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Sign Language Studies

American Annals of the Deaf

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Deaf Adolescents: Inner Lives and Lifeworld Development

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Situations with Hearing Peers. As in the earlier study, the adolescents described negative situations with hearing peers.
Joe: [talking about hearing students at school]: Like in my class, most of them, they’ll gang up on me; they’ll play tricks on me, and I don’t like it.

MS: What do hearing people think about deaf people?

Joe: I would say some haven’t met one or experienced one. I would say they would probably think lowly of a deaf person. Like I had a teacher who really thinks I couldn’t do anything, that she had to instruct again and again and again. I’m like, I’m already doing it right. Now she understands. She didn’t really think I would succeed.

Angie: There’s one girl who looks quiet, unhappy, frowning. The other kids are happy. I feel she’s sad because she’s not joining in.

Mary: She probably wouldn’t be very enthusiastic about participating in sports after school because it’s hard to communicate with other hearing peers.

Audist Attitudes and Behaviors of Others. The participants frequently perceived the attitudes and behaviors of hearing people as marginalizing them. They described perceptions of hearing others as “looking down” on them, considering them “inferior” (e.g., Mary, Joe, and Danny), acting rude toward them (e.g., Alex), and being passively or actively dismissive and restrictive (e.g., Alex, Danny, Joe, Mary, Pat, and Angie). Joe and Mary suggested that in situations such as this, hearing people need to get to know them to see who they really are.

Community Situations. We know generally that adolescence is a time of testing and exploring independence and expanding horizons out into the community without the presence of parents. This is true for the deaf adolescents in this study; however, they were learning that these expeditions could involve some uncomfortable interactions. The following quotation illustrates an example of alienation in a community situation.

Alex: In one restaurant, the staff people come up to me, and if I try to fingerspell, I have to stand to the side. Everybody else goes in line in front of me, and they pay and get their food. And I’m having to wait. That’s rude.
In-Group Conflict with Deaf Peers. In-group conflict exists in any population, especially as identificational issues and sensitivity to differences within the peer group arise. This cohort of adolescents shared stories of rejection, rudeness, and conflict with other deaf teens (in-group rejection). They also reported incidents of deaf-on-deaf bullying. The following quotations exemplify alienating experiences that the adolescents report they experience with deaf peers:
Alex: Others are rejected, it’s rude.

Lisa: That school is only for signs, and sometimes we fight.

Mary: Sometimes they’ll insult me, “What do you go to a hearing school for?”

Pat: I quit! The boys were awful! It was stupid. They were bullies!

The Deaf community is an identificational community that is expected to serve as a buffer against the barriers and intolerance that deaf people face in various situations throughout life. These examples of rejection within the small confines of the Deaf community, where adolescents turn for support and nurturing, are particularly disturbing. Schools, community organizations, parent groups, and peer groups need to pay special attention to this phenomenon and develop prevention and intervention programs and policies to build responsibility and respect for the various forms of diversity within the community.

Infinity: Future Stories

Future stories are visions that people have of their futures. In both childhood and adolescence, the participants were confident about their futures, believing they would grow up to be working, autonomous individuals who contribute to society.


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