Skip to main content
Open Access Publications from the University of California

Executive Function in Deaf Children: Auditory Access and Language Access.

  • Author(s): Hall, Matthew L
  • Eigsti, Inge-Marie
  • Bortfeld, Heather
  • Lillo-Martin, Diane
  • et al.

Purpose:Deaf children are frequently reported to be at risk for difficulties in executive function (EF); however, the literature is divided over whether these difficulties are the result of deafness itself or of delays/deficits in language that often co-occur with deafness. The purpose of this study is to discriminate these hypotheses by assessing EF in populations where the 2 accounts make contrasting predictions. Method:We use a between-groups design involving 116 children, ages 5-12 years, across 3 groups: (a) participants with normal hearing (n = 45), (b) deaf native signers who had access to American Sign Language from birth (n = 45), and (c) oral cochlear implant users who did not have full access to language prior to cochlear implantation (n = 26). Measures include both parent report and performance-based assessments of EF. Results:Parent report results suggest that early access to language has a stronger impact on EF than early access to sound. Performance-based results trended in a similar direction, but no between-group differences were significant. Conclusions:These results indicate that healthy EF skills do not require audition and therefore that difficulties in this domain do not result primarily from a lack of auditory experience. Instead, results are consistent with the hypothesis that language proficiency, whether in sign or speech, is crucial for the development of healthy EF. Further research is needed to test whether sign language proficiency also confers benefits to deaf children from hearing families.

Many UC-authored scholarly publications are freely available on this site because of the UC's open access policies. Let us know how this access is important for you.

Main Content
Current View