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American Annals of the Deaf

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Parents and Their Deaf Children: The Early Years

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You see them out there playing. I go to a park and I say, “Oh, he’s not going to be able to demonstrate that he wants to play with the ball. Those kids are not going to let him in.” Though, when they might not let him in, he does some flips or something. Basically, the whole group is over there with him. He’s never had a problem. He goes to the park to this day. He just mingles right in. He demands your presence. . . . I mean, he just has that kind of, you know, where I can do something that you can do but better. (Focus Group 3)

The data from the minority subgroups were limited with regard to language and inclusiveness of diverse populations. The Spanish translation of the national survey instrument was flawed, and interviews and focus groups were conducted in English. Therefore, the Hispanic participants were either relatively fluent in English or acquired assistance in responding to the survey.

Second, there is great diversity in country of origin, language skill, and immigration status within each ethnic or racial group. For example, the Hispanic population in the United States includes people from many Latin American countries, each with its own unique cultural traditions (Gerner de Garcia, 2000; Ramsey, 2000). Asian Americans have traditionally been from China, Japan, Korea, or the Philippines (Cheng, 2000). More recently, immigrants from countries such as Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia, as well as from India and Pakistan, have increased dramatically. Our respondents are limited with respect to the diversity and number of minority groups they represent: No Native Americans and only two Asian countries are represented. Because the national survey did not include country of origin, that information is not available.

Given the small and diverse qualitative sample, it is possible neither to tease out nuances of experiences based on these dimensions of diversity nor to claim that what we present here is representative of the members of these populations in a statistical way. Nevertheless, the comments of the parents in this study provide insight into the experiences of some of the members of ethnic and racial minority groups who have children who are deaf and hard of hearing.


We have reported the interview data according to themes that emerged from the qualitative analysis of the transcripts. These themes include warning signs; circumstances of identification of hearing loss and parental responses; concerns about rights, discrimination, aspirations, and finances; support from extended family and siblings, religion, and professionals; communication at home and at school; and access to and satisfaction with services.

In many ways these parents’ experiences mirror those of other parents with young deaf or hard of hearing children. Sometimes themes emerge that seem more specific to the parents’ status as members of a minority group living in the dominant White culture. Such themes provide food for thought regarding implications for other families who find themselves in similar circumstances, as well as for the professionals who serve them. The overlapping in themes found between the White and non-White parents underscores the universal nature of response to childhood deaf-ness. Even though race and ethnicity are critically important dimensions, parents of deaf and hard of hearing children share many other characteristics and experiences. The commonality, as well as the uniqueness of minority group membership, provides a more complete picture of these parents’ experiences.

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