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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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In the NPP survey, 33% of the respondents were minority parents. This percentage was some-what less than the 42% of minority families who responded to the Annual Survey of Deaf and Hard of Hearing Children and Youth that the Gallaudet Research Institute conducted at about the same time as the NPP survey in 1997 (Holden-Pitt & Diaz, 1998).

Twenty-one parents provided the qualitative data for this chapter. We interviewed 11 by telephone and 1 mother/father pair in person. Eight participated in one of the focus groups. We con-ducted the telephone interviews with 4 parents of African American children and 7 parents of mixed-race children. (ďMixed raceĒ refers to children whose parents checked more than one race on the survey, e.g., Black and White, or White and Hispanic.) Of the 17 parents in the focus groups, 8 were minorities: 2 Asian, 2 Hispanic, and 4 African American. One of the parents was hard of hearing; all of the others had normal hearing.

Of the 20 children represented, 16 were boys and 4 were girls. Six parents described their children as hard of hearing, while 14 described their children as deaf.

The following characteristics could be determined only for the 11 families who participated in both the national survey and the telephone interviews. Four reported that the diagnosis of their childís hearing loss was delayed, and 1 reported the presence of a behavior problem; 2 children had cochlear implants, 8 had one or more siblings, and 5 had a disability as well as a hearing loss.

Several parents described their children as having a hearing loss and many good qualities such as being smart, determined, funny, able to draw very well, skilled in sports, good in math, and sensitive to the needs of others. Some parents balanced their positive descriptions with other personality characteristics that are also typical of young children, such as being stubborn. Three descriptions follow:

Heís hearing impaired. Itís profound in his right ear and moderate to profound on his left. So he wears two hearing aids, and he does sign, and he reads lips, and heís learning how to read. And thatís about it. Heís a sweet little boy. (Survey 334)

Iím proud of my son because he achieved a lot of stuff. When he was about 3 years old, he started learning sign, and he picked it up so quickly. He has a mind to learn so quick, and Iím just proud of him because he is determined to learn in school, and he wants to go to school, and he wants to learn. Plus I think Iím proud of him because he is smart and he is determined and thatís what makes me proud of him. Because I know he is gonna get somewhere and be some-body. I know he is. (Focus Group 2)

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