Date of Award

Summer 2011

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Audiology (AuD)

Department

Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders

Advisor(s)

Brenda M. Ryals

Rory A. DePaolis

Brenda Seal

Abstract

Most deaf babies born in the United States are born into hearing families and show a developmental lag in spoken language acquisition, reading, writing, and social development when compared to deaf babies of deaf parents or hearing babies of hearing parents, due to limited language access. A modified headturn paradigm has been devised to assess infant preference to various familiar and unfamiliar ASL stimuli, to determine parallels between auditory-spoken and visual-spatial languages. If visual perception of first signs parallels auditory perception of first words, we would expect infants exposed to ASL as their native language to show a preference for familiar signs over unfamiliar signs, similarly to infants’ preferences for familiar words found in their native language. Eight participants, age 10 months + 21/-8 days (M = 10 months, 4 days; SD = 9.13), with various levels of exposure to ASL are reported in this study, with no significant findings. When the infants were separated based on level of ASL exposure, a trend was noted. Among the 3 infants with high ASL exposure, there was a significant difference between the looking times to familiar and unfamiliar stimuli using a paired samples t-test, t(2) = 9.449, p = .011. There was a near-significant difference between looking times using a non-parametric Wilcoxon signed-ranks test, T = -1.604; p = .109(ns), with the ranks for familiar totaling 6 and the ranks for unfamiliar totaling 0. Among the 5 infants of low ASL exposure, there was no significant difference between the looking times to familiar and unfamiliar stimuli, t(4) = -1.762, p = .153(ns); T = -1.483; p = .138(ns), with the ranks for familiar totaling 2 and the ranks for unfamiliar totaling 13. There appears to be a trend toward a preference for familiar ASL signs among infants who are learning ASL as a native language (familiarity effect). There appears to be a trend toward a preference for unfamiliar ASL signs among infants who have a lesser degree of ASL exposure (novelty effect). Results assure a working method and suggest continued data collection and future avenues for research in lexical development of visual-spatial languages.

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