Learning to read is a complex process that is a fundamental skill essential for life in the 21st century. Historically, the reading comprehension skills of many deaf and hard-of-hearing (DHH) children have lagged significantly behind typically hearing children of the same age. In recent years, advances in hearing assistive devices, the introduction of newborn hearing screening, and earlier fitting of appropriate devices leading to earlier intervention have impacted positively on the language and reading comprehension skills of DHH children. Many DHH children, however, still do not develop reading comprehension skills commensurate with their peers. While much is known about how children learn to read, research continues to advance the understanding of these complex and nuanced skills. Recent research supports the inference that Theory of Mind (ToM) skills contribute to reading comprehension development in DHH children. This research emphasizes the interplay between ToM skills and the ability to understand emotional state terms and mental state words, as well as answer “why” questions. Interventions designed to develop ToM skills have been useful in supporting the development of DHH children’s ToM and reading comprehension skills, and this has implications for teachers. Some simple to implement strategies that may contribute to the development of ToM skills in DHH children include the use of “why” questions and the integration of emotional state terms and mental state words into the student’s program. The paucity of research regarding the interplay between ToM and reading comprehension, however, highlights the warrant for further research in this area.
Kaye Scott and Louise Paatsch
Greg Leigh and Kathryn Crowe
The question of how best to teach learners who are deaf or hard of hearing (DHH) is perhaps the oldest topic in any area of education for children with diverse learning needs. Developments in a number of fields have accounted for more DHH learners achieving educational outcomes commensurate with their hearing-age peers than at any point in that long history. Efforts to further develop and implement effective educational practices with these learners continue, with an abundance of interventions proposed in the literature and in practice. Despite this, evidence for their efficacy remains limited. Such evidence as there is tends to be drawn from observations of professional practice and not always from the outcomes of high-quality research. This is not to say that a lack of research evidence for a particular educational practice means that it is necessarily ineffective or should not be used. Rather, it is to acknowledge the preeminence of quality research outcomes as the cornerstone of an evidence-base for educational practice with DHH learners while recognizing that contributions can come from two other sources: the expertise and experiences of professionals involved in the education of DHH learners in educational settings, and the views and preferences of DHH learners and their families about how the best educational outcomes can be achieved. The vast majority of DHH learners are educated in regular classrooms alongside their hearing peers, including a significant minority whose primary or preferred language is a signed language. Questions of how best to facilitate access to regular classrooms for those DHH learners are inextricably linked to issues in three areas: (a) communication, language, and literacy; (b) classroom access; and (c) pedagogical practices and other educational supports. The first area covers the unique set of challenges that relate to DHH learners acquiring a language (i.e., whether that be spoken or signed) and how best to support their ongoing development and use of their communication, language, and literacy skills in the classroom. The other two sets of issues, relate to the difficulties that are typically encountered by DHH learners in gaining access to the regular classroom curriculum through their preferred language and mode of communication (i.e., how best to access the auditory and visual environment of the classroom on an equitable basis with their hearing peers), and how best to support that access through instructional techniques and/or specialist support services. In all three areas there remains the challenge of assembling an evidence base for practice from quality research evidence.