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 E.D., California

I am the parent of a 17 year old male with a Nucleus 24 cochlear implant. He signs and speaks and has been going to a great high school, but is having difficulties in his reading and comprehension. He is currently reading around a 6 grade level. Are there any programs you would recommend to bring his levels up? I am being recommended Fariview (total communication) and Linda Mood Bell (oral only) by different sources and they are completely different from one another.

Question from E.D., California. Posted May 3, 2012.
Response from Karen Roudybush - Western Pennsylvania School for the Deaf

Congratulations to you and your son for all of your diligence with reading.

Does your son read 6th grade text fluently (between 120 and 150 words read orally per minute) and accurately  (decoding 95 to 100 percent of the words or about one error for every 20 words)?  Fluent reading does not mean reading fast but your son should use a speed for reading that reflects the mood and expression of the text.  If he reads in a slow and labored manner, he will have difficulty comprehending text.  There are some programs that focus on fluency (i.e. Read Naturally) but your son would need to have the auditory ability to distinguish the text read orally and then try to copy that text.  Often times though enhancing background knowledge, vocabulary and comprehension strategies fluency increases.   Repeated reading and some practice with chunking words into phrases have shown some success.

Once someone reads at the sixth grade level they tend to already be able to decode but have difficulty with more complex vocabulary and language structures.  At http://www.meadowscenter.org/vgc/downloads/special_ed/SEDsecondaryoriginal/2000_enhance_read_2_SE.PDF  there are wonderful resources from the Vaughn Gross Center for Reading and Language (through the University of Texas at Austin) that provide strategies for all parts of the comprehension process (from activating prior knowledge, to monitoring and using repair strategies, summarizing, using  visual imaging, asking questions and reflecting on the text).

Not knowing your son it would be hard to pick where to begin but ask yourself if he can decode words well (recognize the printed word)
-  if yes don’t spend time teaching sound symbol
-  if he struggles with the sounds of words and decoding, Lindamood-Bell and other companies have some great programs (LIPS, Seeing Stars) that may be of benefit.

Can he only say the words but not understand the meaning of the words?
-  then lots of language
-  possibly bits of Fairview may be a tool to help with understanding the various sign meanings (concepts) of different sight words)
-  pre-expose to a variety of text specific words, concepts and there meanings

Does he read words quickly enough to make meaning from the words he reads?
-  rereading, or partner reading
-  chunking and phrasing of text
-  Read Naturally or possibly Vocaroo (can record online)

Does he engage himself in the reading process by using comprehension strategies while reading?
-  If he decodes at about the 6th grade level, I would focus on text based vocabulary and comprehension strategies.
-  He should be able to establish a purpose for reading, see the text structure and begin to ask the right questions to aid in comprehension.

Developing the type of academic language and vocabulary necessary to succeed although daunting can be done.  Three cheers for encouraging your son and keep up the great work.