terptree: Cued Speech: What, why, who, when?

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Monday, 14 January 2013

Cued Speech: What, why, who, when?

By Nicholas Orpin NicholasOrpin@cuedspeech.co.uk

When asked to describe Cued Speech, it’s always quite hard to know where to begin. So I’d like to ask you a question first. How would you describe Braille? Many people would say that “it is written English accessible for the blind/visually impaired” and most people would agree. It is exactly the same as the written word, it’s not a translation into another language, rather it’s a conversion so that you read though touch rather than sight.

Well, that’s what Cued Speech does to the spoken word. It converts the smallest part of the word, the sound (the ‘phoneme’) and replaces it with a handshape or position together with the lip-patterns of normal speech. Why? Because for deaf people the sound can’t be heard, but the hand and the lips can be seen.
If you couldn’t hear the sound coming out of the TV, you would put the subtitles on. It would be a visual way of getting what is being said, so adding a cue to what you are saying is a bit like adding a subtitle to your favourite programme. Words that are spoken can now be seen.
At least 90% of deaf children are born into hearing families who have to make an adjustment they probably weren’t expecting to make. Whether they decide to fit hearing aids or an implant or learn BSL, all of these things take time. While the family are waiting to see how much the aids/implants are helping, their child can be missing out as amplification doesn’t work all the time. Cued Speech means that if English is your 1st language, you can make it totally accessible all the time, whether amplification is working or not. You can cue English to your child after 20 hours of tuition and build up speed and fluency over several months.
BSL signing parents don’t have a decision to make at all on how to communicate with their child whether that child is hearing or not, but it can take years for hearing parents to learn enough sign language to raise their own child and for that child to be fully included at home.
At school deaf children who struggle with literacy can get Cued Speech to help too. The 8 cues/handshapes of the system visually show the consonants, while 4 positions show the vowels of English and through them deaf children can learn to read with phonics. Because Cued Speech is visual it is the deaf-friendly way to access spoken and written English. It can easily deliver the English part in a true bilingual education.
You can see a BBC See Hear programme on Cued Speech (starring terptree tutor Lyndsey!) here http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EC6fbfD_vck
Find out more from http://www.cuedspeech.co.uk or teach yourself the basics at http://www.learntocue.co.uk

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