View Our Catalog

Join Our E-Mail List

What's New

Sign Language Studies

American Annals of the Deaf

Press Home

Deaf Adolescents: Inner Lives and Lifeworld Development

Previous Page

Next Page


Continuing Education and Vocational Choices. All of the participants in this study are actively thinking about their lives in the future. Most of them are considering professional careers. While the participants primarily had positive perceptions of their futures, some of the male participants were aware of the social barriers a deaf person would face in some arenas, such as politics, professional basketball, police and fire departments, and the military. These are career possibilities traditionally mentioned by many young boys. In the phase I study, police, fire, and military careers were desired by some of the boys in the study. In the adolescent study, these careers remained Patís first choices. The other boys had moved on to other options. This may be partly due to the fact that these careers do not require a college degree and Pat, unlike the other boys in the study, does not see college as a possibility in his future.

Alex considers getting his driverís license, going to college, and possibly attending graduate school after attending Rochester Institute of Technology to study electrical technology. Danny would love to be a professional basketball player but says he will go to college to study computers. Lisa plans to attend a large hearing university and become a veterinarian. Mary is considering majoring in English or Social Work at Gallaudet University and becoming a college professor. Angie was meticulously mapping out the various tasks she would need to accomplish as she prepared for her future life as an independent adult (learning how to handle her finances, becoming aware of alerting devices, studying hard, learning to drive, going to college, learning child care techniques, understanding how to obtain medical and employment resources, using interpreters, etc.). Angie wants to travel, write a book and poetry, or possibly be a reporter. Joe wants to attend a Division I college to play football, study business, and become a business executive.

Pat seemed to struggle the most with his options. He did not envision college as a part of his future, and he wanted to join the service or a police or fire department, or even be president of the United States, but he was discouraged at the lack of opportunities in those fields for deaf adults and emphasized that he felt stuck. He was also attracted to the idea of making movies, being an artist, or working in a museum. Mostly he envisioned falling back on working as a custodian or in a fast-food restaurant.

In addition to the careers they are aspiring to themselves, the participants in the adolescent study envisioned other potential jobs for deaf adults. These jobs included physician, veterinarian, computer technologist, newspaper artist, custodian, writer, historian, architect, television and media personality, airline pilot, teacher, zoologist, inventor, scientist, psychologist, and comic book artist.

Angie was able to talk about many possible scenarios for herself and other deaf people that she anticipated would require more energy, effort, preparation, and study than what would be needed by hearing people, who have greater access to incidental communication and feedback from the environment. Although she did not refer to this process as unfair, she repeatedly described a level of concerted effort that deaf people must make to obtain the same amount of information to lead productive lives.

Angie: How to take care of children and school, contacting the school, bringing an interpreter to talk to the teacher, getting an interpreter for a job interview or for emergencies if you get hurt or are in the hospital and need to talk to a doctor. Deaf people need time to think about things. They canít get information from hearing, so they canít know more, like complicated things like stocks.
Socioeconomic Potential. Generally, the adolescents expressed the desire to earn a good income and anticipated their ability to do so. However, some considered career choices that would support this, while others perceived the earning potential of deaf adults to be limited. For some, this was compatible with what they saw as imposed limitations, such as Patís frustration with not being able to join the army or police. He was also the only student who felt he didnít have the potential to succeed in college. Six of the seven teens saw themselves attending college, but one student reported that ďmost deaf teenagers donít plan to go to college because they just want to collect SSI benefits.Ē Danny, who dreamed of becoming a professional basketball player, also saw deaf people as being more restricted in their options and income; as an alternative, he planned to work with his father so he would have communication assistance. Most of the teenagers, in addition to anticipating the possibility of college attendance, saw themselves as having their own homes and cooking their own meals. Many of their stories showed that they envision socialization with their friends (primarily deaf) into adulthood.

Intimacy. While the participants were not directed to discuss romantic relationships, in the phase I study, many of the children talked about marriage and offspring. In phase II, they focused more on their vision of continuing to have an active social life into adulthood and made little mention of romantic relationships or parenting. Angie, however, directly mentioned marriage as a possibility. In a discussion of her experiences in a mainstream setting, Mary mentioned the uncomfortable nature of using an interpreter when she communicates with a boy she might be interested in. Danny expressed concern about marriage based on his experiences with his parentsí divorce. Angie continued to consider visual alerts and other accommodations she would need for effective parenting in her future.


Previous Page

Next Page