Review Article

Journal of Developmental and Physical Disabilities

, Volume 23, Issue 5, pp 459-476

First online:

Phonemic Awareness is Not Necessary to Become a Skilled Deaf Reader

  • Paul MillerAffiliated withDepartment of Education, University of Haifa (IL) Email author 
  • , M. Diane ClarkAffiliated withVL2 Science of Learning Center, Gallaudet University

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A review of research investigating prelingually deaf individuals’ word reading skills, phonemic awareness, and reading comprehension challenges the widely held conclusion that the impoverished readings skills of such individuals are the result of poor phonological processing abilities. Compelling findings show that—notwithstanding often remarkably poor phonemic awareness of the prelingually deaf—such readers succeed in developing word-reading strategies that sustain written word recognition at comparable levels to their hearing counterparts. Moreover, evidence suggests no direct causal relationship between their sensitivity to the phonological properties of words and their ability to comprehend connected text. These findings further indicate that such readers may gain from the development of orthographic knowledge in conjunction with syntactic awareness and metacognitive skills but not necessarily from the sheer fostering of their phonemic/phonological awareness.


Deafness Meta-linguistic awareness Phonemic awareness Orthographic knowledge Reading comprehension