[PS-1.14] Examining the Brain Bases of Sign Language Phonological Awareness and Reading in Deaf Children

Andriola, D. 1, 2 & Langdon, C. 1, 2

1 Gallaudet University
2 Language and Educational Neuroscience (LENS) Laboratory

This is the first neuroimaging study directly investigating sign language phonological awareness (PA) and reading in deaf children. PA, an important predictor of reading in hearing children, is the ability to identify and manipulate the phonological structure of words. Recent behavioral research suggests that signed language PA is positively related to deaf children's reading abilities, but whether signed and spoken language PA are the product of a common cognitive mechanism remains unclear. Here, we incorporate a picture-matching paradigm from previous phonological processing studies in adults (e.g., MacSweeney et al., 2008), and test hypotheses that a positive relationship with reading outcomes is observed with (1) only spoken language PA or (2) in spoken and signed language PA.

To test these hypotheses, we administer a battery of behavioral and functional near-infrared spectroscopy (fNIRS) tasks, collecting data from deaf and hearing children across developmental stages of reading (ages 6;0-12;0). The experiment permits us to assess 1) whether different cortical regions are recruited for signed and spoken PA tasks, and 2) the relationship between sign language PA and reading in deaf children at the behavioral and brain levels.