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Cued Speech

Photo: Many deaf children use Cued Speech in addition to hearing technology, but use speech to communicate.

Cued Speech is a visual communication system that supports access to speech and oral language. Eight hand shapes in four different positions (cues) around the mouth are used to accompany natural speech to make the different sounds of speech ‘visible’.

The key features of Cued Speech
  • A combination of hand shape, hand position and lip shape are used to represent the different sounds of words, in effect, making spoken language visible.
  • It is used in combination with lip-reading, helping to make sounds clear that are difficult to tell apart when lip-read.
  • The basics of Cued Speech are taught in around 20 hours but it requires practice and commitment to begin to use it fluently
  • It can be used as part of other communication approaches like Sign Bilingualism  and Total Communication.
  • Over 60 languages and dialects have a version of Cued Speech so it can also be used for other home languages and when learning modern foreign languages.

Professionals who promote Cued Speech believe it can be used from your child’s earliest months, together with other general communication strategies to enhance your child’s language and communication development. Our guide Helping your Deaf Child to Develop Communication and Language (0–2 years) is full of practical examples to help you with this.

 

Is Cued Speech right for my child?

Professionals who promote Cued Speech believe that it can be used with children of all levels of deafness.

If your child is waiting for a hearing implant (like a cochlear implant) they may benefit from Cued Speech as it can help to give them visual access to the same language they may later hear, in much the same as signed approaches. `

You can continue to use Cued Speech after your child receives an implant (as your child gets used to the new sounds), as well as if they get no benefit from hearing aids or implants. Cued Speech can be used effectively with some children who have additional and complex needs.

 

How will my child communicate with others if we use Cued Speech?

Many deaf children use Cued Speech in addition to hearing technology to ‘receive’, learn and understand English, but use speech to communicate.

Some children use Cued Speech to make their own speech understood where it might not be clear, and a very small minority of deaf children (especially those who can’t use hearing technology) use it expressively without speech.

Is Cued Speech an alternative to sign language?

Advocates of Cued Speech say that for many deaf children it is important that they have the option of access to both British Sign Language (BSL) as well as the spoken language of their family.

Cued Speech is not considered an alternative to learning British Sign Language (BSL). In fact it is not normally used by itself as the sole communication strategy. It is important to remember that BSL is a language in its own right and as such has its own grammar and sentence construction whereas Cued Speech is a system that supports access to speech and spoken language.

In some instances, Cued Speech can be used to support spoken English if you have chosen to take a Sign Bilingual approach (where BSL is your child’s first language, and spoken English their second) or a Total Communication approach with your child.

Cued Speech in school

Children who use Cued Speech may attend mainstream schools, mainstream schools with resourced provision or special schools for deaf children.

If your child is to fully enjoy all the experiences of school, then support staff will need to be able to cue well too. Like many children with a hearing loss your child may also have additional help from Teachers of the Deaf (ToDs) or specialist support staff if in a mainstream school.

In some cases your local authority will pay the costs of training staff supporting your child at school. You will need to contact your local authority directly to find out if this is possible in your area.

Learning to read and write

Because Cued Speech is based on the same phonetic building blocks as ordinary speech, professionals who promote its use advocate that it can help develop literacy skills by enabling deaf children to associate the sounds of spoken English with the letters of written English.

Our factsheet Phonics and the Development of Your Child's Reading and Writing Skills contains further information on what phonics is and why it’s important.

Social life and friendships

Generally, the more people who can cue (both children and adults), the easier it will be for your child to take part in social activities and make friendships.

If your child’s educational setting uses Cued Speech routinely, then they and their classmates will be able to cue easily to support their social communication. Professionals who support Cued Speech believe that the more people who your child knows who can cue (both children and adults), the easier it will be for your child.

Getting support to learn Cued Speech

Cued Speech UK offers information resources and advice for families (and professionals) who are considering learning to cue. They also run training courses across the UK, including home support using Skype, and online training.

Unfortunately, support for learning Cued Speech is not widely offered by local authorities in the UK, and you will need to check the Local Offer on your local authority’s website to find out if support is available in your area.

You may have to pay to access a course in order to learn how to cue, so will have to consider the financial implications of this for your family. However, in many cases the Cued Speech UK offers bursaries and reduced fees for their courses to parents of deaf children.