Academic journal article American Annals of the Deaf

The Role of Phonology and Phonologically Related Skills in Reading Instruction for Students Who Are Deaf or Hard of Hearing

Academic journal article American Annals of the Deaf

The Role of Phonology and Phonologically Related Skills in Reading Instruction for Students Who Are Deaf or Hard of Hearing

Article excerpt

THE ARTICLE challenges educators to rethink reading instruction practices for students who are deaf or hard of hearing. The authors begin with a discussion of the role of phonology in reading, then summarize the evidence of phonological coding among skilled deaf readers and investigate alternative routes for acquiring phonologically related skills such as the use of speechreading, articulatory feedback, Visual Phonics, and Cued Speech. Finally they present recent intervention studies and proposed procedures to employ phonics-based instruction with students who are deaf or hard of hearing. The authors conclude with the assertion that the teaching of phonologically related skills by means of instructional tools such as Visual Phonics and Cued Speech can and should be incorporated into reading instruction for students who are deaf or hard of hearing. The authors recommend additional research in this important area.

Nearly 20 years ago, Hanson (1989, p. 85) asked, "Is reading different for deaf individuals?" The answer to this ques- tion reflects perspectives on a myriad of issues facing educators of the deaf such as the definition of reading; pos- sible explanations for the reading diffi- culties experienced by students; the relationship between communication systems and reading development; the similarities and differences between the reading development of students who are deaf or hard of hearing and that of hearing students, particularly those learning English as a second lan- guage; and, finally, the application of mainstream theories and recom- mended instructional practice such as the findings of the National Reading Panel (2000).

Instead of an either-or (yes or no) answer, Hanson (1989) offered a dual (yes and no) response to the question. This answer illustrates the different language experiences deaf and hard of hearing readers bring to the task of reading as well as the similarities between better deaf and hard of hearing readers and better hearing readers in their understanding of the structure of English, particularly the abstract phonology of English. In the present article, we maintain that the dual nature of Hanson's answer is still applicable today, and that it supports the judicious use of mainstream theories and recommendations for literacy practice, especially those focused on the development of phonemic awareness and phonic skills.

Although we recognize the need to devote attention to the specific language issues of individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing, the primary purpose of the present article is to describe the role of phonology and phonologically related skills in reading and to review the evidence of phonological coding among readers who are deaf or hard of hearing. We also present and discuss alternative means of acquiring phonologically related skills such as speechreading and articulatory feedback, as well as manual coding systems such as Cued Speech and Visual Phonics. In addition, studies exploring the efficacy of these alternative methods in reading instruction are explored. We conclude with the assertion that phonologically based reading instruction for students who are deaf or hard of hearing is appropriate, and we advocate that educators rethink their current reading instruction practices and begin to incorporate these strategies into these practices. To provide further background to begin our discussion of these topics, we will first examine both the yes or no and yes and no responses to Hanson's (1989) question.

Is Reading Different for Deaf Individuals? Yes.

Those who espouse a predominately affirmative answer to Hanson's (1989) question generally claim that the reading acquisition process of individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing is so radically different that mainstream theories and practices should not, indeed cannot, be used. For example, those who would answer Hanson with a yes believe that because deaf readers are visual learners, the development and implementation of practices such as phonemic awareness activities and the use of phonics founded on research with hearing children are meaningless and inappropriate (see reviews in Musselman, 2000; Paul, 2003). …

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