What the Research Shows: Siblings, Reading Comprehension and Speech Evaluation

By Felzien, Melody | Volta Voices, September/October 2008 | Go to article overview
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What the Research Shows: Siblings, Reading Comprehension and Speech Evaluation


Felzien, Melody, Volta Voices


For over 100 years, researchers have explored questions about hearing loss and intervention and published their findings in The Volta Review, a scholarly journal founded by Alexander Graham Bell to provide professionals with information about how hearing technology, health care, early intervention and education contribute to speech and language development.

Because best practices now focus on family-centered intervention, parents increasingly need access to research in order to make informed decisions about the health care and education options available to their children. With busy professionals and parents in mind, AG Bell is continuing an ongoing article series that highlights research published in The Volta Review.

The Well-Being of Older Siblings

Parents often have their hands full when raising more than one child at a time. This is heightened when one of those children has unique needs, such as a child with hearing loss. Sometimes, the needs of the siblings of the child can be overlooked while parents focus on the needs of the other child. Siblings are just as deeply impacted by the new family dynamic, but are often expected to seamlessly adapt to the new situation. "The Emotional Well-Being of Older Siblings of Children Who Are Deaf or Hard of Hearing and Older Siblings of Children with Typical Hearing" by Renuka Sundaram Raghuraman (2008) compares the emotional and behavioral patterns of older siblings of children who are deaf or hard of hearing to older siblings of children with typical hearing.

Older siblings are often expected to take on more maternal roles when a younger sibling is introduced into the family dynamic. Parents rely on the older sibling to help around the house and with the care of the new child. Previous research has focused on the negative consequences of having a sibling with a disability. For instance, siblings of children with disabilities may experience more negative emotions towards the younger sibling than siblings of children with no disabilities, may feel guilty for being "normal" or responsible for causing the disability, or may worry about "catching" the disability. However, recent studies indicate siblings of children with a disability are well-adjusted, demonstrate maturity and have a heightened sense of responsibility for their age (Crnic S. Leconte, 1986; Dyson et al., 1989; McHaIe et al., 1986). This may be why many of these children go on to choose humanitarian professions (McHaIe & Gamble, 1989).

Very few studies have addressed the emotional impact of having a sibling with a hearing loss on other siblings. To further understand this type of sibling relationship, Raghuraman interviewed two groups of families, one group with a younger child with a hearing loss and one group with a younger child without a hearing loss. Both the parent (usually the mother) and the older sibling were asked to complete questionnaires on sibling perceptions and relationships.

The results revealed no significant differences between older siblings in the two groups on feelings of psychological well-being, parental attention and household responsibilities. The older siblings for both groups seem to follow the same pattern of positive and negative feelings toward the typical sibling relationship. The same holds true for most of the results from the parent questionnaires. However, there was a significant difference in perception between the parent and the older sibling of a child with hearing loss. In general, most parents believed that the older sibling had more concerns about having a sibling with a hearing loss than the child actually did. The lack of significant differences between the two groups of siblings suggests that older siblings of children who are deaf and hard of hearing experience the same spectrum of feelings toward a younger sibling as older siblings of children with typical hearing.

Reading Comprehension

The role of spoken language in the education of individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing is widely analyzed.

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