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The present study was conducted to investigate the relationship between American Sign Language (ASL) phonological awareness skills and English reading abilities in both DOD (ASL Early Learners) and DOH (ASL Later-Learners) school-age children. This study evaluated subjects' ASL phonological awareness skills as measured by the ASL Phonological Awareness Test (ASL PAT; McQuarrie and Abbot 2013) and compared those scores to performances on the Test of Early Reading Ability for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing (TERA D-HH; Reid et al. 1991), a standardized test normed on children who are hard of hearing or deaf, and to the Measures of Academic Progress (MAP). Previous research has suggested that Deaf children with Deaf parents (DOD) tend to have stronger English literacy skills than deaf children with hearing parents (DOH), suggesting that early and strong foundational ASL skills may enhance the development of English reading proficiency for Deaf children using ASL as their primary language (Hermans et al. 2008; McQuarrie and Abbot 2013).
Both ASL Early Learners and Later-Learners underwent ASL PAT, TERA-DHH, and MAP reading comprehension testing. All participants were tested using the Test of Nonverbal Intelligence (TONI-4) using nonverbal IQ as inclusionary criteria. Parents completed a demographic questionnaire to determine parental hearing status and the age the child was first exposed to ASL.
Positive correlations between all test scores (ASL PAT, TERADHH, and MAP) were found for the ASL Early-Exposure Group. For the ASL Early-Exposure Group, a moderately strong positive correlation (** p ≤ .01) was found between the MAP Reading Assessment and the ASL PAT scores, and a mildly significant correlation between TERA-DDH and ASL PAT scores (**p ≤ .05). No positive correlations were observed for the ASL Later-Learner group on these measures.
ASL Early-Exposure children (DOD) had overall stronger English literacy skills than ASL Later-Learner children (DOH). Prior studies have established that having a strong foundation in one oral language will help in the development of a second oral language. However, research is now suggesting that this phenomenon can be cross-modal (sign language to oral language) in nature. Future studies with larger numbers of children in the ASL Later-Learner group are needed to further examine the relationship between ASL phonological awareness and English literacy skills.