Reasons For Choosing Cued Speech

by Polly Earl and Pam Beck reasons-for-choosing-cued-speech The first time Salena Ashton heard about Cued Speech was from an educator of the deaf in Texas. Her then newborn daughter, Rachel, was born with Treacher-Collins syndrome and bilateral microtia and atresia. Since she had essentially no outer ears and no openings to her ear canals, she had no access to sound for learning language. Rachel underwent extensive surgeries related to her medical conditions during her first 7 years of life. She’s a very determined girl, and “smart as a whip” as they say in Maine, who thrives as a home-schooled 4th grader with her brother.

Salena decided not to use Cued Speech because she “had never heard of it” [and therefore] “wasn’t interested in it.” Her daughter was fitted with a bone-anchored hearing aid when very young and the family began to use spoken language and sign language for communication.

Years later, when Rachel was in first grade in Maine, there were clear indications that she was falling behind her classmates in reading, writing, and vocabulary development. One example of Rachel’s difficulty was when she couldn’t hear the difference between the numbers, “18” and “80.” Even though they looked different to her on her mother’s mouth, they sounded the same to her.

Her consulting teacher of the deaf suggested Salena revisit Cued Speech to visually and auditorily clarify words for Rachel. Salena welcomed the challenge as she realized Cued Speech could meet her daughter’s language and learning needs. Once Rachel became familiar with Cued Speech and observed her mother cueing these two numbers, she could see they were two different words with different endings. Until then, Rachel had thought they were homophones, like “read” and “reed.”

Salena was already seeing the ways Cued Speech benefited her daughter. “I wish I had started this a lot earlier,” she said, echoing the sentiments of numerous parents over the years. Those were their reasons for choosing Cued Speech.

Audiologists and educators of the deaf and hard of hearing are typically the professionals who are expected to explain and demonstrate – accurately and without bias – all the communication options to parents with children identified as deaf or hard of hearing. But are they receiving accurate information and time to decide, “How are we going to communicate with our child?”

The ultimate goal for most parents is clear, easy communication with and for their child. Some families choose a single approach; others choose to use more than one approach. Their focus may be on the parents’ single language or dual languages in the home, with two spoken languages or signed and spoken languages, auditory skill development, speech development, or literacy.

At some point parents may become aware that:

  • Their child is not progressing on pace with children with normal hearing.
  • Their child’s speech is not as intelligible as they’d hoped, making communication difficult with family or friends.
  • Sign language is not as easy to learn as they expected for them to become signing language models for their child.
  • Even with a cochlear implant, their child misses the details and complexity of language at home and school.
  • Their child continues to struggle with reading, writing, and language in first and second grade and even more so at later ages.
With this awareness, parents revisit communication and educational options. Parents stop and say, “We need to try something else.” Some choose Cued Speech.

In an extensive survey of cueing parents conducted by Reynolds (2007), one parent shared her poignant realization: “When my child was three years old, we were using Signing Exact English with pretty good communication. One morning we stepped outside, and there was dew on the grass. My child asked, “What is that?” I said, “It’s dew.” He said, “Why?” I wanted to say, “Because the moisture precipitated on the grass,” but I did not have the signs. He was mentally ready, but I did not have the tools. At that point, we decided to do better, and we chose Cued Speech.”

Reynolds quoted other parents:

  • “We started to see him speak and write in ASL rather than English. Cued Speech has made his written and oral language more closely match age appropriate language.”
  • “My husband and I are both hearing and found it very difficult to learn sign language and then turn around and use it fluently. It was truly like learning a foreign language.”
  • “We were using an auditory verbal approach but felt it was important for her to develop her lipreading skills also.”
  • One father explained his son “has Auditory Neuropathy and was diagnosed late. He was not getting benefit from his hearing aids and we wanted him to be fluent in English.”
For infants and children with Auditory Neuropathy Spectrum Disorder, Cued Speech fills in the incomplete and inconsistent signal they are hearing. For example, a parent began cueing to her 8 month old child; At 18 months she observed that her child could “cue-read” without voice and respond to a five-word question in cued Dutch (Earl, 2006).

Cued Speech is a highly effective option in providing children with full access to spoken languages. Thanks to its brilliant design by Dr. R. Orin Cornett in 1967, children who are profoundly deaf can find great success with language and literacy when cues are used accurately and consistently (Cornett, 2001).

Families will continue to choose Cued Speech as a communication option and others will revisit Cued Speech after choosing other approaches. As one cueing parent stated, “get the advice from deaf people who use it” and “don’t knock it ‘til you try it!”

The National Cued Speech Association is here to help you. For families who chose a different path for communication and access to language and literacy, it’s never too late to learn Cued Speech. Start cueing early with your child for the best benefits.

Check out our website,

  • Instruction options include classes, self-study and distance learning, and family cue camps.
  • Join the National Cued Speech Association.
  • Join the Cued Speech page on Facebook.
Wonderful resources are available to open up a whole new world of learning for you and your child with Cued Speech.



Cornett, R.O. (2001). – The Cued Speech Resource Book for Parents of Deaf Children. Cleveland: National Cued Speech Association.

Earl, P.J. (2006). Communication behaviors of a young child with auditory dys-synchrony: Seeing cued Dutch and cued Spanish. Unpublished doctoral dissertation, University of Cincinnati.

Reynolds, S. E. (2007). An examination of Cued Speech as a tool for language, literacy, and bilingualism for children who are deaf or hard of hearing. Unpublished paper for the completion of master’s degree. St. Louis: Washington University School of Medicine.


Polly Earl is a Consulting Teacher of the Deaf in Caribou, ME. She can be reached at

Pam Beck is a Teacher of the Deaf in Shaker Heights, OH. She can be reached at