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A longitudinal study of the language and memory profiles of children with hearing impairment who exhibit language learning difficulties

Willis, Suzi (2016) A longitudinal study of the language and memory profiles of children with hearing impairment who exhibit language learning difficulties. Doctoral thesis (PhD), Manchester Metropolitan University.

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Abstract

This thesis addresses the vocabulary, language and memory abilities of children with hearing impairment who, despite early provision of hearing aids or a cochlear implant, display substantial difficulties in the development of spoken language: an under-represented group in the literature. The research utilized a longitudinal case series design and standardized vocabulary, language and memory assessments in order to identify patterns and changes in abilities when assessed annually on three occasions. The memory assessment battery contained multiple tests that measure verbal and visual short-term memory and working memory, which enabled an innovative and a comprehensive evaluation of strengths and weaknesses in memory abilities. Six children with hearing impairment who use speech as their primary mode of communication participated in the research. Three data collection points occurred at twelve month intervals within both mainstream schools and schools specializing in the education of children with hearing impairment. This permitted an in-depth assessment of vocabulary and language abilities, as well as the creation of memory and language profiles specific to this group of children. The development of memory profiles from this thesis tentatively suggests that a difference in the quality of auditory input and auditory experience that children with hearing impairment receive may contribute to their difficulties in word storage, early word learning and language development. An exploratory intervention study to enhance vocabulary acquisition was informed by the memory profiles generated in the main study alongside contemporary knowledge gained from other researchers. The aim of the intervention programme was to address the early word learning difficulties and deficits in vocabulary that all the children with hearing impairment in the study exhibited. The findings from the exploratory intervention study provide preliminary evidence for ways in which to individualize therapeutic input for children with hearing impairment who are having considerable difficulties in acquiring vocabulary and developing spoken language.

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