Impact of a Deaf Child on Families
A bird calls and the phone rings. Yet the girl makes no move to listen to one or to answer the other. A baby’s cry goes ignored and the tea kettle on the stove continues to whistle. Most, but not all cases of childhood deafness and hearing-impairment are diagnosed between the ages of 18 months and 3-years-old (Mapp 50). Sometimes called the invisible handicap, hearing loss explains why sign language is the third most used language in the United States (Jones 54). While recognition of sight problems or physical impairments may be triggered by spotting eye glasses or a wheelchair, deafness must be discovered through acts of direct communication. The girl walks down the hall and does not acknowledge her friend calling her name. The term disabled has been much debated in recent years. It is both a classification of a functional limitation and a branding stereotype that scars a certain type of person. More than 90 percent of deaf children are born into hearing families. Before the 1970s, the impact this group of unique children had on their families and how the family structure adjusted was little studied (Mapp 7). Though raising a deaf child is challenging at times for parents and influential on how siblings are treated, it can also be a rewarding experience and an adhesive to hold together a family. When a child is diagnosed with deafness, it is the flag marking the beginning of a series of potentially draining events for his or her parents. Though many parents say that raising a deaf child differs in subtle yet slight ways from the already challenging aspects of raising any child, they also agree that their child’s disability tends to amplify emotions, especially in the early stages of diagnoses. There are feelings of disbelief, confusion, and disappointment that lead to anger while guilt mingles with a sense of mourning. Through all of these overwhelming responses, parents learn to deal with the seclusion, to recognize the drawbacks of their situation, and to effectively develop strategies for their families. Though it is too generalizing to say that all parents react the same way to their child’s hearing loss, many parents do react in similar manners. It is the hearing parents that are affected the most by the arrival of the news of hearing loss in their child. Deaf parents, on the other hand generally embrace the handicap of their child because they realize they have the resources and language knowledge to help the child. In studies done comparing deaf children from hearing parents with those from deaf parents, the children from deaf parents significantly outscored their counterparts in areas such as vocabulary, reading, social skills, and mathematics. An explanation for this may be that the children of hearing parents experience something called “language deprivation” by which they are stripped of the knowledge commonly passed down through the direct exposure to a language natural to their parents (Mapp 190). For this reason, the stresses of raising a deaf child fall heavier on hearing parents. Many hearing parents feel this diagnosis shatters the illusion that their child is and will be perfect. This loss of innocence is a sentiment that many parents mourn. Many parents of deaf children have had little or no contact with the deaf community and are forced to comprehend a subject entirely foreign to them. Shock is a common response and works well as a defense mechanism that enables parents to begin the stages of mourning the illusionary loss of their normal child (Luterman 6). This shock gradually fades to disbelief as parents grasp at the permanent and incurable meanings of the word “deaf.” Many ask how such a thing could happen in their family and occasionally the hearing problem is kept a secret. Though she was diagnosed in kindergarten, the girl begged her parents to keep her secret for years, senselessly believing that if no one knew about it then the problem did not exist despite...
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