Too many deaf children are still failing to learn to read, says new study

November 29, 2017 by George Wigmore, City University London
Credit: City University London

The British education system is neglecting the needs of severely and profoundly deaf children, many of whom have major reading difficulties, according to new research from City, University of London.

In one of the largest studies of its kind, funded by the Nuffield Foundation, the researchers found that over half of the involved who communicated using spoken language and four fifths of those who used had reading difficulties at least as severe as those faced by with dyslexia, and in some cases they were more severe.

There are almost 49,000 children with in the UK, many of whom have reading difficulties. This is because reading is based on spoken language, which many deaf children struggle to acquire.

As hearing difficulties are often seen as the primary issue for deaf children, underlying reading difficulties can go unnoticed, and diagnosis of dyslexia is rare. In contrast, hearing children with reading difficulties are more likely to be described as dyslexic, and once diagnosed, can benefit from evidence-based specialist and interventions.

To investigate the impact of deafness on reading, the researchers took 129 deaf children aged between 10-11 in their final year of (Year 6), 79 of whom communicated using spoken language (oral deaf), while 50 used sign language (signing deaf). This is larger than samples included in other studies.

Specifically, the report found that literacy scores in both oral and signing deaf children were lower than expected for their age. Scores were also lower in the signing group compared to the oral group, with 48% of the oral group and 82% of the signing children reading below age level, although signing children with two deaf parents scored at the same level as the oral deaf group. Scores for spelling were better in both oral and signing groups, but were still below average. In both groups, language skills were particularly weak.

The researchers established that reading and dyslexia-sensitive tests developed for hearing children could be used successfully with oral deaf children, and many tests were also effective with signing deaf children. The authors suggest that interventions that address deaf children's key deficits of language and phonics could help improve their reading. However, there are currently no specific reading interventions for deaf children, and reading research typically excludes deaf children. Appropriate, tailored support is urgently needed to prevent such children unnecessarily falling behind their peers.

Dr Ros Herman, Reader in Deafness and Communication at City, University of London and a co-author of the report, said:

"Our research findings highlight the scale of reading difficulties among deaf children and the different profiles of struggling deaf readers. The fact that some children were reading at age level shows that poor reading is not an inevitable outcome.

"All the children in our study were in their last year of primary school. Many are clearly ill prepared for the challenges of secondary education and are in urgent need of support to develop their literacy. Our findings suggest that these children will benefit from the specialist literacy interventions currently offered to hearing children with dyslexia, and in addition, deaf children require ongoing support to develop the skills that underlie literacy.

"Earlier identification of deafness and advances in hearing aids and cochlear implants have undoubtedly improved the outlook for deaf children, but as more deaf children than previously have excellent speech and now attend mainstream education, there is a danger that teachers may overlook their need for support.

"More research is essential to identify effective reading interventions that address these issues so that teachers can provide the vital support needed to prevent deaf children from unnecessarily falling behind their peers."

Explore further: Study raises expectations for improved language skills in the deaf and hard-of-hearing

More information: Reading and Dyslexia in Deaf Children: www.city.ac.uk/__data/assets/p … -Kyle-2017-FINAL.pdf

Related Stories

Study raises expectations for improved language skills in the deaf and hard-of-hearing

September 25, 2017
Universal screening of newborns for hearing loss before they leave the hospital is not enough to improve language skills of children who are deaf and hard of hearing, according to a new study.

Screen children with reading difficulties for hearing problems, says report

October 6, 2017
Children with reading difficulties should be more thoroughly screened for hearing problems, a new report by Coventry University academics has said.

Early exposure to language for deaf children

June 5, 2012
(Medical Xpress) -- Most agree that the earlier you expose a child to a language, the easier it is for that child to pick it up. The same rules apply for deaf children.

Diagnosing deafness early will help teenagers' reading development

November 25, 2014
Deaf teenagers have better reading skills if they were identified as deaf by the time they were nine months old, research from the University of Southampton has shown.

Study of cognitive development in deaf children revisits longstanding debate

February 13, 2016
A team of researchers at the University of Connecticut is reexamining a decades-long debate as to whether deaf children should learn sign language to maximize their potential for optimal development.

Recommended for you

Neuroscientists use magnetic stimulation to amplify PTSD therapy

April 19, 2018
Researchers from The University of Texas at Dallas have found that a standard therapy for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is more effective when paired with transcranial magnetic stimulation of the brain.

Research reveals stronger people have healthier brains

April 19, 2018
A study of nearly half a million people has revealed that muscular strength, measured by handgrip, is an indication of how healthy our brains are.

Overcoming bias about music takes work

April 18, 2018
Expectations and biases play a large role in our experiences. This has been demonstrated in studies involving art, wine and even soda. In 2007, Joshua Bell, an internationally acclaimed musician, illustrated the role context ...

Study suggests we can recognize speakers only from how faces move when talking

April 18, 2018
Results of a new study by cognitive psychologist and speech scientist Alexandra Jesse and her linguistics undergraduate student Michael Bartoli at the University of Massachusetts Amherst should help to settle a long-standing ...

Scientists disconfirm belief that humans' physiological reaction to emotions are uniform

April 18, 2018
How do you feel when you're angry? Tense? Jittery? Exhausted? Is it the same every time? Is it identical to how your best friend, co-worker, or barista feel when they experience anger? In all likelihood the answer is no, ...

How mental health diagnosis should be more collaborative

April 18, 2018
Mental health diagnosis should be a collaborative and useful process, not a meaningless label - according to new research from Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust (NSFT) and the University of East Anglia.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.