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Navigating Mainstream Environments: The Impact of Modality Selection for Children with Cochlear Implants

Communication is a fundamental component in education. For children who are deaf, cochlear implantation provides access to spoken communication; however, that access is different from that which typically hearing students experience. Because cochlear implants (CIs) have made it possible for many deaf individuals to communicate through spoken language, controversy exists in the education field as to which modes of communication should be considered for children who are deaf and have CIs in mainstream classrooms. This dissertation discusses a qualitative multi-case study that was conducted using ethnographic methods in order to examine the communication practices of two students with cochlear implants in a mainstream educational setting where spoken English and sign language were presented in tandem throughout most of the school day. This study employs Ethnography of Communication (Hymes, 1972), Multiliteracies (New London Group, 1996) and Social Semiotics (Kress, 2013) as theoretical frameworks and Hymes’ SPEAKING model (Kaplan-Weinger & Ullman, 2015), multimodalities (Kress, 2000, 2013) and Deaf Gain (Bauman & Murray, 2014) as tools for analysis in order to examine these students’ modality selection in different contexts and under various environmental conditions. This study also analyzes how these various modalities impact these students’ educational access, receptive and expressive communication, communicative practices, and identity development. Results of this study indicate that audition was the primary modality utilized by the focal participants, but they used their agency to select various combinations of modalities to support their access to spoken language. While they may identify as hearing, Deaf, or “DeaF” (McIlroy & Storbeck, 2011), the impact of their agentic modality selections may promote a “Multimodal User” identity.
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