The following historical review of major research studies provides a background for consideration of the psychomotor abilities of Deaf children and youth. A brief summary is provided for each study. The following sections (Historical Research and Motor Performance Characteristics) describing the results and analysis of studies use the abbreviations Df (deaf); HI (hearing impaired); and H (hearing).
- Long (1932) compared motor abilities of Df boys (51) and girls (26) with a matched group of H children. H children outperformed Df children on the balance test. This was the only statistically significant difference between the two groups on a series of psychomotor tests.
- Morsh (1936) compared psychomotor performances of Df and H individuals, ages 5 to 26 years. No significant differences in performance were found, although in a steadiness test, the performance of Df students was superior.
- Brace (1936) compared the balance ability of Df (52) and H (59) boys. Boys were equivalent in performance in individual skills such as high jump, baseball throw, broad jump and 50-yard dash. H boys balanced longer than Df boys. Brace was the first researcher to review performance based on etiology and degree of deafness. The congenital â€“ total deafness group was superior in static balance to congenital â€“ partial, acquired â€“ total, acquired â€“ partial, and unclassified groups.
- Burbank (1936) assessed balance skills in Df boys (137) with a hearing loss of greater than 65dB. The congenital etiology group performed better than the disease-caused deafness group in nine balance skills. The balance ability of the meningitis etiology group was most affected compared to nine other deafness etiologies.
- Myklebust (1964) evaluated the manual dexterity and locomotor coordination of 80 Df males, ages 12 to 21. In manual dexterity, Df males were within the 50th percentile of that of H males for speed, but only in the 15th percentile for accuracy. Myklebust also assessed locomotor coordination of 75 Df and 275 H children who ranged from 7 to 15 years of age. Df children performed less well in these tests and in comparisons on the basis of etiology, the meningitic group performed the least well.
- Boyd (1965) studied motor skills of 90 Df boys (ages 8 to 10 years) from a residential school. Df boys scored significantly lower than H boys in static balance in all age groups. In locomotor coordination, H boys scored higher. There was no significant difference between 9- and 10-year-old H and Df boys in manual dexterity speed; however, 8-year-old deaf boys scored significantly higher.
- Vance (1968) compared the motor skills of 44 Df and H children, ages 5 to 13 years. This study included Df children from nonresidential schools. H boys scored significantly higher in balance, tracing speed, grip strength, 50-yard dash, squat thrust, and ball throw. H girls scored significantly higher on grip strength and squat thrust; however, Df girls scored higher in the ball throw.
- Logan (1969) examined H and HI boys and girls (ages 10 to 20 years) on 6 tests of static and dynamic balance. Overall, H boys and girls performed significantly better than HI children and youth.
- Bressett (1971) assessed athletic abilities of Df and H boys and girls, ages 12 to 14 years. Df groups performed below the H groups in maximal breathing and forced expiratory volume. H participants performed significantly better in agility and H girls significantly better in leg strength. There were no significant differences in eye-hand coordination, eye-hand reaction time, running speed, or arm strength.
- Lindsey and O'Neal (1976) compared the performance of 31 Df 8-year-olds with 77 H 8-year-olds. Df children were deficient in static balance and performed less well than H children when visual input was removed. Df children failed more dynamic balance items than H children.
- Gayle (1977) assessed the static and dynamic balance abilities of H and HI children, 6 to 12 years of age. HI subjects were found deficient in most tests except for left static balance.
- Geddes (1978) evaluated 11 Df and HI subjects, 4 to 6 years of age, on static balance, body awareness, locomotion and dynamic balance, manipulation, climbing, throwing, catching, and kicking. Children performed at age level in 11 of the 18 items.
- Pender and Patterson (1982) compared the psychomotor performances of 120 H and HI children, 6 to 11 years of age. H children scored significantly higher in power, kinesthesis, arm and shoulder girdle strength, and static and dynamic balance.
- Brunt and Broadhead (1982) assessed the motor performance of 154 HI boys and girls ranging from 7 to 14 years of age. Df participants were above the norms in visual motor control but below the norm in balance, bilateral coordination, and response speed.
- Campbell (1983) studied psychomotor differences between H, HI, and Df children 6 to 13 years of age. In H to Df comparisons, results indicated that the H group scored significantly higher than Df group on eight of the nine fitness items. H children scored significantly higher than HI children on the 9-minute and 30-yard run tests. HI children balanced longer than Df children in static balance and performed better on other fitness skills. This study concluded that higher levels of hearing loss resulted in inferior motor performance.
