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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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Steinberg and colleagues (1997) report mixed communication abilities in Hispanic families. Many families attended sign classes, used signs sporadically at home, and believed that the deaf child really could hear and understand. Regardless of whether these responses reflect parental denial or lack of information about deafness, they have serious consequences for communication and language development. Communication becomes more complex when the home language is not English and the family, child, and service providers must deal with trilingual challenges (Cheng, 2000; Gerner de Garcia, 2000).

Two minority families chose a cochlear implant for their child. In chapter 5 one of these de-scribes their excitement when the child responded to his name after the surgery. The other family was frustrated and disappointed when the expected speech progress did not occur:

And, uh, it was probably 3 years after . . . he was implanted that I did find out that he should have been having a regular conversation and speech at 18 months postimplant, which he just still wasnít doing, and he is still not doing. So we ended up going back to sign language for him and teaching him sign language again. (Survey 76)

This familyís experience suggests a possible lack of support for the expensive and time-consuming follow-up needed after an implant procedure, an issue that is discussed further in chapter 6.

ACCESS TO AND SATISFACTION WITH SERVICES

Minority families reported significantly greater dissatisfaction with their medical and audiological services compared to White, non-Hispanic families. Like other survey participants, minority parents based their feelings of satisfaction with professionals on their responsiveness to the family's most pressing concerns. Interviewed parents described satisfaction with those who involved the entire family and helped them understand the meaning of their childís hearing loss. Others expressed frustration because of delay in testing due to a doctorís dismissal of their concerns or the mistaken idea that testing a young child was not possible. One mother was upset because one professional made negative comments about hearing aids to her son.

Inaccessibility of services was an issue that a number of parents mentioned. One familyís options were limited because the father served in the armed forces:

Weíre military, so this definitely would not be the town that Iíd settle in for my son. I just donít feel like he has a chance here. I visited the school for the deaf, and I felt like he was too young to be 2Ĺ hours away from me. And I want him here, here, you know? The teacher, sheís nice, but as far as services and activities, they donít have them here for hearing impaired. (Survey 17)

Other families chose to send their young children to a residential program because they did not have access to an appropriate educational setting close to home. The following mother described the emotional difficulty of having her young child so far away:

God, thatís still so hard because itís still so far away. You know, they canít make me feel welcomed or involved because itís so far away. I just feel like Iím a total outcast. Everyone down there is so proficient at signing, and here I am, Iím very far away. Iím still going to school to try to better myself. And when I go down there I still donít feel comfortable ícuz everyone signs so good. (Survey 53)

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