Derica Parathundil: Improving Interventions for those Deaf or Hard of Hearing

My name is Derica Parathundil and I am going to be starting my fourth and final year at Florida State University in Fall 2021. I am in the Communication Sciences and Disorders major; that mouthful translates to the study of hearing, speech, swallowing, and balance disorders. A little about me beyond my transcript is that in my free time, you can find me kayaking at the Rez, playing computer or board games, at an ASLC (Askew Student Life Center) or CDU (Club Down Under) event, or at Special Olympics practice.

Volunteering with the Special Olympics

For my project, I am looking at communication in D/deaf or Hard-of-Hearing (D/HH)
children and its relation to use of sign and specific communication promoting strategies in an intervention program done prior to enrolling in school. D/HH children take part in early intervention so the family and child learn strategies to promote communication and alleviate delays upon entering school. I plan on exploring this area by analyzing videos of these intervention sessions that took place in the children’s home and coding the video. To provide some background on the topic, an issue that negatively affects D/HH children’s language development is the insufficient quality and quantity of accessible language input. While there are amplification methods available, it is difficult, if not impossible, to confirm the quality of the audio and speech input as the children are learning to recognize sounds and develop language at the same time. To circumvent the issue, some have suggested incorporating sign language in a child’s early intervention; however, there is not yet conclusive evidence that this has an effect, negative or positive, on a child’s language development.

The effects of using sign in early intervention is a complicated issue since there are so
many factors that vary between D/HH children and families including but not limited to type and degree of hearing loss, age of onset, existence of other disabilities, family familiarity with hearing loss, and age of enrollment in early intervention. Of concern for this project is that a majority of D/HH children are born into families that are hearing. This means if a family chooses to include sign in their child’s life, they will be learning sign language at the same time that they are teaching it to their child.

Individual factors in the life of a DHH child. Image source:
A sample of what home-based interventions looks like.

A previous study included children in at-home early intervention programs with videos taken of their home sessions; however, the focus was on the interventionists. For this project, the same set of videos will be used, but only those where the child was D/deaf or Hard-of-Hearing. 2-3 minute long snippets of each session with meaningful interaction between the child, caregiver, and interventionist are going to be coded for instances of specific communication strategies (in the case of the adults), communication acts (in the case of the child), or modes of communication. This should help provide insight to three questions:

  1. Is there a relationship between caregivers’ use of specific strategies on a child’s
    communication acts during home-based early intervention in D/HH children?
  2. What are the trends in caregivers’ use of sign within sessions during home-based early intervention?
  3. Is there a relationship between proportion of sign versus oral communication used by
    adults on a child’s communication within early intervention sessions?
Preliminary codes of adult communication strategies. The modification section specifies whether the communication strategy was just verbal or if it involved verbal communication with sign.

For the summer, my first step is to sort out what videos will be coded as well as what videos can be used for practice and rely. Once a collection is made, I need to practice applying the code to some clips to determine if tweaks must be made. Once the coding scheme has been tested and is ready to be applied, myself and one other coder with prior exposure to American Sign Language (ASL) will code through videos not part of the study to establish reliability to at least 80% for each caregiver, interventionist, and child codes. After the rely phase, the videos to be used for the study will be coded by both coders. From here the data will be exported and rearranged to a suitable format for each of the research questions posed.

After graduating from FSU, I’m planning to attend audiology school to receive my Au.D. I’m hoping to attend a school that has a focus on early intervention and/or the viability of the inclusion of sign in a D/HH child’s language development. This project has already helped me with solidifying my passion for the topic of language development in D/HH children; however, I feel it will also help me and the graduate schools I apply to determine whether I am a right fit.

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