This study examined the relationship between deaf preschoolers' language abilities and their play behavior. Twenty-nine deaf children aged three to five years were observed during outdoor free play throughout the school year. Their language abilities varied widely and did not correlate with age. On the basis of two language tests, they were divided into three language ability groups—high, middle, and low. Language ability was found to be related to several aspects of play and social interaction. The children with high language ability were more likely than the other children to play with two partners at the same time (i.e., engage in triadic interaction), to interact with teachers, to prefer to play with children of similar language ability, to use language, and to receive language from their partners. Most of these effects seemed to be due solely to differences between the children with high language ability and those in the other two groups. Children in the low and middle language ability groups behaved similarly. Language ability was not related to any other aspect of peer relations. Thus, the impact of language ability seems limited. These results, in conjunction with past research, suggest that, for the most part, deaf preschoolers' language and social skills develop independently from each other.


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pp. 53-59
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