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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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The absence of a partner may increase the shock of identification. The NPP survey data indicate that 40% of the Black/African American and mixed-race children were living in single-parent households, compared to 15% of White children. One recently divorced mother felt very much alone at the time of the diagnosis. Religion and a supportive family helped her to adjust:

And at that point you feel kind of helpless. . . . At the time, I had got a divorce, and it was like I was a struggling parent trying to find out ways that I as a single parent could better my child. And it was really frustrating because no one would tell me nothing . . . and so we live with what God has given him. And he does just fine. And we all cope just fine with it. He’s very much accepted into our family. He’s not an outcast or anything like that. I think the most you can do is educate your child very well so he can function in the world and give him lots of love. (Survey 53)

Support from an extended family is echoed in another mother’s response when we asked who was the most helpful to her at the time of the diagnosis:

My family. My family was, my sisters. I have like eight of them, and they were all really helpful (laughter). We cried a lot, but we started immediately trying to find programs for when he was old enough to start a program. And we didn’t find one ’til he was 4 . . . ’cuz I was really trying to keep him at home. (Survey 202)

CONCERNS ABOUT RIGHTS, DISCRIMINATION, ASPIRATIONS, AND FINANCIAL CONCERNS

Rights and Discrimination
The issue of fighting for a child’s rights and against discrimination emerged frequently in the interviews with this subgroup of parents. One mother spoke of being a “strong advocate” for her son. When we asked about her concerns at the time of her child’s diagnosis, she commented:

My concerns? And even now [deep breath], fighting for his rights. For him to be treated equal. Umm, being accepted. Umm, I just wanted him to be treated fairly, and, uh, that about sums it up. . . . I did visit the school in [local town]. They have basketball, cheerleaders, just everything at a hearing school. I would love to see that in a school for children that are deaf. They want to be included. I would love to see that. This is pretty hard for me, seeing already discrimination with my son. . . . I would just love for him to be anything that he wants to do in the school like the hearing children. (Survey 17)

Aspirations
Parents also had concerns that their child’s hearing loss might result in their not being able to accomplish their life goals. These parents’ comments illustrate this theme:

I mean, even though he’s only gonna be 8 years old in June, one day I would like for him to go to college. (Survey 53)

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