I took a Cued Speech or Cued English course during my second year at graduate school. One of the instructors was Hilary Franklin. She uses both Cued Speech and ASL.
If you want to read more about Cued Speech please visit this link: National Cued Speech Association.
Before taking Cued Speech, I thought Cued Speech was just a tool used to help deaf and hard of hearing people's speech. I thought it would be something you would only use during speech classes, just as you would use Visual Phonics to teach phonics in a visual way during reading classes.
Boy, was I wrong.
It was an interesting course. It really opened up my eyes to the fact that there are plenty of other opportunities out there other than using sign language.
Watching a fluent cuer for the first time is an odd experience. It looks like fingers fluttering around the mouth area. I thought, "How does this work?" "How could this possibly make sense to anyone?"
I learned that it is more like a code used to help people see the phonics or spoken phonemes. Once you learn the cues, you can immediately see how something is spoken.
For example, I learned that the name "Hugh" is supposed to be pronounced as "Hue." I often forget this and would pronounce the name with the hard 'g' sound at the end ("Hue-guh") as it looks in written form. I have trouble hearing certain ending sounds and I would assume you pronounce the 'g' sound. The instructor corrected this by showing me the correct way of saying it through the use of cues. I could clearly and instantly see how the word is pronounced. There was no need to explain to me how it is said. No one had to remind me that the 'gh' is silent.
For the longest time, I was pronouncing Illinois as 'Ill-i-noise'. I would emphasize the 's'. Through everyday conversations, I assumed people were pronouncing the 's' sound at the end. I usually cannot hear 's' sounds and assumed that it should be pronounced as you would read it or see it in written form. Cued Speech would have immediately prevented me from doing this, if I was a fluent cuer. I would have seen that the 's' is silent.
The cues can be learned quickly, over the weekend. It can take a year or so to become a fluent cuer, depending on the person. Some people learn fast and can cue fluently within months. The great thing about it is that you don't have to learn another language. You use your own native language, a language you would prefer to use with your child and family. Some families and deaf cuers learn and use sign language as well.
Cued Speech is interesting and a very useful tool, especially to use with very young children. Ideally, one would use it consistently around an infant or a very young child, just as you would talk in front of your hearing child. Eventually, the child would pick it up and see how English is spoken similar in how a hearing child hears and learns the English language. The only disadvantage I can think of is that it would require the child to see you talk. The child could not pick up side conversations or conversations taking place in another room.
Once the child learns the English language by 'seeing the sounds' they can easily participate in and understand various literary activities such as rhyming games, word play, poetry, etc. They can pick up reading more easily.
I was really impressed with the instructors. They were both fluent in ASL and spoken English. One was profoundly deaf and have been cueing and signing since she was a child. I believe that first she learned Cued English and then she learned ASL. She had an in depth understanding of the English language, thanks to Cued English.
They were not preachy and did not talk about how Cued Speech is the best and should be used with every deaf child we come across. They understood that it is not for everyone and that not every parent is going to be so dedicated to take the time to learn it and then use it consistently with their child. However, they did stress that it should be suggested as an option to everyone and that everyone should try it first before knocking it. They explained how it is not very popular because of the misconceptions about Cued Speech. They preferred to call it Cued English to emphasize that it is about providing cues for the spoken phonemes of the English language. If you are learning Spanish, you can call it Cued Spanish. If you are learning French then it should be called Cued French, and so on.
I encourage those who have not yet, to please take a Cued Speech or Cued (substitute your spoken language here) class. Do not knock it until you have tried it!