Executive Function Abilities in Deaf Children

Anna Jones, Chloë Marshall, Nicola Botting and Gary Morgan

Project Update

Phase one of the project is nearing completion with more than 200 deaf and hearing children having taken part. We are very grateful to all these children and their parents, and to participating schools and the NDCS for helping to facilitate this research. Data analysis is underway and we are looking at the relationship between the children's executive functions and their language ability.

We would still like to hear from parents of deaf or hearing children aged 10-11, so please get in touch if you would like to take part in this innovative study.

Phase two of the project will begin in July 2014 so we will soon be contacting parents and schools regarding arranging a second visit.

What does Executive Function mean?

Executive Function is a broad term, which covers many different though processes including planning, memory, attention and problem solving. Children use Executive Functions (EF) in the classroom every day at school in many ways, for example:

  • When switching from one topic of thinking to another e.g. defining words to drawing graphs
  • When they are given independent work to do they use EF to plan which task they will do first and how long they will spend on each task
  • When concentrating in the classroom and learning how to ignore distracting information
  • Remembering new information they are taught from one part of the lesson and applying it in another part, for example when learning about names for shapes of objects and use this information to work out patterns and sequences
  • Coming up with new ideas for a topic when asked by the teacher.
Children in Class

How does Executive Function relate to language?

Research has demonstrated that language is important for Executive Function skills. Children use language to talk to themselves when doing tasks to help them remember and plan information and avoid distracting information.

Child Naming Colours

What is the aim of this project?

The aim of our project is to look at the relationship between language and Executive Function skills in deaf children. Many assessment tests of Executive Function are English or sound based, which would put deaf children at a disadvantage. We are using a series of visual tasks with no English or language in them, which are suitable for assessing deaf children.

We will be recruiting deaf signing children, deaf oral children with Cochlear implants or hearing aids and hearing children aged between 6 and 11 years. We are looking at these groups of children so we can compare different language backgrounds and skills and see how they relate to Executive Function development.

What would my child do?

Your child will complete a number of short child friendly tasks. All studies are approved for ethics and safety.

How much time would be involved?

We will visit your child twice during a two year period at a time that is convenient for you either at school or your home. The session should last approximately one hour each time.

When would my child participate? 

The studies are beginning in September 2012 and will go onto the end of 2015.

Can my child participate?

We are looking for deaf children who are deaf in both ears and hearing children. All children must have no additional disabilities. Children must be aged between 6-11. The deaf children can be oral or sign language users or both.

Would we receive anything for participating?

Yes, your child will receive some small gifts to thank them for their time. We will ask parents to complete some short questionnaires in a stamped addressed envelope, when we receive these by post we will send parents a £10 high street shopping voucher to thank them for their time.

Where does the study take place?

We can either visit your child in school or at your home whichever is most convenient.

Who will be present when my child is taking part in the study?

Only the necessary project staff will be present while your child is taking part in the study and all staff have Criminal Records Bureau checks prior to the start of the research project. We will welcome you and your child and answer any questions you have before beginning the session and time will be given to ensure your child feels comfortable and at ease throughout the session.

What will happen to the data collected regarding my child’s participation in the study?

The information gathered from your child’s session will be looked at as part of a set of anonymised data collected from a number of children and the findings will be included in a written article and possibly books. We will disseminate information to teachers, researchers and other important contacts within the deaf community and we can also send parents a summary of the findings on request.

What do I do now?

If you are interested in participating, please email or write to me at

Anna Jones,


49 Gordon Square,



Page last modified on 29 apr 14 19:38