Evaluating the Structure of Early English Literacy Skills in Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing Children.
PURPOSE To determine whether preschool-age children with cochlear implants have age-appropriate phonological awareness and print knowledge and to examine the relationships of these skills with related speech and language abilities. METHOD The sample comprised 24 children with cochlear implants (CIs) and 23 peers with normal hearing (NH), ages 36 to 60 months. Children's print knowledge, phonological awareness, language, speech production, and speech perception abilities were assessed. RESULTS For phonological awareness, the CI group's mean score fell within one standard deviation of the Test of Preschool Early Literacy's (Lonigan, Wagner, Torgesen, & Rashotte, 2007) normative sample mean but was more than one standard deviation below the NH group mean. The CI group's performance did not differ significantly from that of the NH group for print knowledge. For the CI group, phonological awareness and print knowledge were significantly correlated with language, speech production, and speech perception. Together these predictor variables accounted for 34% of variance in the CI group's phonological awareness but no significant variance in their print knowledge. CONCLUSIONS Children with CIs have the potential to develop age-appropriate early literacy skills by preschool age but are likely to lag behind their NH peers in phonological awareness. Intervention programs serving these children should target these skills with instruction and by facilitating speech and language development.