Academic journal article American Annals of the Deaf

Single-Case Design Research on Early Literacy Skills of Learners Who Are d/Deaf and Hard of Hearing

Academic journal article American Annals of the Deaf

Single-Case Design Research on Early Literacy Skills of Learners Who Are d/Deaf and Hard of Hearing

Article excerpt


A major challenge for some learners who are d/Deaf and hard of hearing (d/Dhh) is the acquisition of language and literacy skills (Dyer, MacSweeney, Szczerbinski, Green, & Campbell, 2003). Learners who are d/Dhh are often diverse in their language-learning environments, complex needs, responses to amplification, family involvement, and need for educational accommodations. Despite earlier identification of hearing levels, access to early intervention services that include updated amplification technology (i.e., cochlear implants, hearing aids, assistive listening devices), and language acquisition via listening and spoken language and/or sign language, many learners who are d/Dhh lag behind their hearing peers in literacy skills (Antia, Jones, Reed, & Kreimeyer, 2009; Easterbrooks & Beal-Alvarez, 2012; Lederberg, Schick, & Spencer, 2013).

The period from birth to age 5 years is a critical time in terms of facilitating emergent literacy skills in children, regardless of their hearing status. The National Early Literacy Panel (NELP, 2000) identified key precursor literacy skills that predict later literacy achievement and have a more highly predictive variable than others (e.g., socioeconomic status, IQ). These precursor skills include (a) alphabet knowledge (knowledge of the names and sounds associated with printed letters); (b) phonological awareness (the ability to detect, manipulate, or analyze the auditory aspects of spoken language); (c) rapid automatic naming of letters, numbers, objects, and colors (the ability to rapidly name a sequence of random letters); (d) writing or writing a name (the ability to write letters in isolation on request or to write one's own name); and (e) phonological memory (the ability to remember spoken information over a short period).

Five early literacy skills were also associated with later literacy achievement, but did not provide as large a predictive factor as the precursor skills listed above: (a) concepts of print (knowledge of literacy conventions such as reading left to right or that books have a cover, title, author, etc.); (b) print knowledge (besides knowledge of print, includes early decoding and alphabet knowledge); (c) reading readiness (includes print knowledge, vocabulary, phonological awareness, memory, and alphabet knowledge); (d) oral language (comprehension and production of spoken language, including vocabulary and grammar); and (e) visual processing (matching or discriminating between visual symbols).

NELP (2000) also identified code-focused interventions (strategies that help children crack the alphabetic code, typically including phonological awareness) and language-enhancing interventions (ones that improve language development) as demonstrating positive effects on literacy skills in young children. The intervention studies included in the present review reflect an acknowledgment that learners who are d/Dhh may benefit from targeted instruction in these key precursor areas. However, the field of deaf education has yet to establish particular evidence-based early literacy practices.


An evidence-based practice is an approach that integrates current, high-quality research with professional expertise and the preferences of students and families in order to enable effective educational decisions (American Speech-Language-Hearing Association, 2005). Furthermore, Horner et al. (2005) state that evidence-based practices can be identified by using single-case design (SCD) research methodology if (a) the intervention is operationally defined; (b) the context of the intervention is defined; (c) the intervention is implemented with fidelity; (d) outcomes from the SCD document a functional relation between the intervention and the target behavior; and (e) the experimental effects are replicated across studies, participants, and researchers. …

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