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The Development of Deaf Children. Academic Achievement Levels and Social Processes

The two studies reported in this doctoral thesis were carried out within the framework of a longitudinal investigation – „Learning Processes and Personality Development in Deaf Children“, located at the School of Education, Malmö (Sweden), from 1977 to 1991. The aim of the project was to document the development of prelingually deaf children exposed to sign communication in preschool age, and to try to explore factors influencing their development.

The original group of subjects comprised 20 children born 1970 – 1974. In the second study the group was extended to include class-mates at the School for the Deaf in Lund, Sweden – making a total of 40 subjects, 21 boys and 19 girls.

The first study is founded on detailed analyses of video recordings, forming a qualitative description of social strategies used by four children with different social positions in the peer group. The second study is a comparison of results from a comprehensive testing program, by which the subjects were assessed at the age of 15, with results from the same tests when performed on deaf eight-graders in the sixties.

Results of both studies point the importance of easily accessible communication, i.e. a visual/gestural language mode, to social as well as intellectual development in deaf children. It is also clear that the structure and dynamic development of a group of children had a great impact on an individual child‘s chances of success. Popular children knew how to get attention and how to avoid it. They noticed situational cues and were able to adjust their behavior to partners and circumstances, whereas the less popular ones were less flexible. Compared to orally-trained age-mates two decades earlier eight-graders in the eighties showed an increased level of theoretical achievement. They were particularly superior in the understanding use of written Swedish, but the difference was also evident in numerical and mathematical tests.

Heiling, Kerstin : The Development of Deaf Children. Academic Achievement Levels and Social Processes. Geb. / Hardcover, 280 Seiten, Signum 1995, ISBN 3-927731-58-7. EUR 25,56

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