DOI: 10.1044/2023_lshss-22-00088 ISSN: 0161-1461

Differentiating Language for Students Who Are Deaf or Hard of Hearing: A Practice-Informed Framework for Auditory and Visual Supports

Sarah D. Wainscott, Kelsey Spurgin
  • Speech and Hearing
  • Linguistics and Language
  • Language and Linguistics


Speech-language pathologists (SLPs) serving students who are d/Deaf or hard of hearing (Deaf/hh) and their deaf education counterparts must navigate complexities in language that include modalities that are spoken or signed and proficiency, which is often compromised. This tutorial describes a practice-informed framework that conceptualizes and organizes a continuum of auditory and visual language supports with the aim of informing the practice of the SLP whose training is more inherently focused on spoken language alone, as well as the practice of the teacher of the Deaf/hh (TDHH) who may focus more on visual language supports.


This product resulted from a need within interdisciplinary, graduate programs for SLPs and TDHHs. Both cohorts required preparation to address the needs of diverse language learners who are Deaf/hh. This tutorial includes a brief review of the challenges in developing language proficiency and describes the complexities of effective service delivery. The process of developing a practice-informed framework for language supports is summarized, referencing established practices in auditory-based and visually based methodologies, identifying parallel practices, and summarizing the practices within a multitiered framework called the Framework of Differentiated Practices for Language Support. Recommendations for use of the framework include guidance on the identification of a student's language modality/ies and proficiency to effectively match students' needs and target supports.


An examination of established practices in language supports across auditory and visual modalities reveals clear parallels that can be organized into a tiered framework. The result is a reference for differentiating language for the interdisciplinary school team. The parallel supports also provide evidence of similarities in practice across philosophical boundaries as professionals work collaboratively.

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