Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Cued Speech: "Most theoretically and empirically supportable mode" for Literacy

While reviewing the research book Cued Speech and Cued Language for Deaf and Hard of Hearing Children (CSCLDHH), I came across this quote by Carol LaSasso, a longtime researcher on reading outcomes at Gallaudet University, which seemed to sum up the views of many Cued Speech advocates, including my own.
"Linguistic access via Cued Speech, compared to communication access via oral-aural methods or MCE sign systems, is the most theoretically and empirically supportable mode for developing each of these abilities* in deaf students"   (Chapter 1)

* - "abilities" refer to the five critical factors for reading development (phonemic awareness, phonics, vocabulary, fluency, and comprehension strategies) as defined by the National Reading Panel (2000).

Now we have Illinois School of the Deaf using Cued Speech to support literacy outcomes and the top administrative official of special education in the Dominican Republic making the executive decision to require the use of Cued Speech in all schools for the deaf across the country. A female doctoral student, Guita Movallali, even went as far to develop Cued Persian for supporting deaf children in Iran for her dissertation. She reports that many educators are now interested in using Cued Speech. One could make the case that Cued Speech has more support internationally than within the United States, despite Gallaudet University being the source of its origins. 

We still have the continued use of Cued Speech in multiple school districts from Fairfax County in Virginia and Montgomery County in Maryland to the Minneapolis-St. Paul metro area. A source of mine indicated to me that more parents were choosing the Cued Speech preschool in Fairfax County Public Schools compared to the total communicatons and oral program. Additionally, parents in isolated areas are asking for support in their desire to use Cued Speech at home and in the educational setting as evidenced by inquiries to the NCSA and posts on Facebook, despite resistance from educators and professionals entrenched in one philosophy or another. 

However there is a significant issue in terms of the preparation and certification of teachers of the deaf and hard of hearing. For my 
independent study as part of my graduate studies in deaf education, I created a survey to be answered by coordinators and directors of teacher preparation programs for the deaf and hard of hearing. One should spend time reading the responses to my survey since they actually reveal the varied attitudes that are present within those programs. A definite conclusion one can make from the results of my survey was that post-secondary programs are severely lacking in resources for training teachers in Cued Speech. 

Part of this is due to state-level educational agencies not placing emphasis on the inclusion of Cued Speech in their requirements for licensing and certification, therefore limiting the demand for Cued Speech instructors. Another factor is the perception of administrators or program directors on the subject of Cued Speech as a "research-validated practice" as evidenced in one of the responses to my survey. 
"Cued Speech is not included because it is not a research-validated practice. The only studies (reviewed internationally by Marshark & LaSasso) that showed consistent and  positive outcomes were those done in French-speaking Netherlands. Most of the "research" about Cued Speech is anecdotal or not empirically validated." 
My question then is why would LaSasso, a nationally renowned researcher in the field of reading development for the deaf and hard of hearing, go as far as to co-author a book addressing research on Cued Speech, which is published by Plural Publishing, a large printing company for professional texts?

Another point to highlight from this text is that Dr. Kelly Crain and LaSasso also carried out a survey of adult deaf cuers from a psychosocial perspective. Virtually all cuers correlated being a cuer with being highly literate. Additionally the majority of them were considered to be highly flexible communications in terms of being able to communicate in spoken, written, cued, and signed form. Of all the cuers I know, a few do have "some" difficulty with reading and writing. However the common factors in their difficulties are either the presence of a specific learning disability or late exposure to Cued Speech after limited success with other approaches. They still affirm their identity as cuers as seen through their continued involvement with social events and cue camps.

It seems that it is time for those teacher preparation programs to take a closer look at Cued Speech for supporting spoken language, listening, and literacy outcomes, and especially as an early intervention strategy. As the authors of CSCLDHH assert, Cued Speech is not an exclusive option, but rather meant to complement auditory-oral practices and sign language.