Reading and dyslexia in deaf children

This two-part study aims to improve the reading skills of deaf children, by exploring the best ways of identifying reading problems and dyslexia in this group, and by helping teachers offer appropriate strategies for deaf children who are struggling with reading.

Findings from Part 1 – Oral deaf children

The first part of the study focused on oral deaf children (who communicate by spoken language rather than by signing). A large proportion of this group were found to have reading difficulties at least as severe as the problems faced by hearing children with dyslexia. Specifically:

  • Half of the 79 oral deaf children in the study (aged 10-11) were identified as having reading difficulties. In addition, a substantial group of oral deaf children with average reading skills are at risk of developing reading problems because of poor language.
  • It is possible to use reading and dyslexia-sensitive tests developed for hearing children successfully with oral deaf children. This has implications for the training of professionals who work with deaf children, to ensure that testing is effective in achieving valid scores.

These findings highlight the scale of reading difficulty in oral deaf children. They also point to an urgent need for specialist interventions to be implemented along the lines currently offered to hearing children with dyslexia.

Part 2 – Deaf children who sign

The second part of the study is focusing on deaf children who use sign language (BSL) to communicate. It aims to describe typical reading profiles in deaf signers and identify children who present with dyslexic profiles. It will also identify strategies that may help deaf signing children learn to read. The study will produce reading test scores for deaf children in Year 6 on a number of reading tests that will be made available to schools.