Perspectives of Successful Adults who are Deaf
John Luckner, Ed.D.
National Center on Low-Incidence Disabilities
Perspectives of Successful Adults who are Deaf
John L. Luckner, Ed.D.
University of Northern Colorado
Colorado Symposium on Deafness, Language, and Learning
November 15, 2003
Deafness = Deficiency, Dysfunction, and Deviance.
Individuals who are deaf:
External locus of control
Current Views of Deafness
A disability, impairment, disorder, or ailment;
A logistic problem, especially in contacts with the hearing community; or
A social community/culture in its own right.
- Freebody and Powers (2001)
"Disability is a natural part of the human experience and in no way diminishes the right of individuals to participate in or contribute to society."
Sec. 687 of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) of 1997
National Association of the Deaf
"The general public needs information about the lives of the vast majority of deaf and hard of hearing individuals who have achieved optimal adjustments in all phases of life, have well-integrated and healthy personalities, and have attained self-actualized levels of functioning, all with or without the benefits of hearing aids, cochlear implants, and other assistive devices"
National Association of the Deaf, 2000, p. 1
Purpose of Study
- To identify alterable patterns and ingredients of success for individuals who are deaf.
- To gather recommendations about raising and educating a child who is deaf for parents, educators, administrators, and psychologists based on the collective experiences and perceptions of successful adults who are deaf.
- Colorado Association of the Deaf mailed letters to 400 members.
- Described purpose of study.
- Explained criteria for being selected as a successful adult who is deaf.
- Had instructions for nominating adults who are deaf to participate in the study.
- Fourteen letters were returned by the Post Office.
Definition of Success
Education - completed a post secondary training program.
Income - earns more than $30,000 a year.
Employment - is currently employed.
Social - has friends and is respected by his or her peers.
Self-confidence - exhibits positive self-perceptions.
22 individuals nominated - many nominated multiple times.
14 participated in interviews.
Demographic Information of Participants
- Hearing Status of Parents
Social worker - 2
Chemist - 1
University Instructor - 2
Printer - 1
Counselor - 1
Teacher - 3
Librarian - 2
Technician - 1
Engineer - 1
- Semi-structured interviews.
- Interviews were videotaped.
- Deaf adult, fluent in ASL conducted interviews.
- Each interview transcribed into English by Deaf adult.
- You have been nominated as a successful deaf adult. Why do you think you have become successful?
- How has your family helped you become successful?
- How has your education contributed to your success?
- How has your personality contributed to your success?
- How has your social life contributed to your success?
Interview Questions (continued)
- What advise do you have for children who are deaf to help them become successful?
- What would you recommend to parents?
- What would you recommend to teachers?
- What would you recommend to employers?
- Is there anything else that you would like to add?
- Qualitative research analysis - constant comparison method
- Both authors analyzed data from each interview on two separate occasions.
- Statements were recorded on a comprehensive list under each interview question.
Q1: Why do you think you have become successful?
- Worked hard.
"Hard work counts a lot in your success in life, because if you do nothing, you get nothing"
- Received ongoing support from their family.
"Really what made me successful are my parents."
Q2: How has your family helped you become successful?
- Acceptance of the hearing loss.
"I was always included in different activities, I would go to basketball, baseball, church events, youth group. I was always included. My parents were really good at treating me equal."
- Emphasizing education, specifically learning to read and write.
"My parents always told me that education is really important. That message stuck with me"
- Wide variety of family members mentioned as person who inspired them.
Q3: How has your education contributed to your success?
Group One - Positive, education was high quality.
- "Education opened the world to me."
- "I had a lot of wonderful teachers."
Group Two - Negative experience in school.
- "At that time education was lousy. I really learned nothing in school. We basically just said words all day like p,p, p,p,p."
- "I received a very poor education at (name of school), I had to educate myself by reading many books. I became a bookworm."
Q4: How has your personality contributed to your success?
Enjoy overcoming challenges.
"My personality is I can do it! I am always doing more than needed"
"I like to have challenges...my personality really pushes me to do new things."
Q5: How has your social life contributed to your success?
- So much is learned from interacting with others.
- Included in family conversations.
- Having a friend that they could trust and talk with.
- Being involved in sports, church activities and organizations.
Q6: What advice do you have for children who are deaf?
"Don't think or let people tell you 'you can't.' You never know unless you try. If you want something really bad, go for it. Don't let anyone stop you."
- Develop friendships.
"Find the right group of friends you can trust. Keep communication open and don't give up. Find someone to trust and who can support you through hard times."
- Become skilled at reading and writing.
"Read many many books, magazines, newspapers and new information on computers."
- Learn to advocate for themselves.
"I tell them to be brave. You have to be brave. There are so many things you have to do different than other kids. You need to tell teachers if something is not clear or ask questions, and practice now while you're young. It becomes easier for you."
Q7: What would you recommend to parents?
- Communicate with their child.
"The key is communication. It doesn't matter if it is ASL, SEE, Oral, who cares. It's important that the child can communicate."
"Communicate, not just the mom, but the whole family with the child."
- Provide ongoing support and to be involved in their child's life.
"Always be there for the child, listen to them, talk about goals for the future and encourage them."
- Expose children to many different activities and experiences.
"Don't hold them back too much. Exposure, show them the world."
"Don't overprotect children. They need to make mistakes and learn consequences. Let them experience real life."
Q8: What would you recommend to teachers?
- Be caring and have high expectations for students.
"Believe in the children and their potential,"
- Improve their ability to communicate using ASL.
"I think teachers need more skills at signing to communicate and gain the interest of each child."
- Participate in the activities of the Deaf community.
"Be involved with the Deaf community, have role models, tell stories, socialize."
Q9: What would you recommend to employers?
- Overcome their misconceptions about deafness.
"I want to show them that just because I am deaf doesn't mean I am limited or low functioning."
"See the person, not the disability."
- Get to know the employee who is deaf as an individual.
"It is important to remind people that "Yes I am deaf, but the next deaf person won't be like me. So accept differences and see what they have to offer."
Q10: Is there anything else that you would like to add?
- Exposure and diverse experiences.
"The key is exposure"
"Deaf children should grow up to participate and socialize to become successful."
- Importance of family love and support for the child.
"I feel that deaf children can be successful with family support. You can't just stop at school. Learning is 24 hours! You need constant exposure with love and support and encouragement,"
- The significance of setting goals.
"Set up goals! Go for it. Do it."
- Stringent definition of success.
- Never verified each participant met each criterion for being nominated.
- Sample was small, all from one state, all affiliated with one social organization.
- Family support
- Stimulating participate in research focusing on strengths and success.
- We should celebrate and nurture individual's strengths and capacities instead of doting on problems and failures.