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Context, Cognition, and Deafness

M. Diane Clark, Marc Marschark, and Michael Karchmer, Editors

Chapter one: Interdisciplinary Perspectives on Context, Cognition, and Deafness: An Introduction

by M. Diane Clark

Webster defines context as “the interrelated conditions in which something exists or occurs: environment, setting.” Context, Cognition, and Deafness employs this definitional sense to explore the effects of person-environment outcomes that occur during the cognitive development of individuals with varying levels of hearing loss (Clark 1993). These outcomes are interrelated and depend on the fit between individuals and their environments or social settings such as family, peers, and schools. Context, Cognition, and Deafness examines these interactions in order to explain successful developmental and educational outcomes within these social fields.

An interdisciplinary approach is vital to an understanding of cognitive development, cognitive strategies, and educational attainments within these layered contexts. Here, the strength of many methodologies works together to disambiguate the sometimes conflicting and often confusing research findings related to the cognitive development of individuals with different degrees of hearing loss. Current research is providing information helpful for understanding earlier findings that concluded the educational performances of deaf children of deaf parents were at levels equal to or higher than those of hearing children with hearing parents (Brasel and Quigley 1977; Meadow 1967, 1968, 1969; Stuckless and Birch 1966; Vernon and Koh 1970. See also Marschark 1993 and Meadow-Orlans, this volume.) Recent work on the use of ABC stories (Rutherford 1993) and the focus on connecting written English with signs through fingerspelling play (Erting, Thumann-Prezioso, and Benedict 2000) point out tools that culturally Deaf children possess that can be used when they enter school and begin formal instruction in reading English. The early parent–child focus on preliteracy skills provides the connection between ASL and written English, which in turn fosters reading readiness. These types of interdisciplinary connections between anthropology, education, psycholinguistics, and early parent–child socialization allow research discrepancies to be synthesized and integrated into current and expanded theoretical frameworks.

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