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Modality and Interrelations Among Language, Reading, Spoken Phonological Awareness, and Fingerspelling


Better understanding of the mechanisms underlying early reading skills can lead to improved interventions. Hence, the purpose of this study was to examine multivariate associations among reading, language, spoken phonological awareness, and fingerspelling abilities for three groups of deaf and hard-of-hearing (DHH) beginning readers: those who were acquiring only spoken English (n = 101), those who were visual learners and acquiring sign (n = 131), and those who were acquiring both (n = 104). Children were enrolled in kindergarten, first, or second grade. Within-group and between-group confirmatory factor analysis showed that there were both similarities and differences in the abilities that underlie reading in these three groups. For all groups, reading abilities related to both language and the ability to manipulate the sublexical features of words. However, the groups differed on whether these constructs were based on visual or spoken language. Our results suggest that there are alternative means to learning to read. Whereas all DHH children learning to read rely on the same fundamental abilities of language and phonological processing, the modality, levels, and relations among these abilities differ.

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