ASL text comprehension in deaf children
Rosenburg, Patrick A.
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Successful text comprehension relies on a range of skills, including decoding ability, vocabulary knowledge, syntactic knowledge, literal comprehension, and the ability to draw inferences. Most of our knowledge about text comprehension comes from written texts. In contrast, an ASL text is a composition of a literary work narrated in ASL. Although ASL texts have been available for some time, they have only more recently become used as an educational tool to facilitate ASL language development in Deaf children. Currently, we have a limited understanding of the interplay of different language-comprehension skills required to achieve text comprehension in ASL. In addition, while there are assessments of ASL vocabulary and syntax, there is no standardized assessment that examines the role of ASL text in the development of Deaf children’s ASL comprehension skills. Consequently, we do not know whether the skills required for ASL text comprehension are parallel to those required for written text comprehension. This dissertation addresses these gaps in current research. First, I describe the development of an ASL Text Comprehension Task (ASL-CMP), a psychometrically sound assessment instrument to measure Deaf children’s comprehension of ASL text. I report on the development of the task, and present a psychometric analysis establishing the reliability and validity of the new task. Second, I administered the task to a large group of Deaf students (n = 356) between the ages of 8 and 18 years. Performance on the assessment was compared to performance on a range of ASL vocabulary tasks from the American Sign Language Assessment Instrument (ASLAI) to determine the relationships between different ASL skills. Analysis revealed significant positive relationships between ASL vocabulary, ASL syntax, and ASL text comprehension. Finally, I investigated the relationship between performance on the ASL text comprehension task and an English reading assessment among a subgroup of participants. Analysis revealed a significant positive relationship between ASL text comprehension and English literacy. I discuss the theoretical and educational implications of these findings.