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Sign Language Studies

American Annals of the Deaf

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Cochlear Implants: Evolving Perspectives
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Table 1. Descriptions of the Participants

Mothers who were interviewed in the study

Sierra Jasmine Lauren
Motherís family background Comes from multigenerations of deaf families Hearing parents Comes from multigenerations of deaf families
       
Hearing status of the participants and their spouses Mother is deaf and spouse is hard of hearing Both parents are deaf Mother is deaf and spouse is late deafened
       
Time of childís hearing loss From birth From birth From birth
       
Age of childís implantation 18 months old 20 months old 7 years old
       
Age of child at the time of the study 2 years old 3 years old 10 years old

All of the videotaped interviews were translated from ASL to English. ELAN, an electronic transcribing tool, was used to create annotations of the videos. Each interview required close to 30 hours to transcribe. Each participant was sent a copy of the transcription of their interview with the goal of ensuring that they felt the transcriptions reflected what they said and meant. Feedback was requested for this purpose. Some of the feedback was related to word choices used to translate from ASL to English. Other feedback from the mothers pertained to clarity or additional information based on their answers.

Data Analysis

The transcriptions of each of the interviews were reviewed several times to identify themes that emerged from the data. Highlighting pens with different colors were used to differentiate these themes. During the first level of coding, all comments that had significance and relevance to the main questions and purpose of the interview or appeared to provide additional insight into the participantsí decisions or feelings were identified. The next level of coding involved identifying statements describing their reasons for deciding to have their children implanted, the support the participants received for their decisions, and comments about their childrenís language use and beliefs.

Because of the large number of comments related to language, these comments were differentiated into three categories: languages used at home, school, and with friends. These comments also reflected the participantsí beliefs about using both ASL and English. An additional category was created to identify participantsí beliefs about language use and practice in general. Other themes that emerged included the impact of the cochlear implant on the child, the family, their decision about educational placements, and their thoughts about the Deaf and hearing communitiesí support for children and families with cochlear implants.

The next step in the thematic analysis included a more in-depth exploration of each of the themes identified. Using the software program Excel, insights and other observational notes as well as specific comments that reflected each theme were recorded. This process provided a useful way to connect the participantís own words and the themes with the research questions.

Findings

The following discussion highlights the main themes that emerged from the interviews with quotations from the parents that support their perspectives and beliefs related to the central research questions:

1. What did these families hope to accomplish with cochlear implants?
2. How did these families support their childrenís language development in ASL and English?
3. What educational choices and decisions did they make?
4. What advantages and challenges do they face in supporting their childrenís language, literacy, and cultural development?

ďI Want to Give Her Wings, Put Wings on Her.Ē

During the first part of the interviews, all of the mothers shared their reasons for their decisions to have their children implanted. Before they made the decision, each family questioned whether cochlear implants actually worked. They relied on different sources of information. All of the mothers mentioned that they had observed other children with cochlear implants and noted that these children were able to speak clearly. They depended on hard of hearing and hearing people they trusted to assure them that the cochlear implant was beneficial in developing spoken language. Sierra relied on people who had access to spoken English to inform her that a child with a cochlear implant could speak clearly. Sierra had doubts about the effectiveness of cochlear implants based on what she had heard from various sources. In addition, she did not trust the audiologists and speech therapists who claimed the cochlear implants worked. Some people in the Deaf community felt audiologists and speech therapists patronize them by saying their speech was good or that their cochlear implants worked, when they really did not.

At the party, he (a little boy with a cochlear implant) spoke a lot. I observed him and asked my husband, who is hard of hearing, if he could hear him speaking. He listened to him and said he spoke clearly. In the past, Iíve heard that CIs were lousy and didnít work. This time, it was successful for real. It was the first time that I really understood. Oh, it really works! (Sierra)

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