Cued Speech is most effective as a visual model for the hearing impaired when oral articulation movements are clear and when cues are clear, accurate, and uncluttered. Any visual distractions should be avoided because they place an extra burden on the child or adult who is in the process of learning an oral language via Cued Speech. Describe below are some of the visual distractions most often encountered. Check yourself for these extraneous movements or ask someone else to tell you which ones you may want to avoid before they become ingrained habits.
It should be obvious from the above descriptions and suggestions that we suspect anxiety about one's Cued Speech skills may help to initiate or maintain such extraneous hand movements. If this is true, then wouldn't it be better to avoid such possible anxiety by not mentioning such things at all? Does criticism -- even self-criticism -- have to produce anxiety which shows up in our hands? It is possible, so let's play it safe.
- A hand near the face prior to or following a speech act. There are people who have a "nervous" habit of stroking their chins or picking at their faces while talking. As a cuer you simply can't afford such a habit. Otherwise you will give your hearing-impaired child too many false signals during critical learning periods.
- Rotating the palm of the cueing hand. Some cuers, especially when cueing the diphthongs in words such as "I," "bye," "now," and "cow" begin to cue such words with the edge of the palm toward the viewer and cue the diphthong as a half circle -- ending with the end of the palm toward the throat. This makes it difficult -- if not impossible! -- to see the handshapes clearly and wastes considerable hand motion. It looks "floppy." Keep your cueing hand parallel to the viewer at all times.
- Drawing "rainbows" between the side and throat positions. Unfortunately the arc of the rainbow usually grazes the chin and looks as though you were inserting an extra cue or even an extra syllable. Of course, this "rainbow" doesn't jibe with what your viewer is seeing on your lips, so it constitutes visual "noise." Placing your side cues too high or two far away from the face often contributes to these noisy "rainbows." Bring the side cues in closr (and/or lower) if necessary.
- Pulling the last cue in a word or phrase forward and down, rather than to the side. Usually the people who do this are aiming for their laps or some other "neutral" hand position. Remember always to stop speaking before you stop cueing. This may help to break this habit. A few who place all of the side cues far forward have simply learned to cue in such a matter. It makes decoding the side/forward vowels very difficult to distinguish from final consonants at the side.
- Forming a cue handshape and then slowly bringing it into position for the first word or first syllable. This distraction is most common among beginning cuers who are obviously anticipating "what comes next." This practice is not only distracting, but may be the beginning of a synchronization problem. Keep your cueing hand neutral until you are ready to open your lips to speak. Then bring the handshape smartly into position and proceed. If you are annoyed when non-cueing speakers constantly use such "fillers" as "Uh...well...ummm...err...so..." before actually speaking, be warned that the hearing impaired have a right to be equally bored by such cluttered communication.
- Slowly (or rapidly) trying out two or three handshapes before hitting the right one.This again is a favorite "noise" of the novice cuer. It is almost as though he/she thinks, "No one can shoot me so long as I keep moving!" The person makes the mistale of starting to cue-and-say a word or phrase before he knows how the word or phrase will end. Non-fluent spekers who don't cue also play this game. They often give as an excuse, "My problem is that I can think faster than I can talk!" Not true! Their problem is that they don't think through what they are going to say before they open their mouths. There is no law which says we must play "Russian Roulette" every time we speak. If you need to think through what you are going to say-and-cue, please do it on your own time -- not in the middle of a word or phrase while your listener is kept hanging. Pausing to think between oral utterances is not a crime at all. As a matter of fact, it is a very good way to promote conversation. Your hearing-impaired child will have time to respond to you.
- Waving a cue handshape around or repeating it while trying to think of what comes next. Hesitations and repetitions are considered to be "normal non-fluencies" in speech. We are not talking about stuttering which is a subject beyond the scope of this manual. Are there any people who actually stutter cues? We have seen only one to date. Such hesitations and repetitions are equally normal -- and equally non-fluent -- in Cued Speech. Again, there is no law of conversation which says we must keep "moving" when we don't know what is coming next. Just stop! The hearing-impaired individual will understand and be patient. Our thoughtful pauses may provide an opportuity for others to talk to us.
Any self-critical practice to improve our cueing skills should be done while the hearing-impaired child is asleep, or at school, or while playing outside. Practice critically only by yourself or with people who don't rely on your Cued Speech -- unless you hare having a family session where everyone else is also working on some specific communication skill. While we are communicating with a deaf child we simply cannot afford to be self-critical in a negative way. If you must correct one of your own cueing errors, do it the same loving, accepting way that you would correct a child's error. "I goofed -- no big deal!"
Certainly, people who aspire to be professional interpreters or teachers of Cued Speech will want to cue correctly with a minimum of distracting mannerisms in order to provide the best possible model for their clients or students. And, of course, those of us who appreciate Cued Speech want to see someone cueing beautifully during artistic performances. BUT for the family of a deaf child Cued Speech is neither a "standard of perfection" nor an "art form." It is simply a means of enhancing oral communication . No matter how proficient you become or how fluent you become, don't ever let Cued Speech (or ASL, or fingerspelling, or binaural hearing aids) become a substitute for those other important forms of communication: a hug, a pat on the back, a "tap" on the bottom, a walk in the park, a batch of favorite cookies.