The assessment of pragmatic skills in young deaf and hard of hearing children

Dianne Toe*, Deborah Mood, Tova Most, Elizabeth Walker, Stacey Tucci

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


The development of pragmatic skills does not often receive attention by professionals who are recommending or undertaking assessment of deaf and hard of hearing (DHH) children, yet social communication is vital for linguistic, social, emotional, and academic development. We acknowledge the challenges that DHH children have with pragmatic skills, advocate for monitoring of pragmatic development for all DHH children by medical professionals, and provide direction for assessment of pragmatic skills in young DHH children, particularly for clinicians and teachers who are tasked with that work. Pragmatic assessment is challenging because it must involve observations of the child in interaction with a communication partner, either directly during a specific interaction or through the reflections of a familiar adult. In this article, we recommend two complementary assessment procedures for young DHH children who use spoken language. Assessment 1 recommends that a parent or caregiver completes The Pragmatic Checklist to provide a picture of the child's functional communication. In assessment 2, the information gained through the checklist is complemented by using direct observations of a child in interaction with an adult or a peer. The Pragmatic Protocol uses a video-recorded conversation sample between the child and familiar person that is analyzed by a DHH professional for 30 different pragmatic behaviors. We conclude this article with a recommendation for pediatricians and health care professionals to monitor pragmatic developmental milestones in DHH children, to refer them for pragmatic assessments, and to collaborate with researchers to develop valid, reliable tools that adequately capture the pragmatic skill strengths and needs of DHH children.

Original languageEnglish
Article number0242H
StatePublished - 1 Nov 2020


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