Evidence of an association between sign language phonological awareness and word reading in deaf and hard-of-hearing children

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Abstract

Background and aims: Children with good phonological awareness (PA) are often good word readers. Here, we asked whether Swedish deaf and hard-of-hearing (DHH) children who are more aware of the phonology of Swedish Sign Language, a language with no orthography, are better at reading words in Swedish. Methods and procedures: We developed the Cross-modal Phonological Awareness Test (C-PhAT) that can be used to assess PA in both Swedish Sign Language (C-PhAT-SSL) and Swedish (C-PhAT-Swed), and investigated how C-PhAT performance was related to word reading as well as linguistic and cognitive skills. We validated C-PhAT-Swed and administered C-PhAT-Swed and C-PhAT-SSL to DHH children who attended Swedish deaf schools with a bilingual curriculum and were at an early stage of reading. Outcomes and results: C-PhAT-SSL correlated significantly with word reading for DHH children. They performed poorly on C-PhAT-Swed and their scores did not correlate significantly either with C-PhAT-SSL or word reading, although they did correlate significantly with cognitive measures. Conclusions and implications: These results provide preliminary evidence that DHH children with good sign language PA are better at reading words and show that measures of spoken language PA in DHH children may be confounded by individual differences in cognitive skills.

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Holmer, E., Heimann, M., & Rudner, M. (2016). Evidence of an association between sign language phonological awareness and word reading in deaf and hard-of-hearing children. Research in Developmental Disabilities, 48, 145–159. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ridd.2015.10.008

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