Academic journal article American Annals of the Deaf

Signs of Resilience: Assets That Support Deaf Adults' Success in Bridging the Deaf and Hearing Worlds

Academic journal article American Annals of the Deaf

Signs of Resilience: Assets That Support Deaf Adults' Success in Bridging the Deaf and Hearing Worlds

Article excerpt

A MULTIPLE-CASE EXPLORATORY study is used to describe intrapersonal, behavioral, and environmental assets that may build bridges for Deaf adults between the Deaf and hearing worlds. A study of three exemplary former community college students provides new information about internal resources that may empower Deaf individuals to achieve work and social success in interaction with environmental support, despite the vulnerabilities associated with their deafness. This study identifies 15 assets that may support resilience in Deaf adults, including authenticity and comfort with solitude. The authors hypothesize that social authenticity and comfort with solitude may be resilience-fostering intrapersonal assets of unique importance in the Deaf community. From the positive psychology perspective of recognizing and building on human strengths, the authors suggest that support of mutual asset-building with learning partners in the classroom is one way professors might promote optimal student achievement and life success for all students.

The quality and quantity of resources for adapting to high levels of uncertainty and social isolation make important differences in Deaf individuals' ability to create optimally satisfying work and social experiences in both the Deaf and hearing worlds.1 The object of our research for the present study was to better understand the internal, behavioral, and external protective resources that may help account for three Deaf former community college students' exemplary experiences of work and social success in adult life.

The psychology of assets that empower hearing individuals of all ages to be resilient or to experience good outcomes in life despite hardships and vulnerabilities has a rich and diverse history, with newly developed conceptualizations and applications in education, business, corrections, and nursing. Theoretically, we can situate much of the resilience literature within the important and emerging science of positive psychology, which emphasizes the value of developing human strengths rather than remediating pathology (Seligman & Csiksxentmihalyi, 2000; Sheldon & King, 2001). Resilience researchers commonly suggest interventions that build on "islands of competence" to promote optimal adaptation under less-than-ideal conditions (e.g., Brooks, 1999).

The resilience literature has identified numerous strengths that help protect against risks and that support successful adaptation in the face of adversity. Important among these are intrapersonal, environmental, and behavioral assets. Intrapersonal assets include traits and characteristics related to personality, values, attitudes, social perception, and self-perceptions. Environment assets that support resilience in vulnerable groups include characteristics of the school, home, and community. Behavioral assets that can be vehicles for bringing about desired results in the world include traits, such as persistent problem solving, that underscore the requirement to accept responsibility for one's own well-being. Figure 1 provides a summary of key assets linked to resilience in the hearing literature.

The fact that resilience is conceptualised differently by different investigators (e.g., Jacelon, 1997; Kinard, 1998) has created many unique problems in the resilience literature such as the fact that "the distinction between factors defining resilience and factors promoting or reducing resilience is sometimes blurred" (Kinard, 1998, p. 670). To avoid confusion in the present study of assets that contribute to resilience in Deaf persons, we define resilience as the exemplary ability to bridge the Deaf and hearing worlds both socially (i.e., through leadership roles in the Deaf community) and in terms of work success (i.e., working a combined total of 40 hours weekly in one or more hearing settings), despite risks and challenges that may be associated with audiologic and linguistic differences. Leaders in the Deaf community who work full-time in hearing communities provide strong role models of integrated community participation for other persons who are deaf. …

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