is aimed directly toward them. Using CS will make sure that they can see all the ‘sounds’ regardless of whether they can hear them.

If implantation is delayed for any reason, Swiss research shows that CS will still prime the child or young person for success. (For more information on ‘Late cochlear Implantation, click here.)Of course Cued Speech will also be invaluable for the many times when the aid or implant is not worn (bath, bed, swimming etc.)

Your child or pupil may be one of the children, approximately 10% of deaf children, diagnosed with Auditory Neuropathy Spectrum Disorder (ANSD). Hearing aids are not usually helpful and, because some children recover from ANSD spontaneously, it would be wrong to implant early – and possibly unnecessarily. Also, ANSD children may sometimes understand speech and sometimes not (this can be because they have more problems in noisy conditions and/or also because the quality of the sound they hear can vary from day to day and even hour to hour). Cued Speech will give clear access to English so that:

  • they can build on what they do hearif their hearing fluctuates, they can use Cued Speech for the times when they can’t hear
  • if they hear no speech, Cued Speech will still enable them to learn full English, visually.
  • if they are implanted later, they will be able to take advantage of already knowing English to get the best from the implant.

In the USA, ANSD specialists recommend Cued Speech. For more information about AN/AD, click here >>

What about Lip-reading?

Only 30 – 40 % of language can be lipread, so this is of limited help. So the message coming through the hearing aids or implant can be incomplete (because of background noise etc) AND the message being seen through lip-reading is incomplete.

As a result, the deaf child will perceive less language (less quantity) in fewer situations (less variety) than a hearing child, and what he does perceive is incomplete (poor quality). This incomplete access to English causes incomplete understanding and can result in language which is both grammatically incorrect and delayed.

Time is not on your side

Good language and effective communication skills are fundamental skills for life, and acquiring them is time-limited – children are ‘hard-wired’ to learn language as toddlers.

Our advice – based on years of experience with parents and professionals:

Don’t delay in giving full access to English, don’t wait to see if they are going to they fail, and don’t wait (for more than a few months) because they ‘will use their implant soon’. Don’t believe anyone if they tell you that delayed language is OK for a deaf child – it may be common, but it’s entirely avoidable and should never happen. Use CS now and if they thrive, if they have entirely age-appropriate language and can understand you all the time without speech-reading – use it less. In time, maybe they will only need it occasionally, and you will have avoided becoming one of the parents who tell us they wish they’d used CS earlier.


If you use Cued Speech, deaf children can understand and use English even when, for whatever reason, they can’t hear you.

You can get back on with the job of being a parent. Without language, communication can break down. All the simple things you say to a two year old (e.g. ‘if you put your coat on we can go to the park’) can help them make sense of the word.

Parent’s story:

My very profoundly deaf son was brought up with Cued Speech. Without it there’s no doubt that he would have not have understood English because he has too little hearing, but with CS he understood us at home, all the lessons at school and had the English skills he needed to access lectures at uni. Now he’s got a high level job. At work he usually just lip-reads his colleagues (except for big meetings) and I hardly ever cue when we meet because day-to-day he doesn’t need it. But the last week we went together to a builders merchant (he’s buying a flat) and he didn’t know what someone was saying when they were using the word, ‘skilsaw’ – I cued it and he said ‘Ahhh….. skilsaw; I’d never have got THAT by lip-reading’. CS was life-changing by giving full access to language in childhood – and it’s not essential now but I expect it to come in handy forever!