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Child Development Blog

UConn KIDS Researchers Matthew Hall, Inge-Marie Eigsti, and Diane Lilo-Martin published

The researchers from UConn KIDS are always working hard and making awesome discoveries! The lead author on a new study, Matthew Hall, share a bit about what his newly published article is all about:

“For a long time, researchers and parents alike have observed that as a whole, deaf children seem to lag behind hearing children of the same age when in comes to “executive function”: a set of cognitive skills that help us flexibly deploy our cognitive resources to regulate our behavior and achieve desired goals. These skills are important predictors of school readiness & academic outcomes, so it’s important to figure out what’s causing these problems so that we can address them more effectively.  If the underlying cause turns out to be deafness itself, as has been proposed by previous studies, then providing early access to sound via hearing technology would be important. But if the underlying cause turns out to be a lack of exposure to language, then provided early access to *language* would be important, and it could be that sign language exposure is a more effective tool than spoken language.  This study addresses the issue of whether the deficits are better explained by access to sound or access to language.  We do so by looking at executive function in children who are deaf (no access to sound) but who are born into Deaf families where ASL is used from birth (full access to language).  This is where the two theories make contrasting predictions.  The results argue against the theory that sound is the critical factor, but are consistent with the theory that language is the crucial factor.  I do need to point out, though, that we can’t say that we’ve *proven* language to be the key.  It also remains to be seen whether deaf children from hearing families will show demonstrable benefit from early exposure to ASL: that’s what we’re hoping to address next.”

You can find the article in the Journal of Deaf Studies and Deaf Education. It was published in print in January of 2017.

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UConn KIDS is sponsored by the Connecticut Institute for the Brain & Cognitive Science, UConn's Vice President of Research, and The College of Liberal Arts & Sciences. Our work is governed by our Institutional Review Board (IRB), which ensures compliance and safety for human subjects. Click here to review the UConn IRB website.