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University of Edinburgh

Outcomes for Children who are Deaf or Hearing Impaired: Understanding language & literacy challenges - issues in access, assessment, and intervention

Presented on Friday, 23rd June 2017


Children with hearing loss (particularly those with severe to profound loss) have better opportunities for developmental and academic outcomes than at any time in the history of educational intervention for this group. In particular, average language and literacy levels for deaf children continue to rise. Nevertheless, there continues to be high levels of variability among linguistic, literacy, and academic outcomes for deaf and hard of hearing children. Notably, there continues to be a higher incidence of literacy difficulties than among the broader population of learners.

This series of presentations covered a range of issues associated with the current educational situation for deaf and hard of hearing learners. Specifically, topics included:

  • The impact of earlier identification and intervention for deaf and hard of hearing learners. The presentation referenced outcomes of research including the Long Term Outcomes for Children with Hearing Impairment (LOCHI) Study in Australia and a review of international literature relating to earlier identification and intervention - particularly earlier access to cochlear implant technology and related research into literacy development and outcomes. The evidence for the continuing diversity of outcomes associated with early intervention and later educational practices was considered from the perspective of literacy.
  • Models of reading development and intervention to argue for the appropriateness of adopting an "interactive model". This included examination of the factors that may account for differential outcomes among deaf and hard of hearing readers. It was suggested that the issue of language proficiency - defined as the ability to control "decontextualised" or "academic" language as opposed to merely having well developed basic interpersonal communication skills - is a highly significant factor in accounting for reading difficulties in deaf learners. Implications for practice were considered.
  • Issues in the teaching of literacy were considered, particularly in the critical area of vocabulary development. Specifically, the workshop considered specific issues in vocabulary acquisition - developing and sustaining vocabulary development across the curriculum.


Target Audience

Teachers of the Deaf and other professionals working with children who are deaf.


Greg LeighProfessor Greg Leigh, AO, PhD, FACE, Conjoint Professor and Director, RIDBC Renwick Centre, Royal Institute for Deaf and Blind Children, NSW Australia.

Professor Leigh has had a distinguished career in special education and other and service delivery for children who are deaf or hearing impaired and has published widely in this field. He is a member of the Editorial Boards of Deafness and Education International (UK), The Journal of Deaf Studies and Deaf Education (USA) and Phonetics and Speech Sciences (Korea). He serves, or has served, on numerous Australian government consultative committees on issues related to deafness including the Working Group on Neonatal Newborn Hearing Screening (Australian Health Minister’s Advisory Council), and the Ministerial Standing Committee on Hearing (NSW Department of Health). Since 2005, he has been Chair of the Australasian Newborn Hearing Screening Committee. He is a former National President of the Education Commission for the World Congress of the World Federation of the Deaf and is currently Co-chair of the International Steering Committee of the International Congress on Education of the Deaf (ICED) and Chair of the International Committee of the Asia-Pacific Congress on Deafness (APCD). He has held invited positions as a Visiting Fellow at Griffith University, Queensland, and the National Technical Institute for the Deaf (Rochester Institute of Technology), New York, USA.
In 1999 Professor Leigh was admitted to the rank of Fellow of the Australian College of Educators and in 2011 he was the recipient of the Deafness Foundation’s Peter Howson Medal for outstanding lifetime contribution to the field of education for deaf and hearing impaired people in Australia. In 2011 he became the Inaugural Recipient of the Griffith University Arts, Education and Law Alumnus of the Year Award. In 2014 he was invested as an Officer in the Order of Australia for distinguished service to the deaf and hard of hearing community, through education, research, public policy development, and specialist services.


10.15 am Background and context. Who are the learners and what are their literacy requirements?

11.15 am Some perspectives on the reading process-developing a working model for literacy development and intervention with deaf and hard of hearing readers.

1.00 pm Language skills, phonological encoding, and vocabulary. Are there capacity constraints to alternative processing theories for deaf learners?

1.45 pm Specific issues in language development and vocabulary acquisition. Considering outcomes.

2.30 pm Developing and sustaining vocabulary development across the curriculum. Making vocabulary acquisition strategies engaging and productive.