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Cued speech is a form of communication that turns the spoken word into a form that is visible and easily understandable. Although it was first used in conjunction with English, it is now familiar to individuals in a number of different countries and has been adapted to a number of languages. Use of cued speech is often in conjunction with other types of communication, and helps differentiate between similar sounds.
Using eight different symbols formed with the hands, this form of language is often used in addition to speech reading or lip reading. The hand signals are positioned in different areas around the throat and mouth, and each combination indicates a vowel or other sound. This turns audible sounds into visible signs that can be used to clarify what is being said. For someone who is deaf and relies on reading lips, this can help clarify between words and sounds that look similar when spoken.
While primarily in use by the deaf, cued speech has also been used in communication with individuals who have developmental disabilities, particularly autism and Down syndrome. Research has shown that the tendency of the combination of physical and audible language is to closely focus the attention of the listener and speaker on the mouth, the words, and the formation of sounds; this can be beneficial when teaching some children. Techniques can be especially helpful when paired with other activities, such as music.
Cued speech can also be helpful for those who have difficulty processing audible information. When learning a new language, an individual can learn the patterns inherent in that language with the help of cued speech, just as though he or she were learning a native language for the first time. For individuals suffering from gradual hearing loss that begins after they thoroughly learn their first language, cued speech can help reinforce language skills and help keep their speech from deteriorating over time.
In addition to giving the spoken word a visual component and making it easier to understand, cued speech can also help deaf children develop better reading and writing skills. The grammar and method of a language become clearer; cued speech also helps deaf individuals understand exactly how thoughts and phrases are communicated, as opposed to just understanding meaning. Knowing how language is put together is a vital part of being able to communicate meaning, and cued language can help the deaf or hearing impaired develop that ability as quickly as a hearing child.