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Literacy Evidence

As long ago as 1989 American research ('Use of Internal Speech in Reading by Hearing and Hearing Impaired Students in Oral, Total Communication and Cued Speech Programs', Wandel, Jean E., 1989) found no significant difference in reading achievement between the matched groups of hearing and CS-using profoundly deaf pupils.  This is remarkable given that the average reading age of a profoundly deaf school leaver (not exposed to CS) in the developed world has remained shockingly low, at 7 to 9 years of age.  Since then research has mainly looked at how this can be explained and at the mechanics of how CS-using deaf children learn to read.  

This is a brief overview of some of the literary reseach.


Cued Language and the Alphabetic principle - Children who have been brought up with CS bring to school a very different skill set to most deaf children.  They consistently see the ‘spoken’ language which surrounds them in a clear, unambiguous, visual form i.e. cued language, a full visual mode of spoken language in which all the phonological contrasts are clearly marked.  As Laybaert, Colin and LaSasso say in the book Cued Speech and Cued Language for Deaf and Hard of Hearing Children: ‘The advantages [of this] are threefold:

  • Once children have learnt the correspondences between graphemes and the manual cues from Cued Speech, they can be autonomous readers (Jorm and Share, 1983) in the sense that they can get the meaning of words they have never encountered in print before (for evidence see Alegria, Aurouer, & Hage 1997).
  • Children exposed to Cued Speech will be able to use grapheme-to-phoneme correspondences for reading printed words and phoneme-to-grapheme correspondences for word spelling (for evidence, see Leybaert, 2000; Leybaert & Charlier, 1996; Leybaert & Lechat, 2001). 
  • The use of correspondences between graphemes and corresponding visual ‘phonemes’ (i.e. manual cues and mouthshapes) makes possible the development of phonological awareness (Charlier & Leybaert).’

Rhyming  - Hearing children who perform well on rhyming tasks do markedly better in early reading than those with poor rhyming ability.  Dr Cornett devised CS in order to ‘ensure that the deaf child comes to think in the phonemic equivalent of spoken English’.  

If he was successful then deaf child brought up with CS should be able to develop rhyming skills before learning to read, as do hearing children, and their rhyming judgments should not be affected by spelling or by lip-reading similarity.  Research (Leybaert and Charlier 2000) showed that in French-speaking children this was indeed the case with CS-users achieving a high level of accuracy in rhyme judgment about pairs of pictures which was not influenced by spelling and was within the range of hearing children.  In contrast deaf children from oral or signing backgrounds relied on spelling and lip-reading and therefore made many more errors.  American research (Crain, 2003) found similar results with emerging readers of English whose rhyming abilities were comparable to their hearing peers.  

For more information about the book, Cued Speech and Cued Language for Deaf and Hard of Hearing Children, follow this link >>

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