After watching some of President Obama's speech on self-government, I reflected on the state of the Cued Speech community in terms of self-governance and the organizations that promote the interests of Cued Speech.
American self-government is essentially a matter of setting rules mutually agreeable to and adhering to these rules in terms of protecting life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Not all of us agree on what government should and should not be, but we basically agree on the need for a centralized infrastructure that provides basic services necessary for community preservation.
Self Government and Cued Speech
Is there a sense of self-government among the cueing community? I would say yes and that is in the form of the National Cued Speech Association. The NCSA was founded in 1982 as a national organization with the purpose of serving the needs of parents and educators working with children who have hearing loss. Today the NCSA continues to service the American cueing community and has significant successes to tout, including the inclusion of cued language services within federal legislation. This achievement perhaps is the most significant milestone that the cueing community should recognize because the inclusion of such language validates the existence of Cued Speech as a federally protected mode of communication, giving cuers rights and protections.
The NCSA also serves as a steward of Cued Speech, maintaining quality control and ensuring that certified instructors adhere to the guidelines of Cued Speech, codified in Volume 5 of the Cued Speech Journal in 1994. In Dr. Cornett's mind, Cued Speech had one basic rule - what looks the same on the lips must look different on the hands. Out of that simple concept evolved a simple visual communication system that only uses eight hand shapes and eight hand placements within a binary consonant-vowel construct to convey the phonemes of spoken language.
The NCSA Presidency
Just as our American government has gone through cycles of leadership and administration, the NCSA is entering a new period in which a new board will take place. At this point, I am now announcing my intentions to run for president of the National Cued Speech Association. Why now?
As part of my commitment to transparency, I will share that three weeks ago I submitted to the NCSA board of directors an evaluation on the state of the NCSA, which outlined strengths and next steps to be taken. The purpose of sending this evaluation was to send a message to the NCSA that there are specific areas that need to be improved on, especially engagement with the cueing community.
In response to my comments about the future of the NCSA, I was offered the presidency and invited to Portland, Oregon for the Fall 2013 board meeting. Due to circumstances and conflicts in scheduling, I declined politely at the time. However three weeks later I found myself engaged in discussions with some other native cuers who also happen to be board members and do have aspirations for leading the NCSA at some point.
I reevaluated my position and discussed my thoughts with my most trusted advisor, my own wife. We both understood that it is critical for the NCSA to have a strong leader who has diverse experience from non-profit management to a deep understanding of deaf education and politics within the deaf and hard of hearing community. At this point I went ahead and sent an email to the NCSA board announcing my reconsideration and outlining my vision for the future in terms of setting a 3-6-9 year strategic plan so that we have more resources and increased awareness of Cued Speech, especially among the mainstream.
The following points outline my vision for the future of the NCSA in terms of supporting the Cued Speech community.
The NCSA applied to the Department of Education for funding to support both development of an array of assessments on cued American English fluency and a certification program that would endorse professionals' understanding and application of Cued Speech in the educational setting. We only received funding to develop the assessments, which has been available for three years now. Under my vision, the NCSA would facilitate the development of an independently governed, subsidiary corporation that would focus on certification development and maintenance for a variety of professionals who use Cued Speech.
Furthermore, starting with the 50th anniversary of Cued Speech, the NCSA would implement a program that offers professional development both in physical and virtual spaces. Rather than focusing on the traditional model of conferences and conventions every year, the NCSA would think outside the box in terms of bringing professional development to those who need it the most.
Professionals who are able to demonstrate that they are highly qualified cued language service providers would be able to add CSCL (Cued Speech and Cued Language) to their list of credentials. Such a certification program would reinforce the idea of cued language services as an evidence-based practice in the educational and medical settings in terms of language, literacy, speech, and auditory development.
Cued language transliterators provide a critical service for the deaf and hard of hearing and the NCSA has an obligation to promote their interests, especially now that the Educational Interpreter Proficiency Assessment (EIPA) program includes an assessment for Cued Speech. Certification maintenance includes the need for expanded professional development beyond the basic courses that have been typically offered.
The issue of instructor certification must be addressed because some instructors are considering letting their certification lapse as some feel there are no benefits to certification. The NCSA has an obligation to maintain quality control and motivate instructors in adhering to high standards when providing Cued Speech instruction.
Communication and Engagement
For the past 30 years, the NCSA has communicated with its membership through print. I aim to change that by integrating technology in the form of video production so that we can demonstrate better what Cued Speech is and serve as models for the cueing community. Board communications would take place in the form of videos that provide announcements. Just as the National Association for the Deaf provides communication via video in American Sign Language, the National Cued Speech Association will provide communication in cued American English with subtitles to make it more accessible for all.
Furthermore, the NCSA will increase its presence on social media and engage the cueing community in terms of encouraging people to take initiatives in spreading the message of how Cued Speech facilitates spoken language and literacy acquisition along with supplemental benefits of speech articulation and auditory skill development.
My vision includes an expansion of programming which would serve to support underserved regions, not just in the United States, but also across the world. With international collaboration, I envision cue mission trips to areas where deaf education is still developing and fledgling organizations need support.
With the use of advanced technology in terms of communication and collaboration, I aim to support affiliates and chapters in helping them to become more effective and efficient in their own local operations. Through focused evaluations, my goal is to help identify strengths and next steps so that grass-root efforts can be more effective without the need for increased resources.
Lastly, I envision CLEAR Center serving as an independently governed subsidiary that supports the mission of the NCSA in terms of training Cued Speech ambassadors and facilitating resource development and research.
Expansion to the Mainstream
As evidenced by the experiences of some, Cued Speech does not only benefit the deaf and hard of hearing, but also others who have learning challenges that might require more visual support, such as those with autism, Down Syndrome, oral apraxia, dyslexia, and so on. My vision includes increasing our engagement with other organizations who serve populations with atypical development and special needs, particularly the Council on Exceptional Children.
Research is sparse in this area so we must take the opportunity to support funding for such research opportunities that will help us understand better why Cued Speech is so effective in priming children's language acquisition and facilitating direct access to the language of instruction in the classroom. We must overwhelm the skeptics with rigorous and robust research data that demonstrates the need for a multi-sensory approach to education.
I envision a world where Cued Speech is considered an integral part of the curriculum of teacher preparation programs in post-secondary institutions and professional development is not only applied to the needs of those with hearing loss, but the needs of those with unique learning styles that are visually dominant.
Leadership is a function of Followership
The reality is leaders cannot succeed in making their vision a reality without the help of followers. I need your help and commitment to make my vision of expanding the presence of Cued Speech a reality. President Obama's 2008 campaign demonstrated the power of grass-roots efforts in terms of engaging citizens, and I aim to apply these lessons to the management of the National Cued Speech Association.
You may ask yourself, "What could I do? Where do I start?" In response, I ask, "What are your strengths? What do you do well? Bring that to the table and don't be afraid to take the initiative." I believe in the power of innovation and invention. Just as Dr. Cornett took the opportunity to address a specific problem, you can take the opportunity to get involved, particularly at the grass-roots level. Identify specific needs in your community and engage your peers in terms of collaborating together to answer these needs. Take the opportunity to advance your awareness and understanding of Cued Speech in order to be a better advocate.
In summary, communication, engagement, expansion, and professional development are just some of the themes that I aim to instill throughout the National Cued Speech Association membership and the community worldwide. With your help, we can continue the Cued Speech revolution and show the world what Cued Speech is and how beneficial it is for the family unit and the educational setting.
Will you join me in my campaign to serve as the president of the National Cued Speech Association?
Aaron Rose, M.S.D.E