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Deaf Adolescents
Inner Lives and Lifeworld Development

Martha A. Sheridan

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From the Journal of Deaf Studies and Deaf Education

In 2001, Martha Sheridan published Inner Lives of Deaf Children: Interviews and Analysis, a book that first introduced us to a diverse group of 7 deaf and hard-of-hearing children ages 7–10. Through intensive interviews, Sheridan identified various developmental themes and differences in these children’s lifeworlds, a term she uses to describe “the individual and collective elements and realities that are present within the participants’ existential experiences, their relationships, and their truths.”

In Deaf Adolescents: Inner Lives and Lifeworld Development, Sheridan revisits these children in their adolescent years (ages 13–17) to examine how each one’s perspectives on their lifeworlds have changed as they have progressed into the teenage years. The book explores the adolescents’ experiential themes that they report to exist in their lifeworlds, while also addressing how their families cope with these themes.

Initially, Sheridan begins by documenting her own adolescent experience beginning when she entered Gallaudet University. She describes the stifling consequences of growing up deaf in hearing schools and then compares that to the eye-opening personal growth, academic development, and social emersion in the Deaf community she was afforded at Gallaudet. She then progresses to describe a brief profile of each participant, followed by highlights of each of their meetings in turn. “If you could make a movie or write a book about deaf teenagers, what would you want to tell them?” Sheridan asks them at the beginning of each interview.

As the children respond to a series of scripted, open-ended questions, we learn that they have accrued many new life experiences and perspectives. They have been through many changes—at school, with peers, with their families, in the community—and Sheridan describes to us in their own words what these changes have meant to them. Besides addressing each adolescent’s own current realities, we are also privy to the possibilities each of them see for their futures. The qualitative research presented in this book allows the readers to come to know these adolescents, with excerpts from each of their interviews also included in the chapters. Furthermore, the fact that Sheridan grew up deaf, paired with her professional experience and training, undoubtedly adds to the depth of information obtained through these interviews.

In short, Martha Sheridan has crafted a longitudinal story of seven open and articulate teenagers, giving an inside perspective about the trials, tribulations, as well as joys that exist in their lifeworlds. Providing a venue to explore very unique perspectives, Sheridan has successfully advanced the knowledge surrounding the development of children and adolescents who are deaf. In fact, with all that the book has to offer, Deaf Adolescents: Inner Lives and Lifeworld Development would be a very useful tool for parents and scholars alike to obtain enlightening insight into developmental themes and experiences of adolescents who are deaf and hard of hearing.

Martha A. Sheridan is Professor, Department of Social Work, Gallaudet University, Washington, DC.

ISBN 978-1-56368-369-5, 1-56368-369-5, 6 x 9 casebound, 240 pages, tables, references, index


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