Do Developmental Communication Disorders Exist in the Signed Modality? Perspectives From Professionals Purpose This study focused on whether developmental communication disorders exist in American Sign Language (ASL) and how they might be characterized. ASL studies is an emerging field; educators and clinicians have minimal access to descriptions of communication disorders of the signed modality. Additionally, there are limited resources for assessing ASL ... Research Article
Research Article  |   October 01, 2011
Do Developmental Communication Disorders Exist in the Signed Modality? Perspectives From Professionals
 
Author Affiliations & Notes
  • David Quinto-Pozos
    University of Texas at Austin
  • Anjali J. Forber-Pratt
    University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign
  • Jenny L. Singleton
    University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign
  • Correspondence to David Quinto-Pozos: davidqp@mail.utexas.edu
  • Jenny Singleton is now at Georgia Tech
    Jenny Singleton is now at Georgia Tech×
  • Editor: Marilyn Nippold
    Editor: Marilyn Nippold×
  • Associate Editor: Victoria Joffe
    Associate Editor: Victoria Joffe×
Article Information
Development / Hearing Disorders / Audiologic / Aural Rehabilitation / Augmentative & Alternative Communication / School-Based Settings / Language Disorders / Research Articles
Research Article   |   October 01, 2011
Do Developmental Communication Disorders Exist in the Signed Modality? Perspectives From Professionals
Language, Speech, and Hearing Services in Schools, October 2011, Vol. 42, 423-443. doi:10.1044/0161-1461(2011/10-0071)
History: Received August 23, 2010 , Accepted January 24, 2011
 
Language, Speech, and Hearing Services in Schools, October 2011, Vol. 42, 423-443. doi:10.1044/0161-1461(2011/10-0071)
History: Received August 23, 2010; Accepted January 24, 2011
Web of Science® Times Cited: 19

Purpose This study focused on whether developmental communication disorders exist in American Sign Language (ASL) and how they might be characterized. ASL studies is an emerging field; educators and clinicians have minimal access to descriptions of communication disorders of the signed modality. Additionally, there are limited resources for assessing ASL acquisition. This article is designed to raise clinicians' awareness about developmental communication disorders in ASL and categorize types of atypicality that have been witnessed.

Method We conducted 4 focus groups and one 1-on-1 interview with a total of 22 adults (7 Deaf, 15 hearing) who work at bilingual–bicultural (ASL–English) schools for the Deaf. Experiences of these educators and language professionals were analyzed qualitatively using a combination of grounded theory (Charmaz, 2001; Strauss & Corbin, 1998) and a modified van Kaam approach (Moustakas, 1994).

Results Participants confirmed observations of children with suspected communication disorders and considered the prevalence, possible etiologies, and psychosocial aspects of such disorders in ASL. They reported frustration at the lack of diagnostic tools for reliable identification and intervention strategies to be used in educational settings.

Conclusion This work provides us with practitioner accounts proving that developmental communication disorders do exist in ASL. Future reports will describe primary data from signers with atypical language attributes.

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
This research was supported by the National Science Foundation Science of Learning Center Program, under cooperative agreement SBE-0541953, and a Mary Jane Neer Grant from the University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign to the first author. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.
We thank Chloe Marshall for her close reading of this text along with her helpful comments and suggestions. We also thank the various students who participated in the project at various stages. Sarika Mehta assisted with data collection. Several research assistants (Ryan Barrett, Peter Crume, Caroline Hernandez, Rachel Mazique, and Katie Moore) helped to translate the interviews from ASL to English and to conduct the reliability screening of the translated versions. And, several volunteers in the Signed Language Lab at the University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign assisted with various tasks. They were Jaye Eisenberg, Lisa Shafar, and Katie Walsh.
We also thank Lynn Hou for serving as the model for the signed examples, and we are indebted to the participants in this study who willingly shared their experiences with us; their input has made this report possible.
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