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Keywords:

  • Emotion recognition;
  • empathy;
  • language;
  • conversation;
  • deaf;
  • blind

Background:  This study was designed to assess whether children with a sensory disability have consistent delays in acquiring emotion recognition and emotion understanding abilities.

Method:  Younger (6–11 years) and older (12–18 years) hearing-impaired children (HI; n = 49), vision-impaired children (VI; n = 42), and children with no sensory impairment (NSI; n = 72) were assessed with the Emotion Recognition Scales (ERS), which include two tests of the ability to recognize vocal expressions of emotion, two tests of the ability to recognize facial expressions of emotion, and three tests of emotion understanding.

Results:  Results indicate that when compared with age-peers, HI children and adolescents have significant delays or deficits on all ERS, but VI children and adolescents are delayed only on emotion recognition tasks. When compared with children group-matched for verbal ability (Wechsler verbal scales), the achievement of HI children on ERS equals or exceeds that of controls; VI children underachieve on an emotion recognition task and overachieve on an emotion vocabulary task compared to verbal ability matched peers.

Conclusions:  We conclude that VI children have a specific emotion recognition deficit, but among HI children, performance on emotion recognition and emotion understanding tasks reflects delayed acquisition of a broad range of language-mediated abilities.