Academic journal article American Annals of the Deaf

Social-Emotional Functioning of Elementary-Age Deaf Children: A Profile Analysis

Academic journal article American Annals of the Deaf

Social-Emotional Functioning of Elementary-Age Deaf Children: A Profile Analysis

Article excerpt

DISCUSSION AND STUDY of the social-emotional development of deaf and hard of hearing children, though extensive, has yet to provide an accurate understanding of the differences between deaf and hearing children. Consequently, the goal of the researchers was to conduct a profile analysis to determine similarities and differences between the two groups. The sample consisted of 20 hearing and 20 deaf children ages 8-11 years. All of the deaf children were enrolled in a Simultaneous Communication magnet program. Significant differences were found in two areas: school interest and on-task behavior. Overall, however, data from the study showed few differences between hearing and deaf children. The researchers recommend that current interventions be reconsidered on the basis of these results.

A common assumption among educators is that deaf children struggle with social and emotional developmental issues. Consequently, interventions in the school system to help support these children's development are also common. However, research gauging the impact of hearing loss on social-emotional development has had mixed results (Calderon, 2000; Edmundson, 2006; Lederberg, 1991; Martin & BatChava, 2003; Matson, Macklin, & Helsel, 1985; Polat, 2003; Rachford & Furth, 1986; Vandell & George, 1981; Weisel & Bar-Lev, 1992). This makes it difficult to use research to drive intervention development choices. As a result, support and interventions are at best haphazard and may be unnecessary or ill focused. Thus, the purpose of the present study was to more clearly describe the social-emotional development of deaf children who use Simultaneous Communication (SimCom). We hope that a better understanding will help educators develop more targeted and effective interventions for this population.

Theoretical Basis: Bandura's Social Learning Theory

Social Learning Theory (SLT), formulated by Albert Bandura (1974, 1977), states that by observing others' actions and the consequences of their behavior, individuals can not only learn how to act in various situations but can also evaluate the impact of those actions. In other words, people are able to learn and consequently to refine their own actions through observations of others. More specifically, Bandura notes four component processes:

1. Attention regulates sensory input and perception of others' behaviors.

2. Coding and rehearsal help individuals assimilate and store information in long-term memory.

3. Motor imitation helps refine the behavior and develop new patterns.

4. The consequences or rewards observed in others help determine if the individual will imitate or eliminate the observed actions.

However, Bandura also notes that an individual's capacity for this type of learning can be hindered by atten-tional deficits. Stated another way, individuals whose attention is reduced, compromised, or distracted may not be able to learn as quickly or effectively as individuals who are better able to fully attend to surrounding stimuli (Crain,1992, citing Bandura, 1977). For deaf children, the constant strain put on working memory as they visually observe both auditory and behavioral cues may result in reduced attention and, ultimately, a less efficient social learning process. Thus, the lack of auditory cues may prevent deaf children from attending to a full range of imitative behavior (Crain, 1992, citing Bandura, 1971, 1974). Consequently, their social and emotional development may be slowed.

For example, a deaf child who uses sign language to communicate and is sitting in a classroom must not only pay attention to a teacher's signing, but also follow along with whatever is written on the board, on his or her paper, and in his or her book, as well as deal with all the other distractions that may be occurring in the immediate environment. It is impossible to observe and attend to all these stimuli at once. Thus, the child will inevitably miss something. …

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