Brain-Based Individual Difference Measures of Reading Skill in Deaf and Hearing Adults
Mehravari, Alison S.
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A majority of deaf students leave high school reading at or below a fourth grade level, but some deaf individuals do become highly proficient readers. There is disagreement about the causes of this reading difficulty, and by association, disagreement about the effectiveness of different strategies for teaching reading to deaf children. The goal of this study was to use real-time measures of neural language processing to better assess if deaf and hearing adults read proficiently in similar or different ways. Hearing native English speakers and non-native signing deaf adults read English sentences and word pairs while event-related potentials (ERPs) were recorded. The magnitude of ERP responses was compared to participants’ standardized reading comprehension test scores. The best deaf readers had the largest responses to information about meaning in sentences, while the best hearing readers had the largest responses to information about grammar in sentences. These results show that equally proficient hearing and non-native signing deaf adults read in different ways, and suggest that for deaf individuals, the most important aspect of successful reading instruction may be increasing vocabulary knowledge. These results also provide strong support for the feasibility of individual differences analysis of ERP data, especially in highly variable populations.