Literacy sets the foundation for all knowledge. If a child cannot learn to read and write, he will undoubtedly struggle in the academic world and in everyday life. Unfortunately, individuals who are deaf and hard of hearing (D/HH) typically have great difficulty developing full literacy. This is evidenced by the fact that by graduation, most D/HH students display reading levels five years below what is expected for their age (Kyle & Harris, 2006). Deaf and hard of hearing students also exhibit delays in written language. For example, D/HH students generally use fewer words and less descriptive details than their hearing peers. Additionally, D/HH individuals tend to exhibit frequent grammatical errors in their writing (Easterbrooks & Stoner, 2006; Wolbers, Dostal, & Bowers, 2011).
Barbara Schimer states that D/HH individuals have the same capacity to develop reading and writing skills as their hearing peers (2001). However, D/HH children experience barriers in literacy development that are typically not present for hearing individuals. Thus, the rate at which D/HH children develop literacy is delayed. Many researchers indicate that literacy develops secondary to the acquisition and mastery of a spoken or signed language. Unfortunately, many D/HH children enter school without a “true” language. As a result, these children are forced to learn a language while simultaneously learning to read and write (Narr & Cawthon, 2010). This causes an early delay in literacy development that is hard to recover from.
Early amplification and speech and language therapy is essential to helping D/HH children develop this “true” language and to prepare them for a successful academic career. Unfortunately, hearing aids are quite expensive and are not covered under most private insurance plans. This may lead to delays in the proper amplification or children using outdated devices that may not be as beneficial to their growth and development. It is imperative that D/HH children are given every opportunity to develop language and literacy skills alongside their normal hearing peers. In order to do this, we must have hearing aid coverage for D/HH children in the state of Florida. This is the third year legislation has been introduced in both the Florida Senate and Florida House that would require third party insurance companies to cover the cost of hearing aids for children. To learn more about these bills, visit https://www.flsenate.gov/Session/Bill/2020/1006
Florida Academy of Audiology Student Member
Audiology Doctoral Student at University of South Florida
Easterbrooks, S. R. and Stoner, M. (2006). Using a Visual Tool to Increase Adjectives in the Written Language of Students Who are Deaf or Hard of Hearing. Communication Disorders Daily, 27(2), 95-109.
Kyle, F. E. and Harris, M. (2006). Concurrent correlates and predictors of reading and spelling achievement in deaf and hearing school children. Journal of Deaf Studies and Deaf Education, 11(3), 273-288. doi: 10.1093/deafed/enj037.
Narr, R. F. and Cawthon, S. W. (2010). The “Wh” questions of Visual Phonics: What, who, where, when, why. Journal of Deaf Studies and Deaf Education, 16(1), 66-78. doi: 10.1093/deafed/enq038.
Wolbers, K. A., Dostal, H. M., Bowers, L. M. (2011). ‘‘I was born full deaf.’’ Written language outcomes after 1year of strategic and interactive writing instruction. Journal of Deaf Studies and Deaf Education, 17(1), 19-38. doi: 10.1093/deafed/enr018.
Schirmer, B. R. (2000). Language and literacy development in children who are deaf (2nd ed.). Boston, MA: Allyn and Bacon.