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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Auditory Deprivation Does Not Impair Executive Function, But Language Deprivation Might: Evidence From a Parent-Report Measure in Deaf Native Signing Children

  • Author(s): Hall, ML
  • Eigsti, I-M
  • Bortfeld, H
  • Lillo-Martin, D
  • et al.

Deaf children are often described as having difficulty with executive function (EF), often manifesting in behavioral problems. Some researchers view these problems as a consequence of auditory deprivation; however, the behavioral problems observed in previous studies may not be due to deafness but to some other factor, such as lack of early language exposure. Here, we distinguish these accounts by using the BRIEF EF parent report questionnaire to test for behavioral problems in a group of Deaf children from Deaf families, who have a history of auditory but not language deprivation. For these children, the auditory deprivation hypothesis predicts behavioral impairments; the language deprivation hypothesis predicts no group differences in behavioral control. Results indicated that scores among the Deaf native signers (n = 42) were age-appropriate and similar to scores among the typically developing hearing sample (n = 45). These findings are most consistent with the language deprivation hypothesis, and provide a foundation for continued research on outcomes of children with early exposure to sign language.

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