Academic journal article Journal of Visual Impairment & Blindness

The Emergent Literacy of Preschool Students Who Are Deaf-Blind: A Case Study

Academic journal article Journal of Visual Impairment & Blindness

The Emergent Literacy of Preschool Students Who Are Deaf-Blind: A Case Study

Article excerpt

The No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 (NCLB) signals the federal government's strong belief in the value of literacy. A concentrated focus on literacy can be found in the Reading First subpart, which is considered by the U.S. Department of Education to be the "academic cornerstone" of NCLB. Reading First proposes that through the use of scientifically based research, teachers will be able to implement instruction that ensures that all children will be able to read by the end of third grade, regardless of their disability.

Before they are literate, children progress through the emergent phase of literacy development. Emergent literacy is the process of awareness of reading and writing that begins at birth and ends when children begin to engage in conventional reading and writing; it is assumed by educators that the development of literacy begins long before formal literacy instruction (Sulzby & Teale, 1991). The areas of environment, teaching strategies and activities, and the role of the teacher are of particular interest in research on emergent literacy.

Environments that encourage growth in emergent literacy are both rich in print (Miller, 2000) and organized into "centers" or educational learning areas (Genisio & Drecktrah, 1999). The strategies and activities that are used in the classroom are another important factor in promoting the development of emergent literacy (Miller, 2000). In addition, the teacher's roles of "observing, assessing, planning, modeling, setting up a supportive environment ... or directly instructing" (Soderman, Gregory, & O'Neill, 1999, p. 67) are essential. The importance of these three areas has been supported by research on the emergent literacy of students with disabilities (Justice & Pullen, 2003).

The incomplete or distorted information that students who are deaf-blind receive from vision and hearing has the potential to have profound effects on the students' overall development (Prickett & Welch, 1995), thus making it necessary to consider a broader definition of literacy. In defining literacy, Holbrook, Koenig, and Smith (1996, p. 171) included the ability to "access information and to communicate thoughts and ideas to others." Langley (2000, p. 323) stated that "literacy is communication especially when the concepts and issues are applied to students with visual impairments and additional disabilities." Yanden, Rowe, and MacGillivray (1999) recommended that researchers and educators consider both linguistic and nonlinguistic communication as important in the acquisition of literacy.

A review of the literature yielded no research on emergent literacy for students who are deaf-blind. Although some articles were found that related to emergent literacy in students with visual impairments and hearing impairments, no peer-reviewed articles addressing deaf-blindness and literacy were found, and only one DB-Link fact sheet on literacy was located (Miles, 2000).

METHOD

Participants and settings

The case study reported here was conducted at a school for students who are blind that is not named to protect its anonymity. The study was conducted in the school's program for preschool-age students who are deaf-blind, which was made up of two classes in one classroom. One class was composed of younger preschool students (the "preschool group"), and the other was composed of older preschool students (the "transition group"). Before the data were collected, the study was approved by the Texas Tech University Institutional Review Board. Informed consent was obtained from the teachers and the students' parents.

Students. Three of the six preschool students were eligible for special education services as students who are deaf-blind, as defined by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act of 2004--a criterion of the study. Cameron was in the preschool group, and Jack and Katie were in the transition group (all the names are pseudonyms). …

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