An Examination of the Written Stories of Hearing-Impaired School-Age Children

Joan Klecan-Aker & Rebecca Blondeau

Keywords: Instructional Strategies/Language/K-12

This study was performed in order to examine the written stories of school-age hearing-impaired students. Evaluating expressive language skills has challenged those in the field for many years. One way to assess language capabilities is through the examination of stories or narratives. Stories are complex enough to show the kinds of experiences we have in everyday communication while providing valuable data to study. They can also look at the ability of the child to put things in a logical order, relate the past with the present, use appropriate linguistic devices to create cohesive text and take into account the needs of a naive reader or listener.

There are several ways to evaluate these stories. Klecan-Aker, McIngvale, and Swank (1987) used the T-unit for analysis. A T-unit or minimal terminal unit is "one main clause plus any subordinate clause or non-clausal structure that is attached or embedded in it" (275). A positive about the T-unit is that it is sensitive to language differences between different ages.

Another way to evaluate is through cohesion. The first examination of cohesion was done by Halliday and Hasan (1976). There are many different cohesive techniques but only two have been studied in depth. The two types are referencing and cojoining.

Stories can also be described with a set of rules that define thier structure. These are story grammars. Stein and Glenn (1979) say that story grammars have two main unit types. The first is setting and the second is one or more episodes.

Yet, another way to examine children's stories is by assigning a developmental level. Applebee (1978) first described six basic types that have since been adapted by Klecan-Aker, McIngvale and Swank (1987). The six types are as follows: a) heaps b)sequences c)primitive narratives d)focused chains e)true narratives and f)miscellaneous.

We seem to know that evaluating children's stories are important and that there are a number of ways to do say. However, what we don't know is the reliability of the measures used to classify and categorize children's narratives. The above considered, the purpose of this study was to gather data about the narratives of hearing-impaired students and assess the reliability of Klecan-Aker's classification system as a means for differentiating and categorizing children's stories.

The subjects of the study were eight severely to profoundly hearing-impaired adolescents between the ages of 10-18.

The procedure was done by eliciting written stories from the subjects during thier speech and language sessions.

The stories were then analyzed using Hunt's (1970) T-unit analysis, Klecan-Aker's (1988) adaptation of Applebee's (1978) developmental levels and Klecan-Aker's (1988) adaptation fo Stein and Glenn's (1979) story grammar components.

The majority of the stories fell into the true narrative classification. This is the highest or most complex level of development.

It was found that the students used fewer clauses per T-unit and words per T-unit than their hearing peers. They also tended to come up with true narratives. They seemed to have trouble with one story component, internal responses and they used more coordinating conjunctions than subordinating to tie thier utterances together. Because of this it would seem that the small amount of use of subordination might be reflective of a problem understanding the more abstract aspects of the language. The lack of use of subordination is suppported in the study by the fact that the subjects had trouble stating internal responses within the context of their stories. Internal responses display ideas for plans or feelings and provide explanations for actions in the narrative form. It seems logical that hearing-impaired students would have trouble with internal responses for a longer period of time because they develop language later than the hearing population.

Finally, this study adds to our data on how hearing-impaired individuals use language. The data can be used by teachers of the deaf to help establish treatment targets for these children.

Klecan-Aker, Joan & Blondeau, Rebecca, October/November 1990, An Examination of the Written Stories of Hearing-Impaired School-Age Children, The Volta Review, p 275-280.

Uploaded by: Jennifer Waxman/Kent State University/Deaf Education Major