Students who are Deaf or Hard of Hearing (DHH) use at least one of the six common communication approaches, including:

  • Bilingual/Bimodal
  • Cued Speech
  • Listening and Spoken Language
  • Pidgin Signed English (PSE)
  • Sign-Supported Speech
  • Simultaneous Communication

This article will focus on Cued Speech. Read on to learn more about this communication approach, how it is used, and resources for further exploration.

What is Cued Speech?

The National Cued Speech Association (NCSA) defines Cued Speech as a mode of communication that uses hand shapes to represent consonant phonemes and hand placements to represent vowel phones, building blocks of a language, along with natural mouth movements to remove the ambiguity of lipreading, and to clearly show spoken information through vision alone.

When Was Cued Speech Created?

Cued speech was invented in 1966 by R. Orin Cornett at Gallaudet College (now Gallaudet University). After discovering that children with prelingual and profound hearing status typically have poor reading comprehension, Cornett developed the system to improve children’s reading abilities through better comprehension of English phonemes. At the time, some argued that children were earning lower marks because they had to learn two different systems: American Sign Language (ASL) for person-to-person communication and English for reading and writing. Many sounds, such as “p” and “b,” look identical on the lips, so the hand signals introduce a visual contrast in place of acoustic contrast. Currently, more than 60 spoken languages are accessible through cueing.

How Does Cued Speech Benefit Students?

Research shows that cued speech has an impact in the following areas:

  • Language: Cued Speech makes spoken language accessible through vision, which allows hearing families to share their native language(s) with their family members who are DHH. These families can provide access to a language they already know so their children are not deprived of language at a young age.
  • Literacy: Cued Speech provides visual access to the phonemic code of spoken language, which provides students with a critical component when learning to read. Cued Speech can be paired with phonics-based instruction that is often used in schools.
  • Lipreading: Cued speech removes ambiguity from lip movements, which removes the confusion of lookalike sounds, words, and sentences.
  • Auditory discrimination: Cued Speech validates or clarifies what was heard, so it can be used to train the brain to discriminate between specific sounds for those who use hearing aids or cochlear implants and are working on their listening skills.
  • Speech and pronunciation: Cued Speech can visually show proper pronunciation and can therefore reinforce speech skills. Because Cued Speech is phonetically based, the child who is DHH is completely aware of all the sounds that make up each word, which can support the articulation process.

IDEA and Cued Speech

The Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA) Sec. 300.324 directs educational teams to consider the child’s communication needs. In the case of a child who is DHH, teams are directed to consider:

  • the child’s language and communication needs
  • opportunities for direct communications with peers and professional personnel in the child’s language and communication mode, academic level, and full range of needs, including opportunities for direct instruction in the child’s language and communication mode
  • whether the child needs assistive technology devices and services

The Michigan Communication Plan for Students Who Are Deaf or Hard of Hearing (DHH) [PDF] is a tool that can be used to guide these discussions and is not intended to determine service. Service determination is the responsibility of the individualized family service plan (IFSP) team or the IEP team.

Regarding IDEA Sec. 300.34(b)(4), interpreting services that are used with children who are DHH can include oral transliteration services, cued language transliteration services, and sign language interpreting services. In other words, educational teams should take these services into consideration for students who use Cued Speech as their primary mode of communication.

Learn More About Cued Speech

Below are resources for further exploration about Cued Speech and what it offers:

  • Cued Speech Information
    Supporting Success for Children with Hearing Loss provides resources and information to teachers and teacher consultants (itinerant) who serve students who are DHH.
  • Cued Speech: Myths and Facts [PDF]
    This document from the National Cued Speech Association lists the ten myths about Cued Speech and corresponding facts to dispel them.
  • National Cued Speech Association
    This organization supports a community of cuers who have come together to promote language accessibility through Cued Speech. Various resources are shared here including opportunities for learning Cued Speech.
  • Start Cueing
    The National Cued Speech Association offers resources to learn Cued Speech.
  • Cued Speech
    The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention describes what Cued Speech is and provides resources.