HEARING-LOSS AND EARLY LITERACY DEVELOPMENT: EXPLORING THE ROLE OF LINGUISTIC SKILLS AND SUPPORT PROGRAMS THAT CAN BENEFIT DHH CHILDREN
University of the Free State, Faculty of Humanities (SOUTH AFRICA)
About this paper:
Conference name: 13th International Conference on Education and New Learning Technologies
Dates: 5-6 July, 2021
Location: Online Conference
Abstract:The majority of Deaf-and-hard-of hearing (DHH) individuals lose their hearing in the first year of their life. Moreover, 90% of DHH children are born into hearing families with hearing parents who do not have any sign language experience. This has far-reaching complications for the majority of deaf children in developing countries. South Africa, as a developing country, is experiencing a devastating economic decrease. Consequently, this means that our government cannot provide essential medical services and resources to support our nation's children effectively. Standard medical testing on infants are thus not prioritized, one of which is hearing tests (i.e. early newborn screening). In practice, this implies that in South Africa, the average DHH child born with hearing loss is only diagnosed by the age of eighteen months.
Emanating from the above, several studies have demonstrated that most DHH individuals have low literacy skills when leaving school. Taking the fact of late diagnosis into account, it is not surprising that DHH children will have literacy difficulties/delays. This theoretical paper aims to investigate the following aims: to determine the developmental delays and literacy difficulties caused by inadequate language exposure during the so-called critical period of language acquisition (i.e. during the initial years of development). Firstly, we will define the different categories of hearing loss and discuss the causes thereof. Secondly, this paper will identify critical linguistic skills and the role these skills play in early literacy development. Thirdly, this theoretical paper will explore language intervention options / or programs that can help improve the language and literacy development of deaf-and-hard hearing (DHH) infants. These inter alia include: Intervention programs that utilize a Sign language as an intervention strategy, the “chaining method” and the utilization of visual processing strategies.
Keywords: Deaf-and-hard-of-hearing (DHH) children, hearing-loss, early language exposure, Sign Language, linguistic skills, literacy development.