The Deaf Child in the Family and at School: Essays in Honor of Kathryn P. Meadow-Orlans

By Patricia Elizabeth Spencer; Carol J. Erting et al. | Go to book overview
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ways to gain their deaf children's attention and taught strategies to make language visually accessible and salient.

The conclusion that child deafness does not have a major impact on several areas of the early social relationship does not mean that these areas are not important for the development of deaf children. On the contrary, individual differences within Hd dyads in the quality of the mother-toddler relationship affect developmental outcomes in multiple ways. For example, although child deafness per se did not put the child at risk for developing insecure attachments, some deaf children do develop insecure attachments, and an insecure attachment has an impact on the child's social development. In Lederberg and Mobley ( 1990), security of attachment had a stronger influence than hearing status on the toddler's social behavior. Although ratings of deaf and hearing toddlers did not differ, securely attached toddlers initiated more, responded more, showed more affective sharing, had a longer attention span, and were more likely to show pride after completing a task than insecurely attached toddlers. Thus, interventions that attempt to improve the quality of attachment may be appropriate for some Hd dyads. Research reviewed here suggests that maternal responsiveness during free play cannot be used to identify insecurely attached dyads. Instead, observations of maternal responsiveness to toddlers during times of stress may be more useful for identification of problem dyads.

Although differences in maternal responsiveness during free play did not relate to attachment, differences in maternal responding did relate to deaf toddlers' language, play, and joint attention ( Pressman et al, 1998; Meadow-Orlans & Spencer, 1996; Spencer & Meadow-Orlans, 1996; Spencer, 1998). Although we feel that intervention programs for deaf toddlers need to make language learning their top priority, language learning needs to occur in a warm and responsive context for optimal development to occur. For individual dyads, increasing maternal responsiveness may be an important goal of intervention. Overall, however, dissemination of information to parents suggesting that intuitive parenting is sufficient to support typical growth in many areas of development may provide parents with a sense of competence in their ability to meet their children's needs in the months following the diagnosis of a hearing loss. This initial sense of mastery may help parents meet the challenges of learning nonintuitive ways of creating a language-rich environment for their deaf toddlers.


Ainsworth M. D. ( 1973). "The development of infant-mother attachment". In B. M. Caldwell & H. N. Ricciuti (Eds.), Review of child development research (Vol. 31, pp. 1-95). Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Biringen Z., & Robinson J. ( 1991). "Emotional availability in mother-child interactions: A reconceptualization for research". American Journal of Orthopsychiatry, 61( 2), 258-271.


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