Monday, January 23, 2023

Reading, writing, and spoken language assessment profiles for students who are Deaf and Hard of Hearing compared with students with language learning disabilities

Wolf Nelson, N. & Crumpton, T. (2015). Reading, writing, and spoken language assessment profiles for students who are Deaf and Hard of Hearing compared with students with language learning disabilities. Topics in Language Disorders, 35(2), pp. 157-179.

Despite the many advances that have been made technologically and in terms of early identification, Deaf and Hard of Hearing (DHH) children still face a lag in the development of spoken and written communication in comparison to their hearing peers. Hearing loss, even when aided, interferes with language learning. For children with language learning disabilities (LLD; referred to as Developmental Language Disorders (DLD) in more recent years), similar phonological skills can be impacted. The possible areas of impairment for both groups include nonword repetition, difficulties with mapping spoken and written language at the word- and sub-word levels, difficulties with vocabulary, syntax, and discourse-level skills.

In their study, Wolf Nelson and Crumpton investigated whether specific language profiles could assist with the diagnosis of co-occurring LLD and hearing loss. Using data from the national standardization study for the Test of Integrated Language and Literacy Skills (TILLS) to search for patterns (in vocabulary, word structure, auditory memory, sentence-/discourse-level abilities), the researchers compared and contrasted the language and literacy skills of three groups of school-age students:

  • DHH children
  • Chronological age-matched hearing peers with typical language development
  • Chronological age-matched hearing peers with primary LLD

The authors found the following:

    1. The typically developing hearing group performed significantly better on most language and literacy skills than the DHH children (all areas except for written expression – discourse).
    2. The DHH group performed similarly to the LLD group in many areas, but significantly more poorly than the LLD group in some areas (including both oral and written measures at the sound/word level and multiple oral measures at the sentence/discourse level).
    3. Additional analyses indicated that for the DHH children, vocabulary awareness predicted the language patterns, and that phonemic awareness predicted word reading.

The findings were taken as evidence for concern about the language and literacy learning needs in DHH students. The authors emphasize the importance of documenting actual performance rather than falling into the tendency to believe students “sound okay” and “seem to be doing well.” Wolf Nelson and Crumpton make two clinical recommendations: to ensure the best possible access to sound, and to provide explicit individualized language intervention (targeting areas such as vocabulary, phonemic awareness, morphemic awareness, phonics, and narrative discourse).

Blogger: Rachel Benninger is a combined MClSc/PhD student working under the supervision of Dr. Lisa Archibald

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