Deafness is very common in the US. Latest estimates are that there are 28-million or more deaf or hard of hearing people throughout America. For a vast majority of deaf individuals communication with a hearing family or community can be a challenge. Traditional sign language or American Sign Language (ASL) takes a long time for most people hearing or deaf to learn the basic sign language alphabet and signs. ASL uses different finger placements for every letter of the sign language alphabet along with a large variety of symbols. It can take years to become proficient in ASL. To further complicate learning American Sign Language, symbols may differ according to regional dialects, or personal use. You can find several editions of a sign language dictionary and several definitions or interpretations for any symbol. A sign language dictionary is often outdated shortly after being published since as with other languages, sign language is constantly changing in use and meaning. The sign language alphabetmakes finger spelling words a long process that often frustrates both hearing and deaf individuals trying to follow along. Finding someone to show you how to learn sign language can also be an obstacle. There are videos available, yet practicing signs and receiving feedback to your signing ability is necessary to progress in successfully using sign language to communicate with someone who is deaf.
Cued speech differs from discovering how to learn sign language because it uses only eight hand shapes combined with four hand placements to communicate both consonant and vowel sounds that make up speech. When these simple shapes and placement are combined with mouth movement, deaf or hard of hearing individuals can learn speech sounds and develop speech recognition. Cued speech can be used in combination with other types of auditory or signed communication. Some people do combine the hand placements and hand shapes with the sign language alphabet in some areas of communication. Because cued speech is a finite system that does not change as most types of sign language do over time, cued speech can be adapted for over sixty languages.
There is no sign language dictionary needed to learn cued speech. Gaining proficiency in cued speech is much easier than gaining proficiency in sign language or lip reading. By attending just a few training sessions or workshops, most individuals learn cued speech in twelve to fifteen hours compared to months or years it can take to become fluent in traditional sign language or lip reading. In addition to the benefits of cued speech for people who are hard of hearing or deaf, cued speech can also be beneficial for anyone having difficulty in language comprehension, development, or utilization. Basic instructions to cued speech are easier to learn by attending a daylong class or workshop than trying to follow written instructions. If you have tried following directions in book on how to learn sign language, or tried matching an illustration of a sign with actual finger or hand placement, you know how confusing following written instruction for signs can be.
Cued speech is designed to show words exactly as they are spoken. This does away with misunderstanding in translating spoken word that often occurs when translating or interpreting speech through traditional signs. With cued speech, a deaf person hears the same message everyone else hears. For many people, cued speech fills in the missing pieces of the puzzle often left out by other attempts to communicate non-verbally. As with other language development skills, you can begin using cued speech with babies to aid in the development of speech and language skills. Additionally studies show deaf and hearing-impaired children obtain these additional benefits from cued speech.
- Deaf children using cued speech are able to achieve the same level of literacy as hearing children of the same age and school grade.
- Children with hearing impairment learn to think in the same spoken language as their communities.
- Children with hearing deficits are able to make better use of residual hearing to understand and connect vocalization with words.
For further information about cued speech, check out books on cued speech and the National Cued Speech Association.