Harry Knoors

The Netherlands

Harry Knoors, Ph.D., is a Professor Emeritus at the Behavioural Science Institute of the Radboud University Nijmegen. Until May 2022, Knoors was also Academic Director of Royal Kentalis. Harry Knoors is trained as a psycholinguist, specializing in development and learning of deaf children. He is involved in research on childhood deafness, mainly language development, literacy, and psychosocial functioning, and in research on the effectiveness of education.

Harry Knoors (co)authored over 130 research articles. He co-authored and co-edited 7 books on the development of deaf children, all published by Oxford University Press (OUP). Knoors is a former associate editor of the Journal of Deaf Studies and Deaf Education, chaired the steering committee of the International Congress on Education of the Deaf, and is currently co-editor of the OUP book series Perspectives on Deafness. Together with Dr. Evelien Dirks (NSDSK), Harry Knoors is working on a book about the development of children and adolescents with cochlear implants, planned to be published by OUP in 2024.

Summary If one reviews research on the developmental effects of pediatric cochlear implantation, one may easily get the impression that the holy grail is the assessment of spoken language, and literacy (but also cognition and psychosocial functioning) as measured by standardized norm-referenced tests in homogenous samples of monolingual children. The children are implanted very early in life, preferably bilaterally. And they are often raised in well-educated and relatively affluent families. These studies show that many of these children attain (low)-average levels of spoken language proficiency and literacy.

Our own research on developmental outcomes is carried out in rather diverse groups of deaf children. This diversity is reflected in variations in implant conditions, variations in family circumstances, and variations in linguistic environments. These groups of children are much more representative of the population of deaf children at large.

Our research shows effects of implantation that are beneficial, but more modest in magnitude. What does this tell us? Did cochlear implantation of these children fail given these more modest outcomes? Did the children fail, their parents, their educators? Do we advise parents and educators to adapt practices and principles to make them and their children to resemble as much as possible those in highly selected samples? Or would a better way forward be if we acknowledge that pediatric cochlear implantation most often takes place in contexts characterized by cultural, linguistic, and socioeconomic diversity? If we assess outcomes of cochlear implantation much broader, so that assessments appropriately reflect development of diverse children being raised and educated in diverse conditions? And if we appreciate diversity by accepting variations in implant conditions not only as something in need for change, but also as a mere fact of life, by valuing differences in child rearing practices, and by supporting multilingual and multimodal development. In this presentation I will focus mostly on the latter.