American Sign Language phonemic awareness in deaf children: implications for instruction
Di Perri, Kristin Anderson
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For children who are deaf, one aspect of early English literacy instruction has always been problematic. Deaf children have great difficulty in learning to employ a sound-based phonetic to alphabetic mapping process such as required in reading and writing without natural linguistic access to English. This dissertation presents two studies. In Study #1 subjects are given the American Sign Language Phonemic Awareness Inventory (ASLP AI). In Study #2 the phonological aspect ofhandshape and its relationship to the Manual Alphabet is investigated. Twenty-nine deaf children, between the ages of 4-8, who used sign language, were tested on 7 major ASL Phonological tasks. 175 questions were posed. Of the total group, eight children had deaf parents (DCDP) and twenty-one children had hearing parents (DCHP). Seventeen deaf adults (1 0 DADP) and 7 (DAHP) took a portion or all of the tests. In addition the child subjects, depending on reading ability, were also given either the Peabody Individual Achievement Test-Revised (PIAT-R) (spelling and reading comprehension subtests) or all sections ofthe Test of Early Reading Ability (TERA-3). Results showed that all subjects were able to process the questions according to the phonological parameters of ASL. That is, subjects appear to have internalized the visual structural components of ASL and were able to work with ASL phonemes as hearing children do with spoken language. In the second study, the handshape task indicated that the subjects associated prompts (the 20 Manual Alphabet handshapes in particular) with a phonological component of ASL rather than as a letter of English. A factorial ANOVA showed that parent's audiological status did not influence the subject's phonemic awareness of ASL. In Study #2, a paired comparisons t-tests showed that overall response rates for handshape prompts resulted in significant differences: favoring ASL responses in comparison with English responses. Correlation matrices indicated that the stronger the subjects phonemic awareness of ASL and the ability to recall lexical items when given a prompt the stronger the scores on a beginning test of English literacy (TERA).
Thesis (Ph.D.)--Boston University
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