University of Edinburgh

Language and Deaf Education: Into the 21st Century

March, 2006

Connie Mayer -

What Really Matters in the Early Language and Literacy Development of D/HH Children?


With much earlier identification of hearing loss come expectations that increasing numbers of Deaf and Hard of Hearing (D/HH) children will develop language and literacy abilities that are comparable with their hearing age peers. As children’s language experiences in the early years are critical for future success in learning to read and write, it is timely that we revisit our understandings of what constitutes and is fundamental for the early literacy development of D/HH children. What are the necessary foundational understandings about the uses of text, the strategies for comprehension, and the rudiments of how an alphabetic writing system works that must be acquired during these years? What are the relationships between face to face language (spoken or signed) that must be made if a child is to learn to read and write fluently? Using examples from children’s work, we will consider these questions, and discuss the potential implications for rethinking “what matters” in early intervention programmes and in the classroom.