Cued Speech: Guide

Cate Calder | View as single page | Feedback/Impact

Cued Speech in the context of other language support systems


British Sign Language (BSL)

BSL is a visual language and not a ‘system’, it enables access to the signing Deaf community; it does not have a written form and the grammar of BSL is very different to that of English.  For example in BSL meanings can be added onto a single sign through (for example) direction, duration, facial expression, and body movement.  These additions give a great deal of extra information, for example about what is happening, when, and how the narrator felt – and all in one sign – but this doesn’t tie in at all with either spoken or written English, which may need a whole sentence to convey the same meaning.  In schools deaf children STILL need to be able to understand, read and write that English sentence.

Cued Speech is not a language, it is a lip-reading ‘tool’ that can be used to make any spoken language visible (it has been adapted to over 68 languages and dialects).  Although there are benefits to deaf children using Cued Speech expressively, deaf children and adults do not need to cue themselves but simply receive it.

This document sets out how CS can be used alongside a signed language.  It explores how concepts and vocabulary can be conveyed visually, both by using a signed language, and using Cued Speech to make a spoken language fully visible.

Artificial systems eg Sign Supported English

In an attempt to solve the problem of access to English, some schools use a created system of ‘Manually Coded English’ such as Sign Supported English (SSE) or ‘Signed English’ where some BSL signs are used with additional gestures that were devised to represent some parts of English grammar.  The balance of BSL signs to English varies greatly depending on the speaker's knowledge of the two languages.  A single sign is often differentiated into a number of English words by clearly mouthing the word, so, in order to comprehend SSE well, a person needs good lip-reading (speechreading) skills, as well a pre- existing knowledge of English grammar and vocabulary.  There is also an issue with misrepresenting the meaning of spoken words by only using one sign or gesture with it, for example grammar words like ‘in’ or ‘on’ are often signed as ‘inside’ and ‘on top of’ which is clearly not what is meant in the context of for example ‘in the morning’ or ‘on good behaviour’.  Artificial signing systems may serve older deaf people who already fully understand English and so are able to mentally fill-in the gaps where signs cannot be used and make the cognitive adjustments needed to change the signed meaning to the intended meaning.  However they are not appropriate for use with children who are still in the process of learning language and cannot make the adjustments required to convert the mixed modes into comprehendible language.  SSE is not a language and it does not tie in with the sound-based elements of spoken English.

Cued Speech, while not a language in itself, will give the receiver complete access to the spoken language it is used with – including every aspect of syntax, grammar, tenses and intonation.

This document outlines the challenges faced by children in school with a range of language delay and how CS can meet their needs.

An article that was published in the January 2016 BATOD magazine explains and addresses misunderstandings often made about CS as a system and its use.


Cued Speech perfectly complements any hearing that a deaf child may be able to use.  Deciding to take an aural/oral approach with a deaf child does not preclude the use of cueing, after all the goal is the same for both – that the child may become a full and fluent user of spoken language.  There are many times when a child may not be able wear their implant or hearing aid (bath/bed time, sports, during illness etc) and many times when they are not in an environment that supports good listening (classrooms/dining rooms, busy streets etc).  With a purely auditory approach, many deaf children may have their access to language seriously impaired at these times.  If Cued Speech is used alongside listening then you have the perfect safety-net, the visual cues will enable uninterrupted access to language at all times.

Whether we have a hearing loss or not we all lip-read to a surprisingly great extent, human brains are hardwired to make use of any visual signals to support what we hear.  Even if a deaf child makes good use of hearing, they will also be lip-reading to support their understanding.  Cued Speech is a lip-reading tool that will not only allow the deaf child to quickly develop an understanding of spoken language visually by enabling them to lip-read with almost 100% accuracy, it will also greatly lessen the exhaustion that often comes with trying to listen/lip-read alone.

Use CS:

1. before a Cochlear Implant to ensure that language development and communication is not delayed.

2. continue after an implant:

  1. to help as your baby or child learns to listen
  2. to give on-going help in situations where listening conditions are poor (when there is background noise etc)
  3. when an implant/hearing aid is not used (in the bath etc).

3. if your child is not making good progress with listening alone.

Read how you can use CS to improve this situation.  This document outlines in simple terms how CS can be used to support language acquisition pre-implant and to support the rehabilitation process post implant

This document explains and quotes research into the use of CS to support CI users.

These research results show how the use of CS enabled deaf children and adults to develop an awareness of the structure of oral language pre-implant which supported their rehabilitation post-late-implant.

This fun, interactive film demonstrates how our brains will choose visual information (from lip-patterns) over auditory information (from the sound of the word) and make us ‘hear’ the word we think we are ‘seeing’.