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Guidelines for the Assessment and Educational Evaluation of Students Who are Deaf or Hard of Hearing

Communication Evaluation


A communication evaluation includes signed, spoken, and/or written language, as deemed appropriate for the student. The student’s performance on the spoken communication evaluation provides information about his or her ability to benefit from amplification or other assistive listening technology, and indicates whether the student needs added support, such as sign language or a combination of supports. When interpreting test results, it is important to consider if error patterns are due to hearing loss, language delay, or disordered development which will help to guide therapy goals and techniques used. It may be beneficial to use tests that are standardized on a younger population than the student you are evaluating. Being able to find the student’s current level of functioning to establish their zone of proximal development is beneficial for goals and treatment planning. Evaluations typically consist of formal and informal testing and gathering information in the following areas:

  • Auditory perception: the ability to recognize and understand what is heard
  • Articulation and speech production: the ability to (a) form and produce words or signs accurately and (b) improve production with feedback, including prosodic features (i.e., intonation, pitch, rhythm, and stress), voice quality (including nasality), and intelligibility of connected speech
  • Semantics: vocabulary mastery and the ability to understand the multiple meanings and basic concepts, both receptively and expressively. May also include comprehension of situational concepts and contexts
  • Syntax: receptive and expressive abilities to use word order and morphemes to create grammatically correct sentences
  • Pragmatics and discourse: the ability to (a) use language for self-advocacy and independence and (b) hold a socially appropriate conversation at both a basic interpersonal level and an abstract, complex level
  • Thinking and reasoning: the ability to use language to reason solutions, solve problems, and perform other executive function skills, including, but not limited to, organization, abstract concepts, humor, planning, attention, and memory
  • American Sign Language (ASL): a visual-spatial language used in the United States and Canada. Linguistic information is conveyed by the movement of hands and non-manual signals received through the eyes and processed in the language areas of the brain. ASL has its own rules of grammar, phonology, morphology, semantics, syntax, and pragmatics.

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  • The evaluation may also include an informal assessment of the student’s ability to care for and maintain his/her hearing aids, cochlear implants, or other assistive listening devices.
  • Families of children who use sign language should be offered support to increase their signed language and communication skills.