Academic journal article The Volta Review

Social and Professional Participation of Individuals Who Are Deaf: Utilizing the Psychosocial Potential Maximization Framework

Academic journal article The Volta Review

Social and Professional Participation of Individuals Who Are Deaf: Utilizing the Psychosocial Potential Maximization Framework

Article excerpt

This article documents a strength-based understanding of how individuals who are deaf maximize their social and professional potential. This exploratory study was conducted with 49 adult participants who are deaf (n = 30) and who have typical hearing (n = 19) residing in America, Australia, England, and South Africa. The findings support a systematic and comprehensive framework of proactive psychosocial attributes and tactics. Statistical analysis showed no significant differences between the groups across four variables of psychosocial competencies. Qualitative data further suggests that participants who are deaf maximize their potential using two types of proactive psychosocial attributes and tactics: 1) skills that individuals with typical hearing use and 2) specialized skills for identifying, circumventing, or mastering deafness-related difficulties. These findings contribute to understandings of how individuals who are deaf can achieve social and professional success.

Introduction

Despite a normal distribution of aptitudes and intelligence, individuals who are deaf appear more likely to experience social exclusion than people with typical hearing (Punch, Hyde, & Power, 2007). Chronic unemployment and underemployment are problems for many adults who are deaf (Hogan et al., 2001; Punch, Hyde, & Creed, 2004; Rosengreen, Saladin, & Hansmann, 2009). For example, Hogan, O'Loughlin, Davis, and Kendig (2009) reported that 45% of unemployed Australians living with hearing loss were diagnosed as deaf before 20 years old. Studies have also found that many individuals who are deaf experience depression, loneliness, exhaustion, lethargy, anxiety, and social dissatisfaction (e.g., Backenroth-Ohsako, Wennberg, & Klinteberg, 2003; Heine & Browning, 2002). These psychosocial challenges can, in turn, severely compromise their educational, social, and employment prospects (Hawthorne & Hogan, 2002; Steinberg, Sullivan, & Montoya, 1999). Low social participation for individuals who are deaf has further been strongly correlated with their own and also their partner's poor health-related quality of life (Hawthorne & Hogan, 2002; Hogan et al., 2001). Studies have further observed ongoing social difficulties by children who are deaf in their interactions with peers who have typical hearing (Bat-Chava & Deignan, 2001; Hyde, Punch, & Komesaroff, 2010; Punch & Hyde, 2011). While there is much research on the difficulties facing individuals who are deaf, there is a paucity of research that has focused on how they can maximize their social and professional potential. In order to conduct such research, it is necessary to shift focus away from what individuals who are deaf cannot do toward investigating what they can do (Jacobs, 2010).

An example of this strength-based approach is Powers' (2011) study of factors influencing the success of high achieving English students who are deaf. Interviews with 27 students who are deaf, 27 parents, 27 teachers of the deaf, and 21 professionals other than teachers of the deaf showed that success should be attributed to the child's own personal attributes and character (81 responses out of 111) over other factors. Other cited factors included the influence of parents (46 responses), the support of teachers of the deaf and teaching assistants (20 responses), and skills in language, communication, and reading (17 responses). These findings were similar to an American study by Luckner and Muir (2001). In addition to the crucial finding that attributes and character are key aspects to success in individuals who are deaf, both studies revealed specific cognitive attributes (e.g., hard work and high expectations) vital to the maximization of potential. Powers (2011) further concluded that there is a dearth of research on how children who are deaf may become successful adults in terms of their professions, relationships, mental health, and overall quality of life. …

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