- Wiegersma and Van Der Velde (1983) completed a series of four studies with children in the Netherlands. Overall, Df children were inferior in general dynamic coordination and physical fitness and were delayed on some manual ability tasks.
- Butterfield (1983) assessed 132 HI children, ages 3 to 14 years, from five residential schools for the deaf in four states. The genetic etiology group was significantly superior to the idiopathic etiology group in static balance. Those children with the greatest decibel loss performed at a mature level in kicking while those with less severe hearing loss did not.
- Winnick and Short (1986) in a comprehensive study of physical fitness, tested 686 H subjects, 153 hard of hearing, and 892 Df subjects. The performances of all groups were quite similar overall, with a few exceptions.
- Shepard, Ward, and Lee (1987) tested 15 male and 14 female subjects ranging from 12 to 15 years of age who used a hearing aid. Only 12 of the 29 subjects achieved true maximal oxygen intake and plateau. When compared to other students of the same age, hard-of-hearing students had higher amounts of body fat.
A Critique of Historical Studies
All of the previously described studies focused on children and youth, and in many cases, participants were from schools for Deaf. It is likely that overall results are not very accurate. The following section outlines significant methodological problems in these historical studies.
Testing methods and procedures are one basis for making comparisons between results from research studies. Tests used in early studies (Long, 1932; Morsh, 1936) were primarily vocational assessments. Long (1932) used items from the Stanford Motor Skills Unit as adapted by Seashore (1928). In addition to vocational tests, Morsh used a balanciometer or balance board. Brace (1936) broke away from vocational testing and used the McCloy (1932) athletic ability test. Myklebust (1964), Boyd (1965), Vance (1968), Lindsey and O'Neal (1976), and Gayle (1977) all used English translations of the Oseretsky (1931) Test of Motor Development.
In more recent years, the Bruininks-Oseretsky Test of Motor Proficiency (1978) was used by Brunt and Broadhead (1982) and Butterfield (1983). Two studies by Campbell (1983) and Winnick and Short (1986) used fitness tests, but overall many of the studies incorporated sports skills as part of assessment of physical performance. The variety of tests used in research studies was a limitation in determining the performance capacities. Although items from different tests are similar, there was a lack of consistency in testing tools and methods which makes cross-study comparisons difficult.
Another weakness of many of the historical studies was the comparisons of performance of one group of individuals to another different group of individuals. In many cases, students were matched, but often participants were from different schools. The evaluation of performance to normative or criterion-referenced standards has been neglected. In addition, the research has focused on group performance profiles rather than the current health-related fitness focus of evaluating individual performance and the development of a program plan to improve performance.
Conclusions from research studies must be considered in relation to participant selection. There is some indication that educational placement has an effect on motor ability scores (Schmidt, 1985). In the historical studies, researchers drew their Df and HI participants from residential or day schools for Deaf, where children tended to have higher levels of hearing loss (Schildroth & Karchmer, 1986). The analysis of motor performance across various educational placements to fully assess the school effect was not systematically studied.
It is acknowledged that some motor assessment tools used in early studies are not part of current assessment techniques. Our understanding of psychomotor measurement has improved, and the validity and reliability of some of the early assessment tools is questionable. Today, a combination of criterion-referenced developmental and norm-referenced diagnostic tests should be used to provide a more complete picture of performance levels. Assessment of motor performance of Deaf individuals includes all of the problems associated with testing for the general population coupled with unique issues for the deaf regarding English proficiency and communication.
Information on communication methods is missing or incomplete in many research reports. Stewart, Dummer, and Haubenstricker (1990) note that researchers should use experts who are familiar with the linguistic and communication needs of particular groups of Deaf participants to ensure valid results. Ellis and Dummer (2003) successfully modified the Fitnessgram test for Deaf children by using cable lights on the PACER test. In the Ellis et al. (2005) study, test items were specified and modified to ensure understanding by Deaf children and these children were identified as having at least minimally acceptable levels of physical fitness.
Many of the historical studies were conducted by individuals who completed one research study and did little follow-up research. Currently, there are several individuals who have studied physical activity patterns of Deaf children over a significant period of time. These researchers, such as Stephen Butterfield, Gail Dummer, David Stewart, Lauren Liberman, and Kathleen Ellis, have developed an understanding of motor performance issues uniquely associated with the Deaf community. These individuals have become knowledgeable about unique aspects of the Deaf community and this knowledge has informed their research. David Stewart (1991) provides an excellent overview of cultural aspects of sport in his book, Deaf Sport: The Impact of Sports within the Deaf Community.