Listening is a fundamental foundation for literacy. For families who choose an Auditory Verbal approach to communication for their deaf child, promoting learning through listening is crucial for their developing literacy skills. The advances in technology, both in terms of diagnosis and enabling access to sound, together with our understanding of effective listening habilitation techniques, means that we can strive, not only for good listening and good spoken language, but for good literacy outcomes for our deaf children too. 

According to the latest statistics from the Department for Education, 34% of deaf children were recorded as having achieved a “good level of development” in the early years, compared to 76% of children with no identified Special Educational Needs (SEN). It remains of concern that around two thirds of deaf children arrive at primary school having not achieved a good level of development in the early years (NDCS, 2018). In 2017, 61% of deaf children left primary school having failed to achieve the expected standard in reading, writing and mathematics, compared to 30% of children with no identified SEN (NDCS, 2018). On average, deaf children underachieve by over a whole grade per subject compared to children with no identified SEN at GCSE (NDCS, 2018). This gap has widened since 2016. A new ‘Progress 8’ measure was introduced in the UK to compare what progress children have made between the end of primary and secondary school compared to other children of the same prior ability. Figures show that deaf children are not ‘catching up’ from their lower starting points as they move through secondary school (NDCS, 2018). Furthermore, an early language delay can continue to jeopardise future educational outcomes for deaf children and later employability.

In 2014, Auditory Verbal UK began conducting research into Key Stage 1 and 2 educational outcomes for our graduate children. Whilst this work continues, we summarised some of our initial findings at the annual conference of the British Association of Teachers of the Deaf, ‘Positive Futures for Deaf Children: Optimising Outcomes’(2017). Children who had been enrolled in an Auditory Verbal (AV) programme at less than five years of age had gone on to buck the trend of underachievement at school. Families responded to a survey and provided information about their child’s recent Key Stage results. Of the respondents who provided Key Stage 1 results, the majority achieved or exceeded the expected national standard for Key Stage 1 reading (85%), speaking and listening (84%), Grammar, pronunciation and spelling (77%) and mathematics (87%) (Hogan & Hitchins, 2017).

Research from Israel has also shown positive correlations between receiving AV intervention and academic variables. Significant differences were found between the study groups (AV graduates) and the control groups (deaf students without AV intervention) in all grades. AV intervention had a positive contribution to Hebrew and literature grades. These results suggest that graduates from AV programmes outperform adolescents and young people with hearing loss who were not rehabilitated via this AV intervention (Goldblat and Pinto, 2017).

A common result of educational success was also found in three studies by Goldberg & Flexer (1993; 2001) and Lim, Goldberg & Flexer (2017). Across these studies there was an exceptionally high degree of full mainstreaming with “typical” high school graduation milestones and post-secondary education conducted almost exclusively at “mainstream” colleges and universities. These results were found consistently over 25 years for AV graduates.

The positive outcomes from this data have a common denominator; the early intervention programme using the AV approach  that teaches deaf babies and children to learn through listening. This reinforces the position that good listening is a crucial part of the development of good language and literacy outcomes.