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Developing Sound Skills for Reading: Teaching Phonological Awareness to Preschoolers with Hearing Loss

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                                                              Developing Sound Skills for Reading: Teaching Phonological Awareness to Preschoolers with Hearing Loss
 
Jodie Belshaw and Megan Gilliver


This article is a pertinent follow up from Dr Breda Carty’s “Signing Deaf Children and Phonological Awareness” article published in the December 2014 VDEI newsletter. 
This article describes an intervention being run by the National Acoustics Laboratory (NAL), the research arm of Australian Hearing, designed to teach English-speaking preschoolers phonological awareness skills. The study is supported by the VDEI’s annual competitive open sector research grant scheme. The findings from the project will be used to learn more about the best ways to help children with hearing loss learn to read.  

Background
Learning to read is an important skill for all children. Historically, it is a skill which is more difficult for children who are deaf or hard of hearing to learn (Harris & Terlektsi, 2011; Kyle & Harris, 2010; Traxler, 2000). Poorer phonological skills, processing difficulties and weak oral language have all been suggested as underlying causes for the deficit (Mayberry, del Giudice, & Lieberman, 2010). Phonological Awareness (PA) is linked to early reading skills ( Frost, Madsbjerg, Niedersøe, Olofsson, & Sørensen, 2005; Storch & Whitehurst, 2002). PA includes the ability to match sounds (e.g. matching words which start with the same sound like ‘mouse’ and ‘man’) and to blend sound units (e.g. blending 'c-a-t' to make ‘cat’).  For ‘at-risk’ readers, many believe explicit PA instruction is instrumental in improving reading outcomes (Cavanaugh, Kim, Wanzek, & Vaughn, 2004). Children who are deaf or hard of hearing typically struggle with PA skills, but little is known about the benefits of explicit PA instruction within this group.

NAL has been carrying out research on the effectiveness of explicit PA intervention for children who are deaf or hard of hearing with promising results. Children participating in the explicit instruction program have shown greater improvements in their PA skills than those not receiving this instruction.  However, the project thus far has focussed on intervention provided with the assistance of trained speech professionals. The next step in this research is investigating the effectiveness of the same type of intervention within the home environment.

Current study
NAL, in conjunction with Macquarie University and the VDEI, are commencing a parent-led Literacy Intervention Study. The study is being conducted by Jodie Belshaw (Research Speech Pathologist) as part of research being carried out by Dr Megan Gilliver (Project Leader) at NAL.  The study focuses on children with a bilateral hearing loss, aged between 4-5 years who have not yet started school. The program consists of a 4 week home-based intervention using fun and interactive apps which teach pre-reading skills (e.g. rhyming, sound blending etc.) NAL will loan families a tablet computer with apps to use at home for the duration of the intervention. Parents will be given suggestions and training of how to use the tablet with their child – but have the freedom to decide how and when to work through the games.  Results of the study will provide more information about the PA development of children who are deaf or hard of hearing and how we can best support parents to assist their children learn this important skill.
 
Recruitment is now underway for this new and novel study. Children participating in the study will receive assessments by a qualified Speech Pathologist before and after participating in the program. Participation is free, as are any speech and language reports resulting from the program.
 
Registering interest in the study
Interested parents can let us know in two ways of their wish to be involved in the study:
 
1.    Talk to us:  Contact Jodie on 03 8325 9040 for more information.

2.    Mail/email us for more information about the project on jodie.belshaw@hearing.com.au


References

Cavanaugh, C. L., Kim, A., Wanzek, J., & Vaughn, S. (2004). Kindergarten reading interventions for at-risk students: Twenty years of research. Learning Disabilities: A Contemporary Journal, 2(1), 9–21.
Frost, J., Madsbjerg, S., Niedersøe, J., Olofsson, Å. ̊, & Sørensen, P. M. (2005). Semantic and phonological skills in predicting reading development: From 3-16 years of age. Dyslexia, 11(2), 79–92. doi:10.1002/dys.292
Harris, M., & Terlektsi, E. (2011). Reading and spelling abilities of deaf adolescents with cochlear implants and hearing AIDS. Journal of Deaf Studies and Deaf Education, 16(1), 24–34. doi:10.1093/deafed/enq031
Kyle, F. E., & Harris, M. (2010). Predictors of reading development in deaf children: a 3-year longitudinal study. Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, 107(3), 229–43. doi:10.1016/j.jecp.2010.04.011
Traxler, C. B. (2000). The Stanford Achievement Test (9th ed): National norming and performance standards for deaf and hard-of-hearing students. Journal of Deaf Studies and Deaf Education, 5(4), 337–348. doi:10.1093/deafed/5.4.337
Mayberry, R. I., del Giudice, A. A., & Lieberman, A. M. (2010). Reading achievement in relation to phonological coding and awareness in deaf readers: A meta-analysis. Journal of Deaf Studies and Deaf Education, 16 (2), 164-188
Storch, S. A., & Whitehurst, G. J. (2002). Oral language and code-related precursors to reading: evidence from a longitudinal structural model. Developmental Psychology, 38(6), 934–947. doi:10.1037/0012-1649.38.6.934
Traxler, C. B. (2000). The Stanford Achievement Test (9th ed.): National norming and performance standards for deaf and hard-of-hearing students. Journal of Deaf Studies and Deaf Education, 5(4), 337–348. doi:10.1093/deafed/5.4.337
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