Ben Lachman, a native cuer who has had former tenure on the NCSA board, found Cued Speech groups to be “an unorganized and ragtag bunch on Facebook” until early this year with the Alternatives in the Education of the Hearing Impaired (AEHI) professional development seminar in Chicago. There, he and fellow cueing attendees “experienced a surge of energy and will make more of an effort to communicate [with the Cued Speech community].”
Beginning this past January, a Facebook group named “Cued Speech” saw a sudden growth in membership, which, after six years of inactivity, increased tenfold from 50 to 500 members in the span of four months. Created in 2006 by group founder Sheledy Steiner, the group’s membership had been, until this year, relatively small with sparse postings.
The inaugural AEHI/Alexander Graham Bell Montessori School (AGBMS) seminar on Cued Speech was held in Chicago on January 27th through the 29th and was named “The Cutting Edge: Implants, Auditory Neuropathy, Literacy, Visual Phonics, and Cued Speech.” Speakers included Cued Speech advocates and researchers’ Carol LaSasso Ph.D., Professor at Gallaudet University; Kelly Crain, Ph.D., Assistant Professor at University of South Florida; Jacqueline Leybaert, Ph.D., Professor at Universite de Bruxelles; Charles Berlin, Ph.D., Research Professor at University of South Florida; and Beverly Trezek, Ph.D., Assistant Professor at DePaul University.
Seminar attendees Angela Laptewicz, a certified CS instructor and full-time Cued Language Transliterator (CLT), and Brian Kelly, a certified Cued Speech instructor from Southern California, also agree with Lachman that the Facebook group was galvanized by the collaboration of cueing attendees. When asked about the increase in membership, Kelly said “I really think that the AEHI conference was the catalyst for the whole Cued Speech community to get together and make things happen.”
Following the event, many seminar attendees invited cuers they knew and friends interested in Cued Speech to the Cued Speech group. Then, like falling dominos, those who were invited then invited others, and so forth. “I think it is a great way to bring small, isolated communities together,” Laptewicz said. “Hopefully, members can take that shared knowledge and feel empowered to share it in their local communities.”
As of this writing, the group consists of 612 members and is an open group, which means that anyone can join the group, view its members and their wall postings. Members are diverse and have varied backgrounds grounded in Cued Speech, both professionally and personally. Professionals include teachers of the deaf, sign language professionals, Cued Language Transliterators, and Cued Speech Instructors, and the group is also host to deaf cuers, family members, and those who are new to cueing. Members can make announcements, start discussions through the group’s page and comment on others’ threads. Discussions consist of topics such as how Cued Speech benefits special populations, cue reading, deaf adult cuer profiles, and upcoming cue camps or workshops, to name a few.
Lachman said that parents and professionals benefit from the multitude of perspectives offered by members: “If you’re a parent or professional, I can’t think of anywhere else that you can reach the eyes of over 500 people who have experienced Cued Speech in some context.”
Salena Ashton, for example, a mother of an adopted hard-of-hearing daughter, joined the group around the first of June to learn more about Cued Speech. Ashton first learned about Cued Speech after she adopted her daughter, Rachel, in 2004 but somewhat dismissed it due to its relative obscurity. She took greater interest in Cued Speech this past spring when she discovered “phonetic gaps” within Rachel’s written language.
Ashton was still deciding whether to adopt Cued Speech when she joined the group. Among her reasons for joining the Facebook group, Ashton explained, “I joined the group because reputable online groups are great ways to learn about [a] subject, but also because online groups are more non-committal. I was not ready to learn Cued Speech, but I had read all about it and wanted to continue learning about it from a distance.”
As a member, she sought answers and advice from fellow members and found the group to be helpful for soliciting advice. “It is hard for me to anticipate my daughter’s struggles, especially since I have better than average hearing.”
Ashton and her family recently started cueing with Rachel, and they “are already seeing the difference in Rachel’s reception to the world. I cannot imagine how much better Rachel’s life and learning experiences will be when she becomes fluent.”
Lachman strongly believes that the group “has only reached a fraction of its potential.” He praises the group for what it has allowed to become possible: “There are thousands of us, along with our friends and family members, all over the world just waiting to be connected and part of the conversation”. Transliterators have asked for and received tips and tricks from other transliterators. Information has been shared, videos have been uploaded, contacts have been made, and friends have been reconnected all through this group. How cool is that?”