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American Annals of the Deaf

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Deaf Adolescents: Inner Lives and Lifeworld Development

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Although strengths was not originally identified as a theme in phase I, Inner Lives of Deaf Children did emphasize the many strengths that the children presented in that study. Since qualitative research is constantly open to interpretation, it is fair at this point to say a category of strengths also existed in the phase I study. To confirm that I was not biased in my assignment of the new data to the old categories, I met with my peer debriefers, who agreed that the previous categories were fitting. I was also able to identify differences between the informants’ perspectives in the phase I and phase II studies.

The following themes emerged from the phase II study:

Strengths

Images

  • Attachment and domesticated others (including parental regard and friendships)
  • Alienation and disparate others (including boredom in inaccessible relationships, layers of alienation)
  • Infinity (continuing education and vocational choices, socioeconomic potential, intimacy, deaf constancy, and independence)
  • Covert and overt identity
  • Images of communication
Pathways

Generic issues of adolescence

Each of these themes is described in the following sections.

STRENGTHS

Inner Lives of Deaf Children discussed the social constructions of deaf people represented in clinical, cultural, and bicultural models. The traditional social perception of deaf people as deviating from a hearing norm has been a constant presence in the lives of deaf and hard of hearing people, and it has created many oppressive barriers to full participation in society. The importance of highlighting and recognizing the strengths that emerged in this research cannot be overstated. These strengths have important implications for research, policy, and program planning. In keeping with a strengths and empowerment perspective (Saleebey, 2005), I believe it is important to begin this presentation of research findings with a discussion of the countless strengths that these deaf adolescents displayed in their interviews.

These are outgoing, articulate, assertive, talented, resilient, and social teenagers who have much faith in themselves and, with few exceptions, in their futures. They believe they are loved by their parents and friends, and although they acknowledge communication barriers, they express strongly affectionate relations with their families. They have many strong positive and comfortable relationships at home, with friends, and with peers at school. They have many enjoyable experiences with family, friends, and schoolmates, as well as a sense of humor and a variety of recreational activities. They recognize and acknowledge their challenges, and they are creative and defiant in transcending social barriers. They are involved in a variety of extracurricular school activities, particularly athletics. They articulate their feelings; they know where they fit in, who to go to for support, what they like and don’t like, what their options are in many situations, and how to ask for support and resources. Many of them appreciate culture and history. They are adaptive and are able to educate others about communication, Deaf culture, and ways of communicating and interacting with them. They recognize diversity among deaf and hard of hearing people, their families, and educational programs. They are autonomous in that they are able to make many decisions for themselves and can solve problems as they confront barriers. Primarily, they see themselves as being independent, educated, socially active, and working and contributing members of society in their futures. At the same time, they acknowledge realistic limitations.


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