By Suzy Brown
Cued Speech is a vocation for me and my family. A vocation is a calling. It’s different from a job or career; it’s a part of who you are and permeates every aspect of your life.
My daughter Felicity is profoundly deaf. Through some stroke of luck, I already knew some sign language, having used it with my son with speech apraxia. I started signing to her from day one, but even so, I felt a deep disappointment – it wasn’t enough. It was a life saver for my son, who needed a way to express himself before he could speak. But as a stand-alone method of communication, it was frustratingly limited. So many words didn’t have a sign or had to be finger-spelled. English is a rich language and sign language was not able to convey it all.
We heard about Cued Speech for the first time soon after Felicity was born. My husband Anson had shared with his coworkers that his new baby was probably deaf. It turned out one of them had a son who was deaf, too, and he used Cued Speech. He was very successful with it – he had even just graduated from law school, which his mom claimed was only possible because of Cued Speech.
I learned all I could – read all the websites and watched every video on YouTube. I was very excited to find out that it was offered in my local public school system. I got in touch with the lead CLT, and she was kind enough to meet with me even though it was the end of the school year. In one hour she gave me a quick history of Cued Speech and taught me how to read the American English cue chart. She also told me about Cue Camp and assured me that even a family of 7 with an infant would fit right in.
So, armed with my cue chart and YouTube videos, I taught myself to cue over the summer. The biggest challenge I had when learning was finding resources and support from other cuers – emphasis on the word “finding”; great resources and an awesome community exist, but it takes a little detective work to find them! I highly recommend going to a cue camp; that’s the best first step. Luckily, we have that and Cued Speech classes near me. Through those classes and other events for parents of deaf kids, I met other cuers. I started a support group for my fellow parents, and when we meet, the parents can practice Cued Speech with each other while our kids play with their peers! I want Felicity to have friends who are like her so that she will always be understood, loved, and accepted. And our Cued Speech Families group provides that to all our children! We learn so much from each other.
Be the change you want to see in the world; start the Cue-mmunity you wish you had in your area! You are not alone, and if everyone waits for someone else to take the first step, that first step will never happen. As a parent, the battle cry sounds like, “Do it for your child!” But honestly, my daughter is only 2 years old and I can honestly say I’ve gotten so much more out of Cued Speech than she has at this point (haha!). You can do it!
When I’m not cueing with my family, I’m transliterating at Woodson High School in Fairfax, VA. And in my free time, I’ve been studying to become an Instructor. Did I mention it permeates every aspect of my life? It’s only a matter of time before I start dream-cueing! But I love every minute; it’s a noble calling and I feel so blessed to be a part of this community!