Sunday, August 17, 2008

Growing up with Cued Speech

I want to discuss Cued speech, the advantages it has and why it should be offered as another option along with ASL. ASL is a wonderful language and a great tool used to communicate with the deaf people in the community. The language is strong, beautiful and there are so many types ranging from different countries. It has done well for the deaf community for many centuries and has no signs of going anywhere. However there is another type of tool that some deaf people use, myself included. Many are against it for so many reasons, but I would like to discuss it and show that it should be offered as a great option along with ASL too.

When my parents found out I was deaf they did what most every other parent would do, turn to the books and people to learn about ASL. They tried to learn the language, sent me to a deaf school, and I tried to learn it. I just was not picking it up at all. ASL just was not working for me at all. It was slowing my ability to talk, and my parents wanted me to be able to talk as well. My mother was in the doctor’s office one day and came across a sesame street magazine with an article discussing cued speech. They gave an example of a girl, my age, which had the same loss I did and was trying to talk and how much cued speech had helped her so much and how it was a much better tool in terms of oral and lip reading.

To quickly brief you on what cued speech is, there are eight cues, or hand shapes if you will. Focusing only on, around or near the lip, side of mouth, throat and side of face. These eight cues create the visible aid to see how words are formed. Each movement of that cue reflects one enunciation. So if a word has 3 enunciations, like dou-bl-u, for W you will see three movements. This signifies the word has three enunciations.

My mother was amazed how quickly the girl picked up on the cueing, and how quickly she learned to talk, and read lips and how she excelled in reading and her vocabulary. This really peaked her interest as at the moment ASL was not working for us. She called the number in the article to inquire about cued speech and rest was history. She got hooked on it and learned it.

I was pulled out of the deaf school, with much protest as you can imagine. Parents were doing the wrong thing; they were not doing what was best for me or the deaf community. That sort of thing. It seems many protested against me learning cued because it pulled me away from the deaf community; it supported hearing and oralism, basically anything that was not “deaf”.

Once I started learning cued how to read it and the “cues”, my speech improved dramatically along with the help of speech therapy. I was able to visually see the words, and how they were pronounced, and once I saw it, I could sound it out with my voice. ASL could not help me with it nor would it ever in my case. My reading skills soared as well and my vocabulary got big also. However it should be made clear, cued speech is NOT a language nor has anyone ever claimed it to be. It is simply only a tool used to aid us in speaking capabilities, and lip reading. I wanted to be sure and clear that myth up, and those of us who know cued don’t ever try to claim it as a language nor have I really heard that either.

Again, only speaking for me and situation, cued speech worked tremendously for me and in my situation. ASL would not have worked for me, and given me the ability to do the things I can do now being deaf. I tremendously support cued speech for everything it does, and strongly advise it for at least educational purposes. ASL is by far the better one to use to communicate with other deaf people who know ASL. ASL is the linkage and I respect and understand that. However I wanted to bring up cued because it does exist, you cannot ignore it and it has made great strides in this community also. I cringe when I hear people talk to parents of deaf people bringing up only ASL and nothing else. I am not cringing that they are bringing up ASL but am cringing they are leaving out the option of cued speech too. It could be maybe cued will work better then ASL for that child’s situation, and just very well maybe it will not. You don’t know until you check BOTH options out.

Like with everything else there are disadvantages that need to be brought up. One is, it is not widely known. It is very hard to find someone else who also knows or understand cues. Cued Speech is not used as an accommodation for events such as plays, concerts, meetings, and speeches. It takes a long time to learn, between six months to a full year to be completely fluent in Cued speech. It is universal in the sense that once you learn cued, you can go to any country and use cued speech to translate that language.

I am taking the time to learn your language, ASL but I want you to acknowledge that there are other options to learn such as cued speech. I thoroughly enjoy learning ASL with my friend Geo and others through books and such. It is very exciting to learn a new language of any stature, and ASL is certainly no exception. I just want to be sure that cued was not left out and that it was a viable option to consider as well.


Jarom M. said...


I have to disagree with you about something you said about Cued Speech.

"Cued Speech is not used as an accommodation for events such as plays, concerts, meetings, and speeches."

You can always request transliteator to be present to cue for you at any events. I always have at least one or two at most events.

And it doesn't take the person to learn the basic mechanic of cueing. The workshops are either two days or three days... But it takes while for the person to get hang of it... They just need to practice then they will be able to cue fluently. I often met many transliteators that just learned how to cue within few days and weeks

DeafMeek said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Cloggy said...

glad to see you tell your story, and your success with CS.
You said "It takes a long time to learn, between six months to a full year to be completely fluent in Cued speech." but that's nothing compared to learning ASL.
For parents of deaf children, it is almost impossible unless they submerge themselves in Deaf culture. Finding out your child is deaf is enough shock. Having to learn a totally different language (beautiful as it is..) is just adding to the stress..
CS however would allow them to start straight away. With their own language...

I have a feeling that resistance towards CS comes from the fact that it is a system developed in order to help deaf people integrate in a hearing world. And that is a sensitive subject. As if an identity is taken away when sign is not learned.
I'm glad you explained that sometimes CS is the key, and not ASL.

Seek Geo said...

Hey Alex,

Great blog! Thanks for sharing your success story about Cued Speech. It's always nice to hear everyone's own success stories that makes me feel good.

Wow, it took that long to learn the process to be fluent in Cued Speech. After my mom found out that I'm deaf, she went to Gallaudet Univ to learn about Deaf Cuture and also to learn ASL for 3 weeks to understand the basic of it.

Then she came back home and taught me ASL. So it was awesome learning from my mom first for sure.

Hi Jarom,

I think what he meant by not used as an accommodation for events, etc is that you can't really find anywhere available unless depending on where you live and if there is any services available. Of course not like ASL where it is nearly everywhere even here where I live in small town, there is 3 ASL services but none for cued speech.

Also, whenever I need an interpreter, either I can always ask around such as friends or even strangers through somebody I know or contact the service to get one pretty easy. One of my readers who is also using cued speech growing up, she said it is difficult for her finding the service so have to use her father whenever he is available. But in her area, she said there is plenty of services for ASL.


Lis said...

interesting Alex.. I have to yet mention that I am stoked that you do know cued speech too! It is hard to find fluent cuers out there like you.
True story.