Welome to the Literacy And Deafness Development Research Lab – The LADDER Lab!

The LADDER Lab is made up of a group of researchers based at the Deafness, Cognition and Language Research Centre (DCAL) at UCL and City, University of London.  We are interested in understanding how literacy and language skills are acquired, and investigating the underlying cognitive processes involved in literacy development.

Our studies work with a range of groups of children, including typically-developing children, deaf children, and children with dyslexia and struggling readers. 

Our research programme has three common themes:

  1. Identifying problems in literacy and language
  2. Understanding the cognitive and language processes that underpin reading and spelling
  3. Developing effective interventions to remediate reading difficulties.

We conduct internationally–renowned research into deaf and hearing children’s language and reading development and difficulties.  Some hearing children and many deaf children have language delays and find reading challenging. It is important to understand how, and when, the language and reading processes can break down in order to devise effective interventions to remediate difficulties.  As part of this work to identify difficulties, we have developed a range of assessments to measure language skills. We work with practitioners and other key stakeholders to translate research findings into potential practice implications.

Click on “Our Research” tab to find out more about our different research projects.  Click on the “Taking part in our research” tab if you are a parent or professional wanting to find out more. Check out “Latest News” to hear the latest updates for our projects and the team.

Latest News

March 2022 UPDATE for the Preschool Language and Literacy Project 

Now recruiting again! We’re looking for nurseries and deaf and hearing children aged 3-4 years

We are delighted to announce that we will be resuming recruitment and data collection in schools and nurseries for our longitudinal Preschool Language and Literacy Project.

We will be contacting teachers and parents of children already taking part in the study to make plans for the next phase of testing in the new year.  We would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone taking part in the study for their participation and support.  We will keep you updated with our findings here and on our twitter handle @ladder_lab.  

We are also looking for new schools, nurseries and children to take part in this exciting study! We are looking for deaf and hearing children to help us understand more about how preschool language skills are related to later reading and language outcomes. Please look at our pages for further information.

If you are a parent, teacher, or other professional who would like their child or nursery to take part, or if you are looking for more information about the project, please contact us, or download our project flyer here:


Photo by Daria Shevtsova on Pexels.com


The Ladder Lab at the 3rd International Conference on Teaching Deaf Learners, 6th-8th November 2019

Members of the Ladder Lab team are over in Haarlem this week presenting our latest research findings at the 3rd International Conference on TEACHING DEAF LEARNERS.  Dr Fiona Kyle is presenting a poster giving the results from the first year of our longitudinal preschool language and literacy project. Here is a PDF copy of the poster:

Prof Ros Herman will be giving an invited keynote about literacy interventions for deaf and hard of hearing children. She will present the findings from our integrated phonics and language reading intervention study. Check back here for more details of our results soon!


“Talking about reading” FREE Ladder Lab event at Finsbury Library

Do you remember how you learned to read? Reading is something we learn in childhood, and is an important aspect of our lives. While many people enjoy reading a good book, for others reading remains a struggle. Come along to this event and learn more about the psychological processes behind learning to read, and the skills that deaf and hearing children need to read fluently. The event combines talks, activities and interactive displays, and will be of interest to anyone interested in learning how we learn to read, and ways to support children’s reading. Parents and professionals, as well as children and young people are especially welcome.

Date: Tuesday, 5th November 2019

Time: 5:00PM – 6.30PM

Location: Finsbury Library, 245 St John Street, London, EC1V4NB Map

BSL/English interpreters will be present to ensure full inclusion for all those attending.

The event is free, but please register and book your ticket through Eventbrite here


Recruitment is completed for our preschool language and literacy study for 2019

We have now finished recruitment for our preschool language and literacy study with 3-4 year olds. Thank you very much to all of the nurseries and families who are taking part. Watch this space for updates on our findings and the latest developments with the project!


Now recruiting! Deaf and hearing children aged 3-4

How is preschool language related to later reading ability? As part of a new research project called “Preschool language and literacy” we are looking for nurseries and children to take part and help us answer this important question.

Some hearing children and many deaf children find learning to read challanging. It is therefore important to identify children who may struggle with reading BEFORE they start learning to read. Early identification will help ensure that children who need it have appropriate support as they begin learning to read.

We are looking for deaf and hearing children who are 3-4 years old, use spoken language, and have no significant additional educational needs.

If you are a parent, teacher, or other professional who would like their child or nursery to take part, or if you are looking for more information about the project, please contact us, or download our project flyer here: