Developing communication skills in deaf primary school pupils: Introducing and evaluating the smiLE approach

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Herman, R. ; Alton, S. ; Pring, T. (2011)

Many profoundly deaf signers have difficulty communicating with hearing people. This article describes a therapy called ‘Strategies and Measurable Interaction in Live English’ (smiLE; Schamroth and Threadgill, 2007a), an approach used to teach deaf children skills to become successful communicators in real-life situations. This study evaluates the effectiveness of smiLE in helping deaf pupils develop their ability to make successful requests in a specific communication situation and whether this generalized to another communication situation. Sixteen severely and profoundly deaf primary school pupils (7.2—11.0 years old) received an 11-week programme of therapy. Their performances in a trained and an untrained communication situation were compared pre- and post-therapy. In the trained task, the pupils’ interactions improved significantly. No differences were found in the untrained task, suggesting that the learnt skills did not generalize. Anecdotal findings suggest that some carry-over into a similar situation had occurred and that trained skills were maintained. The smiLE therapy approach is effective in providing deaf children with the communication skills and confidence to interact with English speakers in targeted situations. The lack of generalization of these skills to similar situations may be overcome by a longer therapy programme that specifically promote these skills across different situations.
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