Sign Language, Working Memory, Theory of Mind and Developing Reading Skills in Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing Children

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1 Sign Language, Working Memory, Theory of Mind and Developing Reading Skills in Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing Children Emil Holmer, PhD Linnaeus Centre HEAD, Swedish Institute for Disability Research, Department of Behavioural Sciences and Learning, Linköping University, Sweden. Electronic version of thesis: Supervisors: Mary Rudner Mikael Heimann

2 Introduction Pupils at Regional Special Needs Schools (RSNS) in Sweden follow a bilingual curriculum Sign language may promote development of reading in these children

3 Pupils at Regional Special Needs Schools Shrinking in numbers the last decade Bimodal-bilinguals /ˈw/ /ɜː/ /d/ A heterogeneous group of deaf and hard-ofhearing (DHH) children: Biological: e.g., hearing loss? technical aids? additional disability? Psychological: e.g., language? cognitive skills? Social: e.g., deaf/hearing parents? born in Sweden? WORD Location? Movement? Handshape?

4 Aims Evaluate the effects on reading development of a computerized sign language based literacy intervention, the Omega-is-d2, in DHH signing children who are learning to read. Investigate concurrent and longitudinal associations between reading, sign language, and cognitive skills in DHH signing children who are learning to read.

5 Methods Participants: 13 (+3) RSNS pupils who use Swedish Sign Language (SSL) and are learning to read (Grades 1-7) 36 sign-naïve hearing children who are learning to read (Grade 1) Did not differ on word reading or performance on Raven s Coloured Progressive Matrices RSNS n Gender (boy/girl) 8/8 At least one deaf parent 4 Born in Sweden 9 Additional disabilities: Visual (corrected) Developmental Communication language in school: SSL SSL and Swedish Technical aids: HA CI HA and CI No aids

6 Methods Design: Five test occasions (T1-T5) for RSNS and two (T1 & T5) for hearing (H) participants

7 Methods Design: Reading (T1-T5): Word reading Reading comprehension Language and cognition (T1/T5): C-PhAT, phonological awareness (PA) (RSNS: SSL and Swedish version; H: Swedish version + a standardized test) SSL comprehension (Hermans et al., 1999) Imitation of familiar (i.e., vocabulary) and unfamiliar ( non-word repetition ) signs Working memory (Birberg Thornberg, 2011) Theory of Mind (only RSNS; Wellman & Liu, 2004)

8 Methods Cross-modal Phonological Awareness Test (C-PhAT) Sign language version Speech version and /pe:/ and /ge:/ P G

9 Methods Cross-modal Phonological Awareness Test (C-PhAT) Sign language version Speech version and /pe:/ and /ge:/ P G YES!

10 Methods Cross-modal Phonological Awareness Test (C-PhAT) Sign language version Speech version and /pe:/ and /ge:/ P G NO!

11 Methods Omega-is-d2 training

12 Methods Omega-is-d2 training

13 Associations of particular interest Word reading Reading comprehension Sign language skills Working memory Sign language skills Working memory Theory of Mind Phonological awareness Comprehension Imitation of unfamiliar signs Imitation of familiar signs

14 Results Evidence for the validity of C-PhAT: predicted scores on an established measure of PA as well as word reading for H participants (Holmer et al., 2016, RIDD) Sign language and word reading: A positive association with C-PhAT-SSL version (Holmer et al., 2016, RIDD) Imitation of unfamiliar signs ( non-word repetition ) associated with change over time (Holmer et al., under review)

15 Results Evidence for the validity of C-PhAT: predicted scores on an established measure of PA as well as word reading for H participants (Holmer et al., 2016, RIDD) Sign language and word reading: A positive association with C-PhAT-SSL version (Holmer et al., 2016, RIDD) Imitation of unfamiliar signs ( non-word repetition ) associated with change over time (Holmer et al., under review) Omega-is-d2 training indicated a possible effect (Holmer et al., under review)

16 Results Sign language and reading comprehension: No convincing association to sign language comprehension (Holmer et al., 2016, Front Psychol; Holmer et al., under review) Imitation of familiar signs (i.e., vocabulary) marginally associated with change over time (Holmer et al., under review) No effect of Omega-is-d2 training (Holmer et al., under review)

17 Results Working memory, Theory of Mind (ToM) and reading: Poor performance on ToM and reading comprehension (Holmer et al., 2016, Front Psychol) Positive associations between working memory, ToM, and reading comprehension (Holmer et al., 2016, Front Psychol) Theory of Mind.69**.61* 2 Reading comprehension.63* 3 Working memory ** p <.01. * p <.05. Working memory did not predict development in reading skills (Holmer et al., under review)

18 Discussion Aim: Evaluate the effects of Omega-is-d2 on reading development. A positive effect on word reading, but no effect on reading comprehension: might support connections between orthographic and manual representations, and/or establishment of orthographic representations access to semantic representations during reading still difficult

19 Discussion Aim: Investigate concurrent and longitudinal associations between reading, sign language, and cognitive skills. Word reading associated with sign language PA, and development of word reading was predicted by imitation of unfamiliar signs: PA involved in lexical identification regardless of modality (access and/or differentiation) active maintenance of a new lexical form in working memory supports lexical change

20 Discussion Aim: Investigate concurrent and longitudinal associations between reading, sign language, and cognitive skills. Reading comprehension, working memory and ToM related in poor reading comprehenders/ mind readers: understanding texts and minds possibly linked by inference making Development in reading comprehension predicted by imitation of familiar signs: vocabulary might be key in developing reading comprehension

21 A model

22 Acknowledgements Participating children, families, schools and Josefine Andin, Jenny Carlsson, Moa Claar, Lena Davidsson, Malin Eriksson, Katarina Forssén, Malin Jönsson, Lina Larsson, Sara Moritz, Magnus Ryttervik, Krister Schönström, Annette Sundqvist, Mia-Mari Stråle, Sofia Szadlo, Elisabeth Thilén, Gunilla Turesson-Morais, Lisbeth Wikström, and Hanna Åkerblom This work was supported by grant number to Mary Rudner from the Swedish Research Council for Health, Working Life and Welfare

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