Methods of Communication With the Deaf

For related articles, click:


This document lists and describes the various methods used, in the past and at present, for communication with deaf persons. Whenever more information about a method exists elsewhere, a link was made to it.

I wish to thank the following people who contributed information, which is included in this document:

  • Claire Lynn Wells
  • Betty McBroom
  • Marion Helfrich

List of methods


(old kinds, touch vs. no touch, many methods)


(known also as the "listen-no-peeking" method--CI uses this)

Cued Speech

Brief description:
It is a manual augment to auditory/oral/speechreading. As such, it is really closer to an oral than manual approach. It is a set of handshapes made at various locations around the face. It is used to help distinguish between different sounds that look similar on the lips and to make speechreading easier. It is popular in Australia and Canada, apparently, with some use in the US. In some programs it is used only by the teacher; in other programs, the children are encouraged to use it, also (expressive cuing). Some parents learn it, and some cued-speech kids are mainstreamed with help from Cued Speech transliterators (interpreters).

SEE-1 - Seeing Essential English

This method was developed by David Anthony. It is based upon signing in morphemes or units of meaning. It is known also as MSS.

SEEING ESSENTIAL ENGLISH (SEE I) and SIGNED EXACT ENGLISH (SEE II) - The idea behind these systems is that Deaf children will learn English better if they are exposed, visually through signs, to the grammatical features of English. the base signs are borrowed from ASL, but the various inflections are not used. A lot of inialitization is used. Additionally, a lot of "grammatical markers" for number, person, tense, etc. are added and strict English word order is used. Every article, conjunction, auxillary verb, etc. is signed. Also, English homophones are represented by identical signs (i.e. the same sign is used for the noun fish and the verb fish, which have different ASL signs). The difference between the two is minor - the principle one being that in SEE II ASL signs for compound words (like butterfly) are used, where the two signs representing the separate English words are used in SEE I.

SEE-1 and SEE-2 are signing systems rather than languages on their own. Therefore some people claim that exposure to them does not provide children with the complete linguistic access, which is needed to internalize whole language.

SEE-2 - Signing Exact English

This method was developed by Gerilee Gustason. It uses lots of initialized/ASL signs + endings, and is very literal.

See above for more information.

L.O.V.E. - Linguistics of Visual English

This method was developed by Dennis Wampler. It has similarities to SEE-2 and Bornstein's Signed English method.

It is a signing system rather than language on its own. Therefore some people claim that exposure to L.O.V.E. does not provide children with the complete linguistic access, which is needed to internalize whole language.

V.E. - Visual English

A mention of this term was seen. It is not known whether this is the same as L.O.V.E. or not.

Signed English

This method was developed by Harry Bornstein, one of the people on the Gallaudet Signed English project (those little books for children you see in various public libraries).

SIGNED ENGLISH is similar to SEE-1 and SEE-2, but a little simpler. It is primarily intended, by my understanding, for use with young children and the intellectually limited. It uses English word order, but fewer grammatical markers than the SEE systems - it has fourteen, based on Brown's 14 grammatical morphemes (e.g. plural /s/, poessive /s/, /ed/, /ly/, /er/, /ing/, /est/, I should know what the others are but I don't.)

The problem with these systems is that they are SLOW. They are easier to learn for hearing people than ASL, but they are slower to use, because, on average, signs take twice as long as words to produce. So the average proposition takes twice as long to express. Also, you have to be grammatically very self-aware to use them. The research shows that most parents and many teachers who are trying to use these systems end up leaving out many of the gramamtical markers and that many children exposed to them end up modifying them to more ASL-like forms.

Pidgin Sign English

This is a contact language, which ranges from being more Englishy to being more like ASL.

PIDGIN SIGNED ENGLISH is what happens when adults try to learn ASL, basically. It is ASL and some of its grammar (how much varies from person to person) in English word order and with other "englishism" (like aux. verbs). Children exposed to PSE will often produce grammatically perfect ASL.

Sign English

This method uses more ASL and fewer markers than Bornstein's Signed English method.


This term was coined by Bernard Bragg from Texas. This method uses lots of ASL & fs in English order.

C.A.S.E - Conceptually Accurate Signed English

This is like Englishy PSE or Bragg's Amelish.

It is a signing system rather than language on its own. Therefore some people claim that exposure to C.A.S.E. does not provide children with the complete linguistic access, which is needed to internalize whole language.


This is a language on its own, which uses no voice. It has its own grammatical structure and its own linguistic structure. In the past, this language was called also AMESLAN.


[I have no information about it.]

M.C.E. - Manually Coded English

As one of the contributors to this article understand it, MANUALLY CODED ENGLISH is not a a particular method - it is a general description of all the system that attempt to reflect English grammar, etc on the hands.


This method is not very popular. every word is fingerspelled. (Sounds awfully tedious.)

Total Communication


Educational methods

One variant of the oral method of educating the deaf is the method advocated by Doris Irene Mirrielees, who who trained mothers to teach their deaf children to read and write as early as possible. She was a strong oralist who disapproved of sign language. However, she believed that deaf children could live productive lives if they understand language. She prioritized general knowledge over mastery of speech and lipreading skills.

She wrote some books about her method and its implementation. All of them are now out of print. More details about them can be found by Amazon search.

Her most famous student is Henry Kisor.

Why were all those methods developed?

One of the reasons is that there is an argument between ASL advocates and SEE (and other manual languages of similar ideology) advocates. The SEE advocates claim that teaching deaf children to use SEE prepares them better for communication in English in the adult world. The ASL advocates claim that using SEE does not improve mastery of English beyond that obtainable by using ASL for classroom communication and teaching English as a first foreign language.

Last update date: 
2007 Sep 15