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Original Research ARTICLE Provisionally accepted The full-text will be published soon. Notify me

Front. Psychol. | doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2019.00143

Predictors of orthographic learning and reading fluency in Swedish children with cochlear implants

 Malin Wass1*,  Ulrika Löfkvist2, 3,  Lena M. Anmyr3, 4, Eva Karltorp3, 4, 5 and  Björn Lyxell6
  • 1Department of Business administration Technology and Social Sciences, Luleå University of Technology, Sweden
  • 2Department of Special Needs Education, University of Oslo, Norway
  • 3Department of Clinical Science, Intervention and Technology, Karolinska Institute (KI), Sweden
  • 4Department of Social Work in Health, Karolinska University Hospital, Sweden
  • 5Karolinska University Hospital, Sweden
  • 6Department of Behavioural Sciences and Learning and the Swedish Institute for Disability Research, Linköping University, Sweden

Deaf and hard of hearing children are at risk for reading difficulties due to poorer phonological skills which, in turn, are a consequence of their hearing impairment. With the introduction and development of cochlear implant intervention, the reading skills of these children have improved substantially although there is a high amount of variability within the group.

Orthographic learning is the process of memorizing written words so that they can be recognized instantly and thereby allow for quick and fluent reading.

This study set out to explore the cognitive and linguistic predictors of orthographic learning and reading fluency in a group of 40 deaf and hard of hearing children with cochlear implants, to better understand the factors that affect the development of fluent reading in these children. To date, the research about the mechanisms of reading fluency and orthographic learning in this population is scarce.
The children were between 6;0 and 10;11 years of age and used oral language as their primary mode of communication. They were assessed on orthographic learning, reading fluency and a range of cognitive and linguistic skills including working memory measures, word retrieval and paired associate learning. The results were analyzed in a set of correlation analyses and hierarchical regression analyses.

In line with previous findings from children with typical hearing, the strongest predictors of orthographic learning were phonological decoding fluency and verbal-verbal paired-associate learning. Phonological decoding fluency was the only significant predictor of word decoding fluency when age and non-verbal intelligence were controlled. The significant predictors of phonological decoding fluency were word retrieval, orthographic skills and visual working memory.
The results of this study suggest that orthographic learning and reading fluency in children with CI are strongly dependent on similar cognitive and linguistic skills as in typically hearing peers. Efforts should thus be made to support phonological decoding skill and vocabulary in this population.

Keywords: orthographic learning, reading fluency, deaf and hard of hearing children, Cochlear Implants, Reading development

Received: 19 Apr 2018; Accepted: 16 Jan 2019.

Edited by:

Manuel Perea, University of Valencia, Spain

Reviewed by:

Eva E. Gutierrez-Sigut, University College London, United Kingdom
Heather Grantham, Washington University in St. Louis, United States  

Copyright: © 2019 Wass, Löfkvist, Anmyr, Karltorp and Lyxell. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) and the copyright owner(s) are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.

* Correspondence: PhD. Malin Wass, Luleå University of Technology, Department of Business administration Technology and Social Sciences, Luleå, Sweden, malin.wass@ltu.se