Closing the gap in reading and writing skills of preschoolers with hearing loss

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This study compared 19 preschoolers with hearing loss (who used amplification and spoken language) to 14 hearing preschoolers, with the goal of measuring “…change across a 6-month period in emergent literacy skills…”.

The researchers identified a myriad of language, phonological, and print knowledge skill gaps for the preschoolers with hearing loss compared to hearing peers (exception: letter name/sound knowledge… yay alphabet time). However, the growth rate of these skills was similar between groups (e.g. morphosyntax and vocabulary grew at the same rate for both groups). The authors state, “Although children with hearing loss generally demonstrated positive change in emergent literacy skills, their initial performance was lower than that of children with normal hearing, and rates of change were not sufficient to catch up to their peers over time.” Note also that all the kids with hearing loss were receiving speech­–language services—meaning, out business-as-usual may not quite be enough to close the literacy gap for children with hearing loss.

Importantly, this study shows us which of the skills are most likely to be problematic in preschoolers with hearing loss— that is, phonological awareness and print concepts (as tested in the Preschool Print and Word Awareness Test). The authors suggest, “Treatment plans should be developed with these particular difficulties in mind, devoting sufficient resources to scaffold these skills in particular.” And this statement is based on not only their study results, but previous studies as well (see article for review). Nonetheless, this isn’t a treatment study. And we definitely need more treatment studies in order to truly guide us in what needs done for preschoolers with hearing loss in order to efficiently close the literacy gap.

Werfel, K.L. (2017). Emergent Literacy Skills in Preschool Children With Hearing Loss Who Use Spoken Language: Initial Findings From the Early Language and Literacy Acquisition (ELLA) Study. Language, Speech, and Hearing Services in Schools, 48, 249–259.