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Improving Literacy for IL Students with Hearing Impairments

GRAPHIC: Some Illinois children are improving literacy through the use of Cued Speech. Courtesy of Alexander Graham Bell Montessori School.
GRAPHIC: Some Illinois children are improving literacy through the use of Cued Speech. Courtesy of Alexander Graham Bell Montessori School.
April 28, 2014

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. - American Sign Language (ASL) is the common form of communication among members of the deaf community, but signing does not provide every component or "phoneme" of spoken language. In Illinois, some hearing-impaired students are improving their literacy through the use of Cued Speech. A.G. Bell Montessori-AEHI in Wheeling is the only Montessori school in the country that mainstreams both deaf and hearing children through Cued Speech.

Sandy Mosetick, board president of the school, explains that Cued Speech has eight hand shapes and four positions around the mouth to represent all phonemes of speech.

"It makes lip-reading into an exact science," she said. "It provides full visual access to spoken language, and the whole point is so that a deaf person can learn English and be literate, and reach their full potential academically."

Cued Speech was developed more than 30 years ago, but has faced challenges being accepted in the deaf community. Mosetick says it was never meant to replace traditional signing, and adds that Cued Speech can be learned in a few days and has been adapted to more than 60 languages.

Outside the classroom, Mosetick says, Cued Speech also allows those who don't know ASL to easily convey English to those who cannot hear.

"Ninty-three percent of deaf kids have hearing parents, who never had any experience before with deafness and don't know how to sign, and it would take them a long time to learn sign and then to be able to communicate with their own child."

Angela Kuhn, PreK-8 principal at the Illinois School for the Deaf, says American Sign Language is valuable in school, but has limitations in a learning environment because students have to translate ASL into English. She says they've seen great academic results since introducing Cued Speech into the curriculum a few years ago.

"The national average for deaf students is that they improve about two to three months in an entire school year," she noted. "So, we've seen some students who have been able to improve a grade level or more in one school year, which is amazing."

Kuhn says the school works to balance the use of sign and cuing in a bilingual environment, to help students become more fluent in English and have academic success. At an event Sunday night, A.G. Bell honored the Illinois School for the Deaf for its achievements in Cued Speech.

Mary Kuhlman, Public News Service - IL