CHOOSING A METHOD of communication for a child with hearing loss is a complex process that must occur early to prevent developmental consequences. Research shows that parents' decisions are influenced by professionals; parental attitudes and knowledge also may be influential. The present study investigated additional influences on parents' choices; data were collected via an online survey (N = 36). Results indicated no effects of parents' knowledge of development on their communication choices, but did indicate an effect of parents' values and priorities for their children. Further, parents who chose speech only received information from education or speech/audiology professionals more often. However, there were no group differences in sources parents cited as influential; all parents relied on their own judgment. Results suggest that parents internalize the opinions of professionals. Thus, accurate information from professionals is necessary for parents to make informed decisions about their children's communication.
Keywords: communication, communication choice, deaf, hearing loss, parenting knowledge, parenting values, sign language
The ability to communicate effectively is critical to the healthy development of children. Effective communication supports cognitive development as well as social development, including the ability to develop positive relationships with others. Therefore, it is important that children with hearing loss obtain the opportunity to experience healthy development by learning and using an elaborated system of communication that best fits their own needs and the needs of those with whom they must develop relationships. In order for this to occur, it is necessary that parents of these children make choices regarding their child's method of communication early in the child's life so that healthy language development is not disrupted.
The present study examines the internal and external influences on parents' choice of a method of communication for their children who are deaf and hard of hearing. The focus of the study is on the relationship between the child's parents and the individuals and other sources from which they received advice, as well as parents' knowledge about and values related to children's communication. The theory of social constructionism (Gergen, 1985) is used to investigate whether parents' choices vary based on where they received advice and what advice they viewed as influential. Social constructionism posits that social interchange is the basis of people's knowledge of the world and how they construct meaning (Gergen, 1985). In particular, interactions between people over time can lead to shared agreements which are then regarded as "truth" or "fact" even though they do not stem from an objective view of the world, but, rather, arise from the interaction between individuals (Burr, 1995; Gergen, 1985; Lock & Strong, 2010). Therefore, the way in which individuals make meaning of the world does not necessarily come from their own attempts at understanding, but from their interactions with others (Lock & Strong, 2010). Furthermore, the knowledge and meaning that individuals gain from social interaction often determine how they choose to act (Burr, 1995).
Most parents who have a child with hearing loss have typical hearing abilities (Gallaudet Research Institute [GRI] 2007; Mitchell & Karchmer, 2004a). This means that in order to make choices related to their child's communication, these parents either rely on their limited knowledge and experiences related to hearing loss or seek information or advice elsewhere. From the perspective of social constructionism, it seems possible that their interactions with those sources from which they received advice influence their views and subsequent choices. Gathering information about the types of individuals from whom parents seek advice, as well as those they feel have influence on their communication decisions, can result in a better understanding of parents' actions (i. …