Evaluating the utility of the test of narrative language for use with deaf children via American Sign Language
The expressive language tasks of the Test of Narrative Language (Gillam & Pearson, 2004) were administered to eleven deaf, native signers and fifteen English-speaking hearing children who were between the ages of six and ten years old. These tasks were administered to determine the appropriateness of this measure for use with special populations and bring to light new information about children's narrative development and the differences in the language modalities of these two groups. Also, the application of this information on future testing of deaf populations is examined. The eleven native signers came from a single residential school for the deaf, and all had deaf parents. The fifteen hearing children were recruited from a private school and through associates of the primary investigator. The tasks were administered according to the TNL manual's protocol and script, with the primary investigator speaking English for the hearing children and a native signer using American Sign Language for the deaf children. Their narratives in these tasks were coded according to the standards of the test and examined: factual story comprehension, story retell abilities (and inclusion of target terms), story generation from a picture sequence, and story generation from a single picture scene. This study found that though the hearing group outperformed the deaf group on each task's raw score, the specific subcategories of "Grammar" and "Story" from the picture sequence-based story generation task, and the "Characters" and "Vocabulary and Grammar" coding of the single picture-based generation task showed ASL users as having stronger narrative skills as a whole. Specific target items from the story retell also proved differentially problematic for the ASL group and should be altered in future utilization of the TNL with deaf children. In the future, the need for appropriate and representative testing of deaf children's narrative skills should take a higher priority, and greater understanding of the differences between ASL and English will be desired for both test creators and those testing deaf children.