Language Characteristics of Deaf/Hearing Impaired Children

Key Words: Information, Deafness Related Issues, Deaf Education

Jennifer Woolensack

Kent State University

Gaines, R., & Halpern-Felsher, B. L. (1995). Language preference and communication development of a hearing and deaf twin pair. American Annals of the Deaf, 140(1), 47-55.


Language characteristics of deaf/HI students vary as all children's characteristics do. However, the article "Language preference and communication development of a hearing and deaf twin pair," from the American Annals of the Deaf shows that language and communication development can be enhanced by preference and environmental factors. The twins being studied are both girls, one is Ann, who was healthy until the age of 7 months, when she contracted pneumococcal meningitis and became binaurally profoundly deaf (Gaines & Halpern-Felsher, 1995). The other twin is Dianne, who is hearing and healthy. According to Gaines and Halpern-Felsher, the study examines the communication development and language preferences of twin girls who are alike in age, genetic structure, and home and school environment, but who are different in one particular way: hearing ability (1995).

At the age of 13 months, the twins were brought to HI CHIPS program, to educate them both at the same place. They were taught both vocal and sign language. The twins were videotaped over a 20-month period, in monthly intervals (Gaines & Halpern-Felsher, 1995). All communication was recorded and categorized by style. The language preference analysis showed that Ann preferred nonvocal language, and that Diane used vocal language. The bulk of the hand gestures were used in the request category by both twins. However, body movements were preferred much more by Ann.

According to Gaines and Halpern-Felsher, the study showed that both twins had the ability to learn language and to communicate (1995). This shows that deafness does not prevent language acquisition. Although Ann was not as successful in vocal language, she still was able to develop appropriate visual language that was parallel to her chronological age. Diane was able to use both forms of language, visual and vocal, but preferred vocal. However, with knowing both forms, she helped her twin sister by communicating with her, which made Ann's language development more accelerated. This observation shows that early intervention and diverse modes of communication can benefit the development of language, especially for the deaf.

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Uploaded by: Jessica Soltesz, Kent State University, Deaf Education Major