Visual-spatial Working Memory Span of Indonesian Children with Deafness in Oral, Total, and Sign Language Communication Methods

Johana Aprilia, Frieda Maryam Mangunsong


Children with hearing impairment or deafness experience cognitive function delays but not limited visual-spatial working memory, which is commonly used to solve mathematical problems. Previous studies have discovered that visual or spatial working memory in such children is different because of the communication methods that rely on vision. This study explores the visual-spatial working memory in children with deafness by measuring the memory of 70 elementary school children with deafness and identifying their communication methods through questionnaires. The questionnaires were completed by the children’s parents. The visual-spatial working memory measurement utilized the Lion Game through Zoom meetings. Consequently, it was found that there was no significant difference in visual-spatial working memory capacity in children with hearing impairment using oral, total communication, and sign language. It can be argued that in children with deafness, their visual-spatial working memory span with oral, total, and sign language communication methods have still not reached the maximum point. The use of hearing aids, popular among such children also did not significantly enhance visual-spatial working memory capacity. This research recommends parents be more attentive not only toward the communication methods of children with deafness but also to their cognitive function development.



Children with Deafness, Cognition, Communication Methods, Visual-Spatial Working Memory

Full Text:



Allen, K., Higgins, S., & Adams, J. (2019). The relationship between visuospatial working memory and mathematical performance in school-aged children: A systematic review. Educational Psychology Review, 31(3), 509–531.

Alloway, T. P., Gathercole, S. E., & Pickering, S. J. (2006). Verbal and visuospatial short-term and working memory in children: Are they separable? Child Development, 77(6), 1698–1716.

Alvarado, J. M., Puente, A., & Herrera, V. (2008). Visual and phonological coding in working memory and orthographic skills of deaf children using Chilean Sign Language. American Annals of the Deaf, 152(5), 467–479.

Amsel, E., & Byrnes, J. P. (2002). Language, literacy, and cognitive development the development and consequences of symbolic communication. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

Ashkenazi, S., Rosenberg-Lee, M., Metcalfe, A. W., Swigart, A. G., & Menon, V. (2013). Visuo–spatial working memory is an important source of domain-general vulnerability in the development of arithmetic cognition. Neuropsychologia, 51(11), 2305–2317.

Baddeley, A. (1992). Working memory. Science, 255(5044), 556–559. 6/science.1736359

Baddeley, A. (2010). Working memory. Current Biology, 20(4), R136–R140. https://doi.or g/10.1016/j.cub.2009.12.014

Baddeley, A., & Lieberman, K. (2017). Spatial working memory. In Exploring Working Memory: Selected Works of Alan Baddeley, (206–223). 5111261

Bavelier, D., Dye, M. W. G., & Hauser, P. C. (2006). Do deaf individuals see better? Trends in Cognitive Sciences, 10(11), 512–518. 9.006

Brentari, D. (2010). Sign language phonology. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Emmorey, K., Kosslyn, S. M., & Bellugi, U. (1993). Visual imagery and visual-spatial language: Enhanced imagery abilities in deaf and hearing ASL signers. Cognition, 46(2), 139–181.

Fanari, R., Meloni, C., & Massidda, D. (2019). Visual and spatial working memory abilities predict early math skills: A longitudinal study. Frontiers in Psychology, 10, 2460.

Gravel, J. S., & O’Gara, J. (2003). Communication options for children with hearing loss. Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities Research Reviews, 9(4), 243–251.

Hands and voices. (2014). Communication considerations: Total communication. Hand and Voices, & Dilansir. (January 7 2020). from

Harris, M., & Moreno, C. (2004). Deaf children’s use of phonological coding: Evidence from reading, spelling, and working memory. Journal of Deaf Studies and Deaf Education, 9(3), 253–268. ed/enh016

Hoff, E. (2013). Language development. Cengage Learning.

Holmes, J., Adams, J. W., & Hamilton, C. J. (2008). The relationship between visuospatial sketchpad capacity and children’s mathematical skills. European Journal of Cognitive Psychology, 20(2), 272–289. 1612702

Hyde, M. B., & Power, D. J. (1992). The receptive communication abilities of deaf students under Oral, manual, and combined methods [Manual]. American Annals of the Deaf, 137(5), 389–398.

KBBI online. (January 2 2020), Oral. Dalam kamus daring. Dilansir dari

Logie, R. H. (1995). Visuo-spatial working memory. East Sussex, UK: Erlbaum.

López-Crespo, G., Daza, M. T., & Méndez-López, M. (2012). Visual working memory in deaf children with diverse communication modes: Improvement by differential outcomes. Research in Developmental Disabilities, 33(2), 362–368. 16/j.ridd.2011.10.022

Marschark, M., & Knoors, H. (2012). Educating deaf children: Language, cognition, and learning. Deafness and Education International, 14(3), 136–160. 9/1557069X12Y.0000000010

Marschark, M., & Wauters, L. (2003). Cognitive functioning in deaf adults and children. Oxford handbook of deaf studies. Language and Education, 1, 486–499.

Marschark, M., Sarchet, T., & Trani, A. (2016). Effects of hearing status and sign language use on working memory. Journal of Deaf Studies and Deaf Education, 21(2), 148–155.

Marshall, C., Jones, A., Denmark, T., Mason, K., Atkinson, J., Botting, N., & Morgan, G. (2015). Deaf children’s non-verbal working memory is impacted by their language experience. Frontiers in Psychology, 6, 527.

Mayberry, R. I. (2002). Cognitive development in deaf children: The interface of language and perception in neuropsychology. Handbook of Neuropsychology, 8(II), 71–107.

Mayer, C. (2016). Rethinking total communication: Looking back, moving forward. The Oxford handbook of deaf studies in language, 32–44.

McConnell, J., & Quinn, J. G. (2004). Complexity factors in visuo‐spatial working memory. Memory, 12(3), 338–350.

Mursita, R. A. (2015). Respon Tunarungu terhadap Penggunaan Sistem Bahasa Isyarat Indonesa (SIBI) dan Bahasa Isyarat Indonesia (Bisindo) dalam Komunikasi. INKLUSI, 2(2), 221–232.

Pickering, S. J. (2001). The development of visuo-spatial working memory. Memory, 9(4–6), 423–432, 423–432. 80/09658210143000182

Power, D. J., Wood, D. J., & Wood, H. A. (1990). Conversational strategies of teachers using three methods of communication with deaf children. American Annals of the Deaf, 135(1), 9–13. 12.0439

Radvansky, G. A., & Ashcraft, M. H. (2014). Cognition (6th ed). Boston: Pearson.

Rajić, S. (2019). Mathematics and music game in the function of child’s cognitive development, motivation and activity. Early Child Development and Care, 1–13.

Rudyanto, M. (2020, May 12). Peran Orang Tua dalam Perkembangan Kognitif dan Bahasa Anak Tunarungu. [Lecture Notes]. Peran Orang Tua dalam Perkembangan Kognitif dan Bahasa Anak Tunarungu. Depok, Indonesia: Universitas Indonesia.

Suparno, S. (1989). Pendekatan komunikasi total bagi Anak Tunarungu. Cakrawala Pendidikan.

Swanson, H. L. (2017). Verbal and visual-spatial working memory: What develops over a life span? Developmental Psychology, 53(5), 971–995.

Van de Weijer-Bergsma, E., Kroesbergen, E. H., Prast, E. J., & Van Luit, J. E. (2015). Validity and reliability of an online visual–spatial working memory task for self-reliant administration in school-aged children. Behavior Research Methods, 47(3), 708–719. 58/s13428-014-0469-8

Wilson, M., & Emmorey, K. (1997). Working memory for sign language: A window into the architecture of the working memory system. Journal of Deaf Studies and Deaf Education, 2(3), 121–130. deafed.a014318

Wilson, M., Bettger, J., Niculae, I., & Klima, E. (1997). Modality of language shapes working memory: Evidence from digit span and spatial span in ASL signers. Journal of Deaf Studies and Deaf Education, 2(3), 150–160. https://doi.or g/10.1093/fordjournals.deafed.a014321



  • There are currently no refbacks.

Copyright (c) 2020 Johana Aprilia

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

PRoUSt secretariat:

Building B 1st Floor, Faculty of Psycology, Universitas Indonesia, Depok, 16424, Indonesia.

Copyright © 2019 Psychological Research on Urban Society (PRoUSt).

2615-8582 (online), 2620-3960 (print).