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Introduction: The main problem being addressed in the study is that cochlear-implanted children are generally persuaded to focus on a spoken language to exclude sign language because of fears that early exposure to a full sign language, such as ASL, will obstruct the development of spoken English language skills. This problem is important because earlier studies only compare the English development of children raised with oral communication (OC) to those who use total communication (TC), not ASL. The goal of TC is that a deaf child should use some mixture of spoken language and signs, such as Signed Exact English (SEE) or Sign-Supported Speech. However, the signed input a deaf child sees while watching these mixed systems lacks important linguistic features of a sign language. Therefore, it is not shocking that cochlear-implanted children who receive this impoverished signed input are the ones who would develop weak language skills.
Methods and Results: Participants were 25 children: Five deaf cochlear implant users raised with full ASL exposure from birth by deaf signing parents (MAX (age: 6 years 4 months), PAM (age: 4 years 0 months), NIK (age: 5 years 5 months), FIN (age: 5 years 8 months), and GIA (age: 5 years 7 months)), and 20 hearing ASL/English bilingual children of deaf parents (kids of deaf adults or kodas; age range: 4 years 9 months – 8 years 2 months; age mean: 6 years 0 months). Even though Tests of English language and tests of ASL knowledge were also administered, the following standardized tests were the main focus of this study. The Preschool Language Scales (PLS) (the most comprehensive) measures general linguistic development (auditory communication and expressive communication) as young children (norms: English speakers up to age 7 years 11 months) points or verbally responds to pictures and compares scores for the ASL-exposed children with cochlear implants to the hearing kids of deaf adults in this study. The Expressive Vocabulary Test 2 (EVT-2; untimed but takes less than 15 min.) helps to compare the vocabulary of participants above age 2 with monolingual English peers and cochlear-implanted children with no sign language input and requires participants to provide names for pictures that are ordered developmentally. The Goldman-Fristoe Test of Articulation 2 (GFTA-2) is a measure that provides norms for children aged 2-21 on articulation, including sounds placed within words (the children’s expressive phonological development). The Dynamic Indicators of Basic Early Literacy Skills (DIBELS) Initial Sound Fluency Test measures children’s metalinguistic phonological abilities at the Kindergarten level, section 2, in which contained 16 test items, divided into 4 blocks. Each block introduced 4 items and asked the child while pointing to pictures, which begins with a particular initial sound. The Index of Productive Syntax (IPSyn) provides a list of 56 56 syntactic and morphological structures to check for in a spontaneous speech sample of 100 utterances. GIA, NIK, and FIN enrolled in a longitudinal study for which free play samples were regularly collected. PAM’s IPSyn was calculated on a sample of speech from a story-telling session where there was also significant spontaneous interaction with experimenters (50 usable utterances). MAX’s IPSyn scores were not calculated because of lack of samples of free play sessions with him and recorded speech consisted of what was elicited by experimental materials. Results on all these tests found that the native signing cochlear-implanted participants exhibited strong and widespread success in spoken English language skills by behaving within a typical range for hearing bilingual peers (kodas) at the same testing fairs (The PLS comprehension and production results indicated scores within a normal range for the native signing cochlear-implanted participants).
Reflection and Critique: The main conclusion of the authors is that without a period of language deprivation before the implantation of the cochlear implant, children with cochlear implants can develop spoken language skills appropriate for typically hearing children of the same age, and that sign language input does not harm to a deaf child’s spoken language development after he or she receives a cochlear implant. The new contribution of this study is that participants are also native signers of ASL, growing up with deaf signing parents. The findings are significant and interesting to me because, for many deaf children with a cochlear implant, knowledge of sign and spoken languages is an advantage that they will carry throughout their lives and in a wide range of communicative settings. The most important implication of this study is that the evidence points to bimodal bilingual training as the optimal choice for cochlear implanted children, giving them the best chances for language success.

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