Phonological awareness and decoding skills in deaf adolescents



This study investigated the phonological awareness skills of a group of deaf adolescents and how these skills correlated with decoding skills (single word and non-word reading) and receptive vocabulary.

Twenty, congenitally profoundly deaf adolescents with at least average nonverbal cognitive skills were tested on a range of phonological awareness tasks, and a non-word and real-word reading task, and their speech intelligibility was rated. Scores on a receptive vocabulary measure were gathered from existing records. All participants met an inclusion criterion of scoring within one standard deviation of the mean on a non-verbal reasoning task.

As a group, compared to the hearing standardisation samples, the participants' single-word reading fell within the normal range; their non-word reading skills were significantly stronger and their phonological awareness skills and receptive vocabulary were significantly weaker. The participants' phonological awareness skills were relatively stronger at the level of the phoneme than the rhyme. Correlations between single word and non-word reading and phonological awareness skills were significant. Taking receptive vocabulary as a covariate, the association between word reading and phonological awareness was reduced but remained significant, but the association between non-word reading and phonological awareness became non-significant.

The participants had developed good grapheme-phoneme knowledge in spite of relatively weak phonological awareness skills. This study is not able to inform whether this has occurred because only a minimal level of phonological awareness is necessary for grapheme-phoneme skills to develop or whether the process of learning to read has led to the development of grapheme-phoneme and phonological awareness skills, but ideas for future research are discussed. Copyright © 2009 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.