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Sign Language Studies

American Annals of the Deaf

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Parents and Their Deaf Children: The Early Years

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Another parent described a positive relationship with the audiologist who helped her understand her childís hearing loss by explaining what he could and could not hear and how to help him ad-just to his hearing aids:

Like I didnít . . . even understand that . . . it was the consonants he couldnít hear. You know, and she explained to me, like, what sounds and gave me a chart with . . . letters. And then it all made sense. Oh, no wonder he always drops his ďsísĒ and never says ďsís,Ē and, you know, I mean, the audiologist probably provided me with the most information. (Survey 186)

Most of the parents were able to describe an educator who was very supportive, either in the early intervention program or in school:

There was a girl who was his teacher, and we became personal friends, and she gave inside tips to things that nobody would tell us . . . and itís kind of like she opened my eyes to things, and she told me how I need to go around the system to get the most for my child. (Survey 53)

Parents also described the support they received from educational professionals for disciplining their child. One mother who felt guilty for punishing her daughter before her hearing loss was identified explained:

We found different ways of dealing with her behaviors because we understood why she was doing it. But everyone kind of helped me adjust to the change. So, like I said, not punishing her but working with her. . . . Everybody was just (helpful), the school personnel. (Survey 111)


Mapp and Hudson (1997) investigated the relationship between African American and Hispanic parentsí stress levels, their childrenís behavior problems, and their childrenís signing skills. Parents of children with good signing skills reported both less stress and fewer behavior problems. Steinberg and her colleagues (1997) also report that minority parents perceive that their children experience behavioral difficulties that they attribute to unsatisfactory communication between the child and family. Issues of access to services, severity of hearing loss, finances, family values, and extent of knowledge of various options all influence communication choices (see chapter 2).

Parents expressed concerns about their ability to sign and communicate with their deaf children. One parent described using only home gestures before their son started school:

We just speak with each other. We donít sign. . . . We probably gesture, but still I would like to speak to him. I donít like to sign. . . . Iíll probably never sign. . . . I want to speak to him. [His wife is learning to sign because their son signs at school.] (Focus Group 3)

Ramsey (2000) reports that Mexican-heritage mothers tried to sign whereas the fathers only spoke Spanish. Often their extended families criticized them because they did not teach their deaf child to speak Spanish. In one NPP family, the father recognized that the child, exposed to sign at school, would likely surpass the parentsí skills. A mother recognized her own lack of signing skills as a problem:

And sometimes it is frustrating dealing with them. íCuz you have to deal with them different than you deal with the hearing child. Thereís things you cannot talk about to them ícuz you donít know the signs for it, and youíre afraid youíre going to miscommunicate. (Survey 202)

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