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date: 21 February 2020


Abstract and Keywords

This Introduction presents a summary of the contents of this book, explaining the reasoning behind the order of analysis presented here. The work presented in this book, representing the cooperation of researchers and authors from so many different perspectives and specialties, will increase not only readers’s knowledge but also their appreciation of the excitement that characterizes research efforts in Deaf studies, education, and language.

Keywords: Deaf studies, Deaf education, Deaf language, researchers, specialities, hard-of-hearing people

(p. 1) Covering all of the major topics addressed in research and practice related to Deaf studies, education, and language resulted in a large number of chapters in this handbook. Indeed, there are so many chapters and topics presented that we thought readers might benefit from a map or summary of its contents. That summary is presented here.

Each chapter in this volume has been written to stand alone, but also to work in concert with all of the other chapters to provide an overview of the state-of-the-art in research about hearing loss, its implications, and about people who are deaf or hard of hearing. The chapters present information from various orientations, reflecting the diversity of perspectives and characteristics of the population on which they focus. Authors of the chapters represent many different countries and cultures, reflecting the international nature of research efforts related to deafness. They also are from diverse academic and professional backgrounds, reflecting the interdisciplinary nature of the field. Although we might prefer a world in which it were not necessary to say so, deaf and hard-of-hearing authors, as well as hearing authors, contributed chapters. The contributors therefore reflect the increasingly important role of persons who are deaf and hard of hearing in the study of their own population.

We have made an effort to group the book’s chapters by topic, but this turned out to be an exceedingly difficult and intellectually challenging task, in large part because of the variety of types of information included and the important cross-disciplinary connections made by the contributors. Researchers in this field tend to be sensitive to and knowledgeable about information across a variety of areas, and their writings often provide the kind of synthesis across topics that should be the goal of all intellectual endeavors, but which makes it difficult to put the resulting works into a series of clearly defined categories. Chapter topics discussed in the following pages range from child development to brain–cognition relationships, from educational interventions to technological advances, and from the origins of language to considerations of characteristics of Deaf communities and sign languages. The fact that many of these topics are considered in more than one chapter further complicated our efforts at categorization even while they helped to emphasize the integration we feel is essential to the field.

The result is that the chapters are organized into four major topics, with some topic areas further divided. The volume begins with work focused on education, representing the importance of this topic and providing information about the changing circumstances of educational experiences for deaf and hard-of-hearing children. Part one includes chapters about general curriculum, service provision, and achievement. In the first chapter, Harry Lang provides a historical context for interpreting current educational practices and outcomes. Ross Mitchell and Michael Karchmer then give an update on demographic characteristics, academic achievement, and factors influencing achievement of deaf and hard-of-hearing students in the United States. Des Power and Greg Leigh address the general area of curriculum for deaf and hard-of-hearing students, specifically discussing ways in which this curriculum is consistent with or deviates from that generally used with hearing students.

The next three chapters in Part One focus on specific types of educational placements and needs. Michael Stinson and Tom Kluwin summarize what is known about progress and experiences of deaf and hard-of-hearing students in various school placements, ranging from mainstream to special schools. (p. 2) Marilyn Sass-Lehrer then provides a description of the basis for and conduct of early intervention services for families and their young children with hearing loss. Special curriculum and service needs for children who have hearing loss plus cognitive, motor, or other developmental disabilities are then addressed by Harry Knoors and Mathijs Vervloed. This group of chapters gives a picture of the range of educational options, individual needs, and general outcomes for deaf and hard-of-hearing students.

An issue of prime importance with regard to deaf education and deaf individuals has been patterns of literacy achievement and difficulties in this area that are faced by most students who are deaf or hard of hearing. This topic is addressed in another educationally relevant section, Part Two, beginning with a chapter by Beverly Trezek, Ye Wang, and Peter Paul that provides a theoretical perspective on the difficulties deaf and hard-of-hearing students face in acquiring literacy skills, and another by Barbara Schirmer and Cheri Williams surveying methods and practices of teaching reading. These are followed by John Albertini and Sara Schley’s chapter that describes the acquisition of skills in writing, a topic addressed less often than reading. Finally, Connie Mayer and Tane Akamatsu analyze and critique the theoretical basis and practical outcomes of bilingual approaches to building deaf and hard-of-hearing students’ literacy skills.

Part Three includes chapters on cultural, social, and psychological issues. These issues are addressed at several levels, considering individuals and their relationships with peers, family, and the larger community. Bencie Woll and Paddy Ladd provide a model for characterizing Deaf communities and their interactions with the hearing communities in which they are situated. Shirin Antia, Kathryn Kreimeyer, Kelly K. Metz, and Sonya Spolsky consider characteristics of deaf children’s interactions with deaf and with hearing peers, primarily in school environments. Aspects of deaf children’s social development is further addressed by Rosemary Calderon and Mark Greenberg, who consider both family and school contexts, and by Meg Traci and Lynne Sanford Koester, who provide a detailed view of the socialization and development of deaf and hard-of-hearing infants in the context of the family. Finally, Irene Leigh and Robert Pollard provide an analysis of the psychological characteristics and needs of deaf and hard-of-hearing adults in a variety of contexts related to daily living.

A fourth major topic area addresses issues related to language. It is in the area of language that barriers and challenges traditionally have arisen for persons who are deaf or hard of hearing, and, accordingly, it is an area in which much research has been conducted. This topic area is discussed in three parts. Part Four focuses on children’s language, covering patterns of development and achievement, as well as methods for assessment. The chapters in Part Four well reflect the importance and diversity of alternative language approaches, illustrating the variety of methods used to promote language development of deaf and hard-of-hearing children.

Brenda Schick begins Part Four with an overview of research focusing specifically on children acquiring a natural sign language such as American Sign Language, along with comparative information about the progress of children who are exposed to English-based signing systems such as those used in total communication programs. Peter Blamey and Julia Sarant then address spoken language skills of deaf and hard-of-hearing children whose language experiences are primarily in spoken language environments. Amy Lederberg and Jennifer Beal-Alvarez follow with a developmental look at young deaf children’s expression of meaning, both prelinguistically and through the acquisition of formal vocabulary—signed or spoken. Jacqueline Leybaert, Mario Aparicio, and Jésus Alegria then discuss the effects of using cued speech to promote children’s language skills. The final two chapters in Part Four focus on assessment issues. These chapters include reviews of literature together with practical suggestions for assessment, with Janet Jamieson and Noreen Simmons focusing on assessment of general English language skills, regardless of modality, and Jenny Singleton and Sam Supalla focusing specifically on assessing children’s skills in American Sign Language.

Part Five focuses on signed languages. David Armstrong and Sherman Wilcox discuss the origins of sign language, suggesting that not only did they emerge early in human evolution but that they may, in fact, have characterized the earliest human languages. Susan Fischer and Harry van der Hulst follow with a detailed description of some of the grammatical characteristics of current sign languages, emphasizing how they maximize visual and spatial potentials for the expression of meaning and connected discourse. Ronnie Wilbur’s chapter continues this focus, illustrating modality influences on language structure and arguing that such influences (p. 3) place inherent limits on the adaptability of artificially created sign systems such as Signed English. Christine Monikowski and Elizabeth Winston provide information about an emerging research focus, that of interpreting and interpreter education, including discussion of the conceptually complex processes involved in translating information from language based on one modality to representation of the same meaning in a language based on another modality. Finally, Karen Emmorey describes the neural and neuropsychological underpinnings of sign languages, looking into an area of basic research that holds great promise for better understanding of development and education of deaf children and language functioning among deaf adults.

Part Six comprises a group of chapters, all of which, in one way or another, address aspects of hearing. Lynne Bernstein and Edward Auer provide a summary of information about speech perception by deaf persons, emphasizing the multimodal nature of that task. Kathleen Arnos and Arti Pandya describe the anatomy and physiology of the auditory system and follow with what is almost a tutorial summarizing advances in the study of genetics and their implications for children and adults with hearing loss. Judith Harkins and Matthew Bakke provide information about an array of technologies and assistive devices that offer increased access and ease of communication for deaf persons in the workplace and in their daily lives. Barbara Cone then gives an overview of audiological procedures for early identification of hearing loss, the process that provides the necessary foundation for movement toward early intervention during children’s critical developmental period. Patricia Spencer, Marc Marschark, and Linda Spencer summarize information about language, education, and social-psychological outcomes of cochlear implantation, emphasizing data about children, many of whom use the information provided by implants to develop spoken language skills.

Part Seven of the Handbook covers a topic of both theoretical and practical importance. Cognitive correlates and consequences of deafness (or in some cases, the surprising lack of consequences) are addressed in three chapters. Susan Maller and Jeffrey Braden discuss assessment of cognitive abilities, focusing primarily on assessment of children. They discuss methodological weaknesses in some earlier studies and psychometric weaknesses in some of the instruments that have been used with this population. Based on research from around the world, Marc Marschark and Loes Wauters propose that some but not all cognitively-related processing is affected by differences in the modalities available for processing information. They suggest that a closer, objective look at some of those differences will provide basic theoretical information about human cognition as well as more effective directions for methods for teaching deaf students. Jerker Rönnberg focuses primarily on a specific cognitive process, that of working memory, and gives a detailed, theoretically cogent description of the interactive effects of memory, hearing loss, and language experience.

The amazing array of theoretical and applied topics covered in the Handbook display the multiple values of research and practice related to deaf persons, their language, and their lives. The results of such research can not only lead to improved services to that population but also provide basic and comparative information relevant to theory-building related to human development in general. Despite the depth and breadth of topics covered in this volume, many of these areas of research are either still in an emerging stage or are undergoing radical changes in perspective that represent new avenues of study or new ways of conceptualizing topics. These changes are due at least in part to advances in technology and demands of research funding that continue to increase information sharing among researchers and across national and disciplinary boundaries. They also reflect the increasing involvement and leadership of deaf persons from diverse backgrounds and cultures in the setting of research agendas and designs for educational and related practice. Finally, changes in perspective and what is taken as “given” have changed even since the first edition of this work simply as a function of new findings during the intervening years. Science moves forward, but sometimes progress comes from taking a step back and recognizing that long-held assumptions are not true … or no longer true.

As we describe in the epilogue, Part Eight, the work described in these chapters results in a sense of renewed or strengthened energy for many topics and an openness to new ideas among those who conduct research or provide services for deaf and hard-of-hearing people. We believe that the chapters in this book, representing the cooperation of researchers and authors from so many different perspectives and specialties, will increase not only readers’ knowledge but also their appreciation of the excitement that characterizes research efforts in Deaf studies, education, and language. (p. 4) (p. 5)