Center Papers

Fingerspelling As A Phonological Code For Deaf And Hard-of-hearing Students

Schwartz, L., Schick, B., Whitney, A., Coady, J. (November, 2011). Fingerspelling as a phonological code for deaf and hard-of-hearing students. American Speech Language & Hearing Association, San Diego, CA.

Explored the relationship between fingerspelling and phonological awareness (PA) to look at the word internal knowledge of DHH students and their ability to manipulate the phonemic components of language through fingerspelling. Further analysis assessed relationships with vocabulary and reading. The Phonological Awareness Test for Deaf and Hard of Hearing (PAT-DHH) was developed for the present investigation, and includes subtests in alliteration, rhyming, elision, and blending words; each in fingerspelling and spoken conditions. Participants were 10 DHH students (kindergarten through fourth grade) attending bilingual educational programs for DHH students. Results confirmed that children are able to demonstrate PA skills in fingerspelling and that they use both "sounding out" as well as "fingerspelling out" strategies. The measure of ASL vocabulary correlated significantly with explicit PA in fingerspelling, but not with the other PA constructs in fingerspelling. Both fingerspelling ability and PA in the fingerspelled condition were predictors of reading ability; however PA in the fingerspelled condition was the stronger predictor of the two, predicting 20% of the variance of reading achievement. This has important implications for the role of fingerspelling in the clinic and classroom settings and in how we teach children to read.