The Cue Sign Movement: Sign Language + Cued Speech = Love
by Lisa Ann Weiss, Esq.
Before you click through to the next thing or toss this aside, please just read the whole thing through. I am writing this because it is important to me to share my perspective with you. I promise it will only take a few minutes of your time and it may be important for you or someone you love.
For more than a decade I have shared my deaf story. Yes. I have a deaf story, even though I am hearing. I have a deaf child and this automatically gives me story rights. I will not entertain any arguments about that.
Most of the time what interests people about my deaf story is that I chose to learn a visual mode of communication that is not sign language. In 2004 when I realized that my 2 ½ year old child was deaf I read a book called “Choices In Deafness” by Sue Schwartz. As I have explained almost every time I’ve shared my story, that book was when I first learned that there were choices. Until then I assumed that all deaf people signed. From the beginning I have always believed in whatever choice works, at any time and in any situation. What I have learned is that the situations are constantly changing and it is beneficial to have lots of options.
My child is a native cuer because I learned Cued Speech first. I also chose to give my child cochlear implants and an education in listening and spoken language, so my child uses spoken English. I have always known that my child would sign at some point and that I would also learn sign.
From my perspective, deaf stories oftentimes involve a lack of connection. Certainly, that has been my experience. My family has attended Cued Speech camps since 2005. I am grateful for them. My whole family appreciates them. It is one of the few times we feel connected to a larger community and are able to really improve our family’s communication skills. I have always longed for a larger community.
My high schooler and I attended the first Cue Sign Summit that was held at Gallaudet University in June 2018. It was intended to broaden the community of people who communicate who use ASL and Cued Speech. There was instruction in all levels of Cued Speech and ASL, as well as four days of opportunities to interact and learn the latest research and about people’s experiences. When we arrived, my 16 year old knew slightly more sign than I did, which was essentially none. There were roughly 60 people at the four day event, all with varying levels of fluency in Cued Speech and ASL. What I experienced at Cue Sign Summit is a broadening my deaf experience I have been yearning for. I don’t believe I am the only person who feels this way and I don’t believe it is specific to me being a cuer.
ASL and Cued Speech sitting in a Tree, K-I-S-S-I-N-G. First comes love. Then comes connection, understanding, and respect for one another. Then comes a whole new community of people who are happier, healthier, and united. Okay. So I’ve changed the words. Plus it doesn’t rhyme at all. But this what I see. My child has now enrolled at a deaf school where they only teach in ASL. The people at this school are welcoming my native cuer with their minds and arms wide open.