Cued Speech History

Over thirty years ago Dr R Orin Cornett of Gallaudet, the USA’s university for deaf people, was concerned with problems of deaf children's literacy. He noted that ‘most of these students [from Gallaudet], although they are typically of high mental ability, have studied English for many years, and know a lot about English, are simply not competent in English’. 

Dr R Orin CornettCornett believed that if children could have a solid foundation of spoken language to draw on then their literacy skills and their communication with hearing family and friends could be improved. 

Dr Cornett’s aim was to devise an easy-to-learn system in which all the sounds of speech could be made to look different from each other, just as they sound different to hearing ears.

He drew on his mathematical background to devise Cued Speech which uses eight handshapes in four positions near the mouth to complement all the sounds of spoken language and their lip patterns, and so make all the sounds of speech visible.  Research below shows that, with Cued Speech, the clarity of the language received by the deaf lipreader can be as high as 95%.

Research into Cued Speech
 Cued Speech and the Reception of Spoken Language, Nicholls, G. (1979)
This research shows that the 18 profoundly deaf children in this study, who had been taught with Cued Speech for at least four years, could understand:
  • 1.5% of words in sentences by listening alone (audition)
  • 30% of words in sentences by lipreading alone
  • 45% of words in sentences by listening and lipreading together
  • 96% of words in sentences by listening, lipreading and watching the cues
  • 96% of words in sentences by lipreading and watching the cues.