Academic journal article American Annals of the Deaf

Parental Training and Involvement in Sexuality Education for Students Who Are Deaf

Academic journal article American Annals of the Deaf

Parental Training and Involvement in Sexuality Education for Students Who Are Deaf

Article excerpt

The study examined whether schools for the deaf were providing services to assist parents in communicating with their children about sexuality (including sexual signs) and whether parents were involved in the sexuality education curriculum within their child's school. The Sexuality Curriculum Questionnaire for Educators of Students Who Are Deaf (Getch & Gabriel, 1998) was completed by 71 educators teaching sexuality curricula in schools for the deaf across the United States. Results indicated that parents were more likely to be involved in approval and development of their children's sexuality education than to receive assistance with sexuality education from the schools. Although the level of parental participation in curriculum development and approval is encouraging, the number of parents actually participating in curriculum development and approval remains low.

There are various issues that parents often do not want to face concerning their children. For example, Koblinsky and Atkinson (1982), as cited in Bundy and White (1990), found that parents were uncomfortable discussing "value-laden" topics with their children. One such topic is sexuality. However, despite the stress created by the thought of having "the talk," parents and children do want to communicate with each other about sexuality issues (Alexander, 1984; Bennett & Dickinson, 1980; Fitz-Gerald & Fitz-Gerald, 1987; McCabe, 1993). Unfortunately, parents have stated multiple reasons why they are unable to talk to their children about sexuality. Reasons noted in the literature include embarrassment or discomfort