Communication choices for newly diagnosed deaf children

Why is the Trust supporting this work?


95% of children born deaf or hard of hearing are born into hearing families. The Trust believes that these families need to know as early as possible of all the communication strategies available for them and their child, and in particular should be aware that Cued Speech can provide the foundation for all other communication interventions for deaf children right from the start. With Cued Speech, a deaf child can see what is being said.

It is a manual system of 8 handshapes in 4 positions near the mouth which completely clarify the lip-patterns of speech and which is quick and comparatively easy to learn. It turns spoken language (English and many other languages) into a visual language. Research shows that with Cued Speech 96% of English can be accurately lip-read.

Cued Speech UK aspires to a model of deaf inclusion, where deaf people have all the communication and literacy skills they need to thrive – at home, in school and at work.

This is why we are funding Choices, a new offer from Cued Speech UK, to give families with a child diagnosed as deaf, the information they need to make the right language choice for their child and family as early as possible.

Using Cued Speech also helps to prepare babies and children for ‘hearing’ language well before receiving a cochlear implant. There is no time to wait and see if the implant is going to work; parents need to be proactive about language and Cued Speech gets language into the child’s brain straight away which makes it easy for them to understand the new speech sounds they hear after their ‘switch-on’.

A new approach is sorely needed. Currently over 70% of deaf children leave primary school with poor or extremely poor reading skills but with Cued Speech, deaf children can achieve age-appropriate reading levels equivalent to hearing children. It enhances the ability to lipread so well that deaf children can start school with all the language they need to learn to read and write. They can then go on to explore the world through reading, which leads to high levels of self-esteem. With Cued Speech children have every opportunity to reach their full potential.

The Choices Programme

The Choices Programme will increase the knowledge of parents of deaf 0-4 year olds about  language and communication choices, and the benefits of using Cued Speech as a foundation for language and literacy. 

Cued Speech UK believes that deaf babies and children have the right to have language which equals that of hearing children and that they need access to consistent and fluent language. With the right tools and support, parents have the power to ensure that their children can have language which is equal to that of hearing children and avoid the significant challenges experienced by deaf children who are deprived of early language and thereby of everyday access to family life. Parents need to understand from the point of diagnosis what the impact of deafness can be if a child is deprived of learning language before the age of 3.

Research shows that services for the families of deaf babies and children following New-Born Hearing Screening tests, are currently very limited. The Choices programme is designed to fill this significant gap.

Referrals to the Choices programme will be by:

Self-referrals, Audiology Departments (following an immediate referral following a new born screening check), Other voluntary organisations, including National Deaf Children’s Society and Local Authority Hearing Impairment Services.

Following referral each family will be sent a free family pack which contains information and guidance for newly diagnosed deaf babies from Cued Speech UK. They will then be invited to meet one-to-one (online or in person) with a Cued Speech Regional Family Advisor for initial introduction to the Choices offer.

The Choices programme will then continue with a six to eight week programme delivered to small groups of parents of newly diagnosed babies. 

Choices will be offered initially in: 

  • The South West including Devon, Cornwall, Somerset and Gloucestershire
  • South Wales
  • Hertfordshire and parts of North London including Hounslow, Barnet and Ealing
  • The North East and North Yorkshire

    Following the Choices programme, parents will either be able to take up ongoing free Cued Speech training and/or be referred for further training with other specialist organisations such as British Sign Language training, family signing with the National Deaf Children’s Society or training with Auditory Verbal UK (AVUK).

    If they choose to learn more about Cued Speech, they will be offered further free family support and training in Cued Speech from their Regional Family Advisor, dedicated tutors  and a wide range of Cued Speech resources.

     What the Choices programme hopes to achieve

    Choices will increase parent’s knowledge of the options available to them as they come to terms with the role they have in their child’s life long language acquisition. If parents then go on to choose to include Cued Speech in their communication choices, they will see an increase in basic literacy skills for their deaf child: 

    • Giving access to the full and rich first spoken language of the home on which to build other languages such as British Sign Language.
    • Significantly and positively impacting on lip-reading which is a crucial skill underpinning literacy development for deaf children. 
    • Allowing a child to develop an understanding of spoken language and an auditory memory (regardless of the level of hearing loss) that will support and accelerate the rehabilitation process post-cochlear implant.