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American Annals of the Deaf

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Deaf Education in America: Voices of Children from Inclusion Settings

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behavioral and emotional problems (Kupersmidt, Sigda, Sedikides, and Voegler, 1999). The range of emotional problems associated with loneliness includes low self-esteem, depression, and social anxiety. Certain social problems, such as peer rejection, victimization, and lack of high-quality friendships, are closely identified with loneliness. Additional behavioral problems such as shyness, social withdrawal, spending more time alone, lack of dating relationships, and decreased participation in religious and extracurricular school activities have also been linked to loneliness (Kupersmidt et al., 1999). Perlman and Landolt (1999) also reported links between loneliness and other problems such as physical illness, suicide, alcohol use, poor psychological adjustment, aggression, low grades in school, stealing, and vandalism. An online survey of 353 self-described lonely participants revealed even greater consequences, including a fascination with death, feelings of hate, and cold and empty feelings void of emotion (Seepersad, 1997). The dangers of feeling lonely may be even greater among adolescents, who may use ineffective coping strategies to try and dispel these feelings. Rubenstein and Shaver (1982) reported that adolescents were the loneliest of all of the age groups and often coped with their loneliness through sad passivity (sleeping, taking tranquilizers, eating, and doing nothing). Other researchers have found that loneliness can cause medical problems (Harms, 2000) and other serious problems such as turning to crime, self-induced isolation, and exaggerated consumption of medication (Rokach, 1998).

Deaf students may be particularly vulnerable to loneliness, which can be elicited by isolation, not having close friends, and not identifying with or not being accepted by valued social groups (Cacioppo, 1999), treating loneliness as an objective state brought about by objective circumstances, rather than a subjective state brought about by other subjective states. Since all three experiences were distinctly described by the deaf students interviewed, it is reasonable to conclude that deaf students in hearing schools are strongly susceptible to loneliness and the associated conditions that might be related to it.

In fact, several of these symptoms were noted by the parents of deaf students. For example, Jasmineís mother expressed her concern that Jasmine would sleep for hours and had become obsessed with death. The fear of Jasmineís suicidal tendencies led her parents to find another educational program for her. When she was placed in the deaf school, these symptoms vanished, and now her parents describe her as ďin love with life.Ē

Zackís mother spoke of his intense quietness both at school and at home during his years in a mainstream program. She also described an intense personality change (from being a leader to being withdrawn), as he entered the mainstream school, and another change (from a quiet child to an outgoing and talkative child) later, as he returned to a deaf school.

Overcoming loneliness is not so much dependent on the number of relationships one makes as it is on the quality and depth of the relationships (Tucker-Ladd, 1996). Based on this perspective, it is vital for deaf students to develop relationships with several other students to ward off the possible consequences of loneliness. While some students may not experience loneliness in a hearing educational environment, educators and parents should carefully monitor deaf children for these possible indicators while finding ways to expose them to meaningful quality relationships.

Struggling With Inferiority and Lack of Power

How do you feel in your hearing school?

Themes of inferiority and a lack of power run through many of the responses to the questions. Though the students used different terms to describe it, many of them identified it as a major frustration of an integrated education.

   Iíd try to talk with them sometimes, but mostly I was just shy. I felt lower then them, so I usually didnít even try.

   Some hearing people think deaf people canít do anything. But I put up with them. I feel like uniforms at school. Uniforms,
   meaning all the hearing people control the deaf people.
      Hearing people try to make deaf interested in hearing things . . . come on with us, weíll teach you to talk, use your
   hearing aid and try to hear us. I donít have patience for that. What about my culture?

   Yeah . . . I mean some of the hearing students are idiots. They prove themselves by their actions . . . they donít
   understand what it means to be deaf. I mean, some of them are just plain stupid, but I donít let them get to me.

   Being deaf in a hearing school, I found that sometimes the other kids thought less of me. For example they might be sitting
   around a table and whispering to each other and Iíd actually catch what they had said to each other by lipreading them.
   They thought I couldnít lipread, and some deaf people can, other deaf people canít. Really, they just kept showing their
   surprise that deaf people can do so many things . . . which means that they thought deaf people canít do them in the first
   place. I say the only thing a deaf person canít do is hear, thatís all.

These feelings of inferiority and lack of power were evident in most of the deaf studentís comments, whether they were in the signing or the speaking group. Some of the inferiority came embedded within the students themselves. Kyle shared that he felt ďlowerĒ than the other students, so he was shy. Zack spoke often of his feelings of embarrassment and shyness. He explained that these feelings were intensified when he felt ďstuckĒ in the communication process.

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