Being Deaf in a Hearing World: Plans of Prevention for Children and Teenagers

Project location: Italy, Rome
Project start date: November 2008 - Project end date: November 2009
Project number: 2008-21
Beneficiary: CNR


The National Council of Researches (CNR) is a national public institution involved in the development, enhancement, divulgation and transfer of research activities in the main areas of the development of knowledge and its application to the scientific, technological, economic and social development of the Country.


The Institute of Cognitive Sciences and Technologies (ISTC) is involved in research, enhancement, technological transfer and training activities in the following scientific areas:

- Cognitive, communicative and linguistic processes: acquisition, elaboration, deficit, multimodality, communication technologies.

- Theory, analysis and technology of spoken language and of linguistic variability.

- Cognitive development, learning and socialization in children and non-human primates.

- Artificial intelligence, artificial life, artificial societies.

- Cognitive technologies, neural networks, autonomous robotics.

- Social cognition: behaviour, motivations, cultural transmission and cultural processes.

- Decision-making and cooperation technologies.

- Quality of the environment, health and society: prevention, education, integration, handicap, technological planning.


The researches carried in the ISTC by the "Neuropsychology of Language and Deafness" Unit, started in the 1980's, investigate the acquisition and use of language as a cognitive process in children and adults, focusing on the different modalities in which it is expressed in typical and atypical populations. The goal is to find the origins and the "universal" aspects of language and the way in which it is linked to the cognitive development in general (and specifically to the symbolic one), to the modality of expression (acoustic-vocal and visual-gestural), to the elementary processes (perception, attention and memory) and to the input. The investigation and the theorization of the multimodal features (acoustic-vocal and visual-gestural), frequent in different languages (sign language, verbal language and written language), are now particularly relevant in the light of the new models developed by neurosciences. These models underline that there is a deep linkage between sensorial and motor processes (involved in the neural structures) and symbolic and linguistic skills, both gestural and vocal ones.


At present time the research in these areas and related topics are carried out by three Laboratories: "Sign Language" (SLL, coordinated by Elena Pizzuto); "Gesture and Language" (GaLL, coordinated by Olga Capirci); "Language Development and Disorders" (DaLL, coordinated by Maria Cristina Caselli).


The project consists in some prevention actions and support for families with deaf children and operators who work in the field of childhood deafness, in a very important moment of development, namely the preschool age.  The project consists of two sub-projects:


A) the observation of preschool deaf children through protocols for the assessment of  communication and language (direct observation tests and questionnaires for the parents) in Italian and in Italian Sign Language; the organization of a workshop at a regional level with the aim of sharing protocols and assessment procedures; a brochure will be realized and free distributed  to inform about deafness.


B) the realization of a KIT (a book, a DVD in Sign Language and a brochure of information) of 5 short stories directed to families with deaf children between 3 and 5 years of age; the organization of a informative seminar; free-distribution of the KIT (250 copies).


The Nando Peretti Foundation is cofinancing this project to achieve the following goals:

The project consists of two parts, in each one there are two sub-projects A and B.


Sub-project A: From knowledge to education


The subproject A aims to study the communicative and linguistics abilities, in comprehension and production, in a group of  Italian deaf preschoolers (about 30), and to compare them with a group of hearing pairs. It also has the purpose to identify and share at a regional level a common protocol of linguistic evaluation and evaluative procedures in order to dispose of educational and rehabilitative projects more suited to the characteristics of deaf children.


Children will be recruited at Infant Schools or at Italian Health Service and will be evaluated directly (by test) and indirectly (by questionnaires to parents). Particular attention will be paid to the non-verbal modality eventually used by children (gestures and/or Sign Language) and also to the individual developmental profiles. Both children with traditional prosthesis and cochlear implant will be included in the study.

Families and operators will be informed about the results of the assessment to improve the educational ad rehabilitative processes, in order to support and address the educational and rehabilitative process in a more effective way.

A workshop will be organized, "Knowledge for education. A reflection on protocols for clinical assessment of deaf preschoolers", directed to speech therapists, neuropsychiatrists, psychologists and researchers working in Lazio, in order to identify, at least on a regional level, a common protocol for the assessment of communication and language and to share modalities and tools for the observation and the interpretation of children's developmental profiles.

A brochure will be realized and free distributed (250 copies) to inform about deafness and linguistic development.



Sub-project B: Kit "Stories for deaf preschoolers (3/5 years)"


A KIT will be realized named "Stories for deaf preschoolers from 3 to 5 years of age" to offer free educational material to families and to the operators and at the same time to provide, for other Associations,  a prototype for other similar products in the future. The goal is to improve the deaf children's linguistic competence, both in Sign Language and in Italian, remembering that sign acquisition is easy and spontaneous for a deaf child, while the acquisition of Italian is a process that can last several years. We believe that the signs can be a valid help to develop deaf children communicative competences.


The stories will be transposed in LIS, the material will be edited and subtitled. A little LIS/Italian glossary will be developed. A DVD will be realized and then burned in 250 copies. The KIT will contain:

-    a DVD containing 5 small stories concerning day by day situations in Italian Sign Language, already included in some books  published by "DAMI Editor" Press;                              

-    a book containing the first story;   

-    a brochure to explain how to use the DVD and the book.

The Kit will be free distributed (250 units) to families, speech therapists, teachers, psychologists, etc.


CNR Personnel involved in the project are:

-     Researchers: Maria Cristina Caselli, Virginia Volterra (Research Associated)

-     Technical Support: Tommaso Lucioli, Stefano Marta


The coordinator of the scientific-organizational activities will be Dr. Maria Cristina Caselli with the support of Dr. Giulia Porcari, who will participate in the project as an outside consultant.



The anticipated outcomes of the project are: 

-     To elaborate protocols and tools for linguistic observation and assessment for children in their early development; to spread at a regional level the elaborated protocols and procedures; to support families and operators with adequate informations that could offer a better education to language for the deaf child.

-    To produce new materials (stories in LIS) for a bilingual education of the deaf child; to help parents into telling the short stories to their children, improving  children's linguistic competence through playful moments and improving the level of communication between parents and their children.
think global, act local
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