Cued Speech is not Visual Phonics

DISCLAIMER: In describing Visual Phonics, I’m going off what I’ve seen from those who have used it or learned it, including videos on Youtube. If my information here is incorrect, please let me know in the comments. Also bear in mind that this is not intended to be a value judgment; it’s simply my attempt at explaining how Visual Phonics and Cued Speech differ based on what I know. 

Like Cued Speech, Visual Phonics has a cue for each phoneme in the English language, and they are based on pronunciation, not orthography. Its aim is to give visual access to the phonemes of the English language. With this definition, you can see why Cued Speech and Visual Phonics are often lumped together in the same category. I see some key differences, though, and a lot of it has to do with how Cued Speech was designed for maximum efficiency in movement.

If you’re not familiar with Cued Speech, trot on over to this chart and note the handshapes and placements:

So, with that in mind, here are the differences I see:

  • Handshapes. 
    VP: 46 cues, one for each phoneme. These cues are akin to very distinct gestures or individual “signs.”
    CS: 8 handshapes, with 3-4 consonants per handshape. These handshapes are held flat and are differentiated by finger extensions.
  • Movement.
    VP: These cues seem to imitate the movement or rhythm of the phoneme (for example, long vowel sounds versus short ones). I don’t know for sure if this design is deliberate, but I do notice the correlation.
    CS: Four locations around the face– chin, cheek, side, throat. Like the handshapes, 3-4 vowels are assigned to each location.
  • Communication.
    VP: I don’t know of Visual Phonics being used as anything other than a speech support. If anyone does, let me know in the comments. It does look like it would be cumbersome to use in real-time communication, but again, let me know if I’m mistaken.
    CS: Can be used as real-time communication or speech support. Cued Speech was designed for effective movement and least strain on the wrist and fingers. Cornett chose the handshapes he did for a reason; you can move easily from one handshape to the other, and from one placement to another, whilst matching speaking speed.

This is what I see right off the bat. If you’ve anything to add, there’s the comment button below.

3 thoughts on “Cued Speech is not Visual Phonics

  1. CS seems much less commercial. It’s easy for me to find materials to learn the basics of CS at home and there are low cost get-togethers where we can all go as a family to interact with other CS users.

    VP will not sell the materials except to attendees of an official VP workshop. I contacted the one official VP trainer in my state about attending a workshop and the cost she quoted me $500. What a rip-off!


  2. You’ve hit on the important difference between VP and CS. Because there is an individual “cue” for each phoneme in VP, it is too cumbersome to convey connected language, which means its main use is for phonemic awareness, but not for higher level language development.This is borne out in the VP research to date. Because single phonemes and whole syllables, consonant-vowel units, can be cued efficiently with CS, it is useful for phonemic awareness AND for the communication that leads to language development. You can cue everything you can say In a natural way. More bang for the buck. Also borne out by research.


  3. From what I read, you also have to change your handshape for every phoneme – consonants and vowels, whereas in CS, you change for consonants and move for vowels. Slightly less movement is probably better in the long run for avoiding carpal tunnel and the like.


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