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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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Parents perceived Individualized Educational Plan (IEP) meetings both positively and negatively. Some parents described the venue of their IEP meetings with the professionals as an adversarial setting in which they had to fight for their childís rights. One mother commented:

Iím finding that there is a struggle with everything, fighting for his rights. Umm, he has an IEP coming up, and Iíve been told that Iím probably really gonna have to have a battle because I want an interpreter ícuz this . . . soccer is through the school. So I want an interpreter. I want the school to provide an interpreter. So itís pretty tough here. (Survey 17)

Another mother has a positive recollection of her experiences in an IEP meeting:

And you know, we have IEP meetings every year, and thatís when weóI go down to the school and we sit around . . . what [child] accomplished this year, what he needs to be accomplishiní, what else, you know, do I see anything that my son needs more of, and anything that I need or if I have any questions. The schoolís really great with me. (Survey 98)

Differences in satisfaction relate to differences in support, access to services, and the parentsí frame of reference.

CONCLUSION

The views of the minority parents we report here are enlightening in terms of the effectiveness of services and the supportiveness of professionals. Although generalizations or stereotyping based on race or ethnicity are detrimental, it is useful to note the issues documented here in order to assist minority families more effectively. As the population of the United States continues to boom and the schools serving deaf and hard of hearing children become more diverse, it is vital that these issues be addressed.

Among the significant issues that call for further study are the following: (1) lower levels of satisfaction with services that minority parents report, (2) cultural and language influences on communication choices and educational placements, and (3) access to services that encourage the involvement and support of minority parents. Studies of the reasons for the changing demo-graphics might provide insights into this subgroupís future need for services. In addition, con-ducting research in Spanish with Spanish-speaking parents is important in order to obtain information from those parents who were excluded from this study because of its use of English only. Comparative research between minority and White families might also shed light on the concerns or problems that minority members face and ways in which the addition of a deaf or hard of hearing child might compound them. Finally, comparisons with Spanish-speaking families with and without children who are deaf or hard of hearing could illuminate difficulties that these families face while participating in their childrenís schooling.

Cultural sensitivity is of the utmost importance. Professionals need to understand that every situation is unique and that parentsí educational levels, marital and employment status, housing situations, and location influence people from all cultures. Affluence and access to services have always been powerfully linked, and we need to consider ways to make services available to all families, especially for those who cope with economic challenges. To serve the needs of deaf and hard of hearing children, professionals need to address these issues. No child should experience delayed identification of hearing loss, but late identification is even more unacceptable if it results from the dismissalóbecause of a parentís minority statusóof such concerns. Further study of the needs of minority deaf and hard of hearing children should be a priority.


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