Inferencing skills of deaf adolescent readers
The great difficulty which deaf children have in learning to read is well documented. Previous studies have examined such aspects as problems with vocabulary and syntax but little work has been directed towards inferential and discourse skills. The present series of studies examines the inferencing skills of severely and profoundly deaf adolescents. Different types of inference were examined using a variety of experimental techniques, ranging from on-line reading times, through memory probes after reading, to tracking the movements of subjects' eyes as they read. The deaf were found to be poorer at drawing inferences than hearing children matched on reading age, although they can recall as much detail from those extra texts in which they do infer correctly as the controls. The deaf were as successful as the reading age matched controls for material which required spatial inferences but not for more abstract temporal and causal inferences. On-line studies suggested that the deaf, when drawing inferences, use a schemata, concept driven mechanism similar to hearing peers approximately matched for chronological age. A similar mechanism would seem to be operating when material is presented in the form of sign language. Thus many of the difficulties previously ascribed to deaf children's reading skills may in fact derive from more general language problems. It is suggested that these difficulties with inferencing are independent of modality of presentation and perhaps reflect a more impoverished experimental background for most deaf children. The comparative richness of scenarios for deaf and hearing children are then investigated.