Many school-age deaf children will benefit from Cued Speech use – for some it will be vital.

One parent, whose son had very little hearing even with hearing aids or implants, and who was supported by Cued Speech from when he started at a mainstream primary school, wrote:

“As CS can be learned within a relatively short period of time, and since it is no problem to cue slowly with a young deaf child while building up speed through practice (they, after all, are subconsciously developing their receptive ‘cue reading’ skills at the same time as the person cueing to them may be perfecting their own cueing skills) it was very straightforward to recruit the inclusion / communication support worker who had the right temperament and commitment to supporting our son and then train her up in CS once she was in post. Within a few weeks, she was able to cue slowly to our son every word and phrase that the teacher or other children said, so long as everyone wasn’t speaking at once. She could cue whole story books to him, all the separate sounds in phonics, and in group play situations or in the playground, she could to pick out and cue to him certain things that people said or ‘cue over’ the background noise in the classroom. The fact that he already had age-appropriate understanding of spoken English [through home use of Cued Speech] meant that he was able to keep pace with his hearing peers in every area of the curriculum, including maths, and in some areas, including reading, he began to overtake many of them.”

Deaf children vary in their levels of exposure to spoken English and this naturally affects their own levels of understanding and use of the language. They also vary in their ability to use Hearing aids or implants, and so the use of Cued Speech can be adapted to these different situations.

Here are three typical scenarios for deaf children:

1. Children who have full access to English through Cued Speech before school:

With early and consistent use of Cued Speech at home, deaf children – even with no hearing – can fully understand English, and arrive at school with age-appropriate language. They can use their knowledge of English phonemes (represented by Cued Speech) to learn to read using the same techniques as hearing children and have age-appropriate literacy. Even with little or no hearing, they can use a Cued Speech Transliterator to fully access the language of the classroom.

2. Deaf children who rely on listening at home, but may start having access to Cued Speech at school:

These children may still have some significant gaps in their understanding of English and need support to catch up and access the curriculum fully. The noisy environment of the classroom can also mean some children are not able to hear enough to learn effectively at school.

For these children, Cued Speech can build on their existing understanding and give them a really effective way to increase their vocabulary and understand the grammar of English. They can rely on the consistent visual information to keep learning even if the noise levels make it too difficult to hear. Also, because of the way Cued Speech represents each sound within each word, it perfectly matches the use of the phonics approach to literacy learning used in all English primary schools.

3. Deaf children who arrive at school with very limited or no understanding of English, either spoken or written:

It may be that these children were expected to acquire English by listening but haven’t, or that the aim was to use sign language as a first language, but were only able to learn ‘some signs’ which support basic communication rather than using BSL as a full language. Alternatively they may have been diagnosed late.

Children who have, for one reason or another, very poor English are at a serious disadvantage in relation to their peers because, from day one, the National Curriculum assumes a secure understanding of spoken language built on 4 to 5 years of using it socially at home. For these children Cued Speech can be used to represent full and fluent English at language level so they can begin to ‘take in’ and understand English and as a way to build a phonic awareness for literacy. It can also be used bilingually alongside BSL.

You can read more about using Cued Speech bilingually with BSL by clicking here >>

Cued Speech can be used:

To teach phonics

Cued Speech can be used very successfully to teach phonics, but if used for phonics alone will, obviously, not give access to the English language as a whole with all the advantages that brings.

For all deaf children

Deaf children who are familiar with the system on arrival in school, or who were taught the system as older children, can use a trained professional (a Cued Speech Transliterator) all or most of the time to transliterate the speech of others to give full access to the spoken language within a classroom, laboratory or sports field. CS may be used less over time as the child’s needs change. More about Cued Speech Transliteration >>

With Family

Hearing children learn most of their language in their homes from family members. Deaf children ideally need to do the same, so if hearing aids or implants are not enough for your deaf child to hear everything at home, or they can’t hear anything at all, then Cued Speech at school alone is unlikely to close the ‘language gap’. Use in both family and school will give the best opportunities for success.

In brief, in the classroom, Cued Speech:

  • will allow a deaf child to see exactly the same language, at the same time as hearing children
  • represents English sound-for-sound and therefore has a direct code relationship with both written and spoken language. All teaching takes place using the same language – it is only the mode of the language which changes
  • is uniquely helpful for literacy because it represents the sounds of English
  • has no limitations of vocabulary – once you know the system you can say anything!
  • can be used with foreign languages
  • can be used with technical vocabulary
  • ties in directly with what the child hears through their implant or hearing aid
  • will help with lip-reading
  • is quick to learn
  • will allow new vocabulary to be accurately ‘cue-read’; whereas it is almost impossible to accurately lipread new words because so many sounds are ambiguous.