Reading Strategies For Students Who Are Deaf Or Hard Of Hearing

Deaf School boys sign to the teacher each other in School class room
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Suzanne Raschke is a Teacher Consultant for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing at MCESA (Midland County Educational Service Agency) in Midland, Michigan. 

Many of our fellow professionals are challenged with finding a literacy program to match their students’ needs.

Reading Programs

Educators are continually searching for the right reading curriculum to assist students who are deaf or hard of hearing. Whether the DHH student with reading deficits is in a DHH classroom or general education setting, it is still the goal of the educator to improve/remediate reading skills as effectively and quickly as possible. Educators know that the reading program should be evidenced based and supported by empirical research. And yet, it is not easy to match the few DHH specific programs fitting those guidelines with the needs of the individual student. Thus continues the exhausting search.

Did You Say Phonemic Awareness for Deaf and Hard of Hearing?

Within the components of the reading instruction set by the National Reading Panel is the fascinating but perplexing skill of phonemic awareness. How does a student who is deaf or hard of hearing function with regards to phonemic awareness/phonological development? How do we teach that? Do we omit the component that is said to be the biggest predictor of good readers? Do poor phonological skills and poor language skills lead to poor reading skills? How do we find a program to support those needs for our students who are deaf or hard of hearing?

Using Dyslexia Strategies

Found within the following article are some effective strategies that might offer direction in our search for strategies in dealing with reading challenges of students who are deaf or hard of hearing. The researchers investigated 79 students who were deaf using oral communication and 20 hearing students with dyslexia to determine if they both demonstrated similar difficulty with phonological skills. Their findings offer possible resolutions.

The Nuffield Foundation’s research, Reading and Dyslexia in Deaf Children offers a comparison of hearing dyslexic children and oral deaf children. The authors, Herman, Roy & Kyle, concluded that children who were deaf and using oral communication with poor language and phonological skills had the same deficits as those found in hearing children with dyslexia. Should both groups receive the same specialized intervention strategies? Their findings suggest that the specialized strategies available to hearing students with dyslexia should also be made available to children who are deaf and using oral communication with poor reading and language performance.

Students with dyslexia have normal intelligence but demonstrate poor reading/literacy skills. Assessments usually profile the major components of oral and written language such as phonological skills, decoding skills, non-verbal skills, expressive/receptive vocabulary skills, etc.

According to The International Dyslexic Association, the individualized, or group intervention, instructional strategies used to remediate the above components with students who are dyslexic are typical:

  • Systematic
  • Cumulative
  • Explicit
  • Multi-sensory

The strategies should seamlessly integrate letter sound recognition, phonics, fluency, memory recall, vocabulary building, comprehension, along with grammar and syntax.

Some available methods you might recognize: (more in the Resources below)

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