12 / 1994
"Education begins in the home but in the case of deaf children education cannot begin until effective parent/child communication is established."(Denmark 1986).
The 1988 Pilot Survey of 128 deaf adults in Northern Ireland (Phoenix 1988)had closely followed the 1986 research into Northern Ireland’s first Total Communication play group (Phoenix 1986)both of which piloted the desirability of early intervention for healthy personality development and family interaction process of deaf children. The project involved to facilitate, implement and assess a programme of parent education. The major hypotheses were planned to focus on the following issues :
1- Enhanced communication within the family of the deaf child will promote more positive perceptions by the parents of their childs specific communication skills and change their expectations for their childs’future potential.
2- Children with better informed parents will in turn perform at a higher level than a control group of deaf children over a range of academic tests.
3- The intervention will change the identifications of parent with child, child with parent, child and parent with the deaf and hearing communities, and identifications of child and parent with significant others in their respective lives.
4- A deaf group of children living in hearing families within the dominant hearing society will identify more positively with the hearing ’other group’ than a group of hearing children recording their idealistic identifications with a ’disabled’group with whom they have had rare contact.
It is only when we seek to define the very nature of the ’conflict’ faced by the deaf child, their family group and their professional advisers that it is possible to see that it differs from those conflicts faced by a child with the ability to hear. I would argue that it has been difficult to develop structured and comprehensive services with and for the deaf community because of erratic identifications within the deaf adult community over a number of years. Suffice to say at this point that parents and children may have conflicted identifications with each other and with the deaf and hearing communities as a direct result of not only communication deficits but also as a result of stigma unwillingly transmitted from professional and lay adviser alike.
The relevance of the conceptualisation of the Deaf group in society as a minority language group is also brought into question when identification processes are analysed. Identity Structure Analysis (ISA): a Metatheoretical Framework, (Weinreich 1969)provided a suitable conceptual framework prompting the beginning of a new orientation in deaf studies. It is an acceptable framework in that it draws upon concepts, from cognitive-affective and dissonance processes in the context of identity structure, and has been elaborated by the psychodynamic personal construct theory, symbolic interactionist and cognitive-affective consistency theory perspectives on self and identity.
This paper describes the difficulties and accentuates the benefits faced by parent and professional alike when innovating new support programmes for deaf children and their families. The innovative application of ISA to a new area of cross cultural study provided an objective assessment to further our understanding of the changes in identifications and the conflicts present in the cross cultural relationships between deaf and hearing communities when they are present in one family group.
GESTES Groupe d’Etude Spécialisé "Thérapies et Surdité"organised in december 1994 in Paris the third international congress of ESMHD European Society for Mental Health and Deafness. The publication of the proceedings will occur later on.
Written from the speech of Susan PHOENIX, psychologist, the Acre, Kilton Lane, Islandmagee, BT40 3TA Larne, Co. Antrim, NORTHERN IRELAND. Tel/Fax: 0960 313549
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PHOENIX, Susan, GESTES
GESTES (Groupe d’Etudes Spécialisé Thérapies et Surdité) - 8 rue Michel Peter, 75013 Paris, FRANCE. Tel/Fax 00(331)43 31 25 00 - Francia - gestes (@) free.fr