Raising and Educating a Deaf Child

International experts answer your questions about the choices, controversies, and decisions faced by the parents and educators of deaf and hard-of-hearing children.

Question from Peggy H

Does not strictly staying with the CASTLLS auditory guide reduce childs progress in closing the language gap?

Question from Peggy H. Posted September 30, 2009.
Response from Linda Spencer - SUNY Geneseo

In the interests of full disclosure, let me note that I had to look up CASTLLS – an acronym for Cottage Acquisition Scales for Listening, Language & Speech (CASLLS). This guide apparentlywas developed by professionals at a private school for deaf children in Texas – Sunshine Cottage. It is a tool for auditory rehabilitation/speech-language professionals, and it follows a developmental approach and it integrates skills from four areas including listening, speech production, language and cognition. As with many commercially available programs, this one is a guide for professionals and as such, we need to keep in mind that each child has unique learning styles, capacities (gifts), and rates of progress. You ask whether diverting from this “guide” can reduce a child’s progress in closing the language gap. There is no definitive answer. One could easily ask the inverse, does strictly staying with the guide increase a child’s progress in closing the language gap? If the answer to that question was YES, I would imagine that this “guide” had magical properties. We know some things about what helps to close “gaps” in learning. First, the sooner we target intervention, the less time there is for a “gap” to become a chasm, thus we can hopefully minimize the size of the gap and begin to close it. We also know that language can and does develop in the absence of audition if there is an alternate way to expose the child to language (sign language). Having said that, if a child is using audition to learn language, there are several requisites that must be in place. The first is that audition skills must be optimized, the technology used must be working properly and consistently. Key elements also include that the child must be able to progress along the basic lines of becoming aware of sound, discriminating one sound from another, identification of sounds, and finally comprehending sounds (words, sentences). IF there is a lack of PROGRESS in this area, I would say learning language given ONLY auditory input will be slower. On this premise, if I were asked the question “if a child does not progress in the auditory skills part of an oral language learning program, will it reduce progress in closing a language gap?” , my answer would be “yes, certain listening skills are requisite in order for oral language skills to develop.