Cued Speech helps Colorado boy 'see' what others say; Max only deaf child in state using method

Rap video brings attention to cueing

DENVER - A rap video is raising awareness about a little-used form of communication for the deaf called Cued Speech.

One Colorado mother says her middle school son is the only deaf child in the state using the method.

"We found out Max was deaf when he was 3 years old," said Lisa Weiss. "So he had already lost three years of acquiring spoken language."

Her son, Max Tucker, 11, now has bilateral cochlear implants and can hear in quiet situations, but has trouble when there is background noise.

Weiss said she was determined to better communicate with her son, and after investigating all the options, she chose Cued Speech.

"Cued Speech is a way of expressing spoken language visually," said Aaron Rose, a Denver Cued Speech advocate who was born deaf and has "cued" since he was a baby. "You are able to see what you say."

Unlike American Sign Language -- which has its own grammar syntax and vocabulary -- Cued Speech combines lip reading with eight hand shapes for consonants and four hand placements for vowels.

The entire system fits on a business card that Rose proudly carries in his wallet.

Cued Speech was developed nearly 45 years ago by a physicist in response to poor reading and writing skills in the deaf community.

Because deaf children had to learn two different systems for communication -- sign language for person-to-person conversations and English for reading and writing -- the theory was that Cued Speech, a visual representation of English, would help because students would only have to learn one language.

"It took me eight hours to learn it and four months to become fluent," said Weiss. "To me, it was a no-brainer. I could communicate with Max at the same time I was talking to my other children, and he isn't missing anything."

Weiss said Denver Public Schools provides Max with a Cued Speech transliterator all day during class, and it helps him not miss what's going on around him.

"Lip reading is only about 30 percent accurate because many of the sounds are made inside the mouth," said Weiss. "So what Cued Speech does  -- it makes lip reading or speech reading 100 percent accurate because there is a visual cue that goes with the sounds of speech that are not visible on the lips."

However, the most recent survey of deaf children shows only 0.4 percent are taught to cue, while more than 21 percent learn sign language.

"People who care about sign language may be too defensive to see the benefits, and they protect their own heritage," said Rose. "I believe Cued Speech and sign language can go hand-in-hand.

It is a controversial topic in the deaf community with Cued Speech critics saying there is not enough access to the instruction, or that it is too oral or too slow.

So Cued Speech advocates recently enlisted Twista, a man once deemed the fastest rapper in the world, to make a music video while they cue.

Rose makes an appearance in the video. He said that with Cued Speech, people can see the rhymes, which makes it perfect for rap.

Watch it below:

"Our goal in making this video was to bring Cued Speech to the forefront of mainstream America," said Rose.

For Max Tucker, cueing is a window to the words he can't hear, and he likes it when his mother cues because, he said, he can understand.

"You're really fast," he said, smiling at his mother. "I'm proud of you."

Click here for more about Cued Speech.         

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