ASHA journals
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Narrative abilities in adolescents with CIs (Breland et al., 2021)

journal contribution
posted on 2021-12-13, 19:16 authored by Luke Breland, Joanna H. Lowenstein, Susan Nittrouer
Purpose: In spite of improvements in language outcomes for children with hearing loss (HL) arising from cochlear implants (CIs), these children can falter when it comes to academic achievement, especially in higher grades. Given that writing becomes increasingly relevant to educational pursuits as children progress through school, this study explored the hypothesis that one challenge facing students with CIs may be written language.
Method: Participants were 98 eighth graders: 52 with normal hearing (NH) and 46 with severe-to-profound HL who used CIs. Oral and written narratives were elicited and analyzed for morphosyntactic complexity and global narrative features. Five additional measures were collected and analyzed as possible predictors of morphosyntactic complexity: Sentence Comprehension of Syntax, Grammaticality Judgment, Expressive Vocabulary, Forward Digit Span, and Phonological Awareness.
Results: For oral narratives, groups performed similarly on both morphosyntactic complexity and global narrative features; for written narratives, critical differences were observed. Compared with adolescents with NH, adolescents with CIs used fewer markers of morphosyntactic complexity and scored lower on several global narrative features in their written narratives. Adolescents with NH outperformed those with CIs on all potential predictor measures, except for Sentence Comprehension of Syntax. Moderately strong relationships were found between predictor variables and individual measures of morphosyntactic complexity, but no comprehensive pattern explained the results. Measures of morphosyntactic complexity and global narrative features were not well correlated, suggesting these measures are assessing separate underlying constructs.
Conclusions: Adolescents with CIs fail to show writing proficiency at high school entry equivalent to that of their peers with NH, which could constrain their academic achievement. Interventions for children with CIs need to target writing skills, and writing assessments should be incorporated into diagnostic assessments.

Supplemental Material S1. Narrative scoring rubric.

Supplemental Material S2. Narrative samples.

Breland, L., Lowenstein, J. H., & Nittrouer, S. (2021). Disparate oral and written language abilities in adolescents with cochlear implants: Evidence from narrative samples. Language, Speech, and Hearing Services in Schools. Advance online publication.


This work was supported by National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders Grant R01 DC015992, awarded to Susan Nittrouer.