About the time our deaf son was 4 or 5, a wonderful woman came into our lives. I was in awe of Stevie Fenton, she seemed to know every thing deaf related. I was overjoyed when she agreed to work with our son for a few hours a week. They connected right away and he loved her. I felt that Stevie not only knew everything deaf related and educational related, she also was such a professional with working with little ones — she lovingly called them her rug rats.
Stevie started telling me about this visual communication system for deaf people that allowed straight English use and translation without needing to hear. The way it works is by using one of 8 different hand-shapes, then positioning the hand at one of 4 placements near the mouth.
Using the hand this way, along with the mouth movements formed when saying words, is called cueing, or using Cued Speech. Each hand-shape, placement, movement or no movement, and mouth shape represents a sound in the English language (a phoneme). Once learned, the cueing person can cue any word … for example, the word “example” is made up of the sounds “eh” + “g” + “z” + “short a” + “m” + “p” + “l”. Cue each sound in order and you have the word “example”!
ASL is its own rich language and is not bound by English grammar and sentence structure rules. So it makes sense that using one language (ASL) to learn another language (English) would be very challenging. In contrast to ASL, Cued Speech is not a separate language from the spoken language being used, but rather a method of visualizing words spoken, thus an excellent way to become fluent in English. This sounded exciting to me so I started taking classes and teaching our son to cue. He became proficient at cueing just about any word. He could even cue newspaper articles. The problem was his comprehension … he didn’t understand what he cued. He didn’t understand my cues to him except for 2 things: “mom” and “oh no”. But I kept cueing to him anyway.
And — I saw Cued Speech do miracles. I remember one young child, I think about 3 or 4 years old, that would come to Cued Speech class with her mom. This child seemed to be screaming and bouncing off the walls the entire time. The mom found a multi-month Cued Speech course somewhere out of state, and took her baby there. When they returned a few months later (I can’t remember, I think about 4-6 months), wow! What a difference! The child sat quietly at the table. The child, using cues, would talk to her mom and listen when her mom cued back to her. I was so impressed at the change!
So I kept up my cueing and I became proficient enough that eventually I was hired as a Cued Speech Transliterator.
When I wrote my adventure game app, SignCueQuest, I included both Cued Speech and ASL, and also did a separate version just for Cued Speech, CueQuest. If you’re interested in learning more about Cued Speech, you can read about it at the National Cued Speech Association site at www.cuedspeech.org
For my next blog post (this Friday), I’ll tell you about a challenge we are dealing with right now with our adult special needs Deaf son. I’m thinking of making the title of the post be “Is it ever okay to be scammed?”
So please come again next time. Join me in having fun with ASL Adventures, and / or Cued Speech Adventures!
Here are the links to my signing and cueing YouTube “Word Of The Day” channels. I post a new word every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Check it out and I would love to know what you think of them!
YouTube ASL Word Of The Day with PSE Sentence Examples: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCLOG4fqHRMQ8zL3llMl9YDg/
YouTube Cued Speech Word Of The Day: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCxojUy-dP6C2YKp3BWQPg1w/
Also, Check out my Adventure Games in the App Stores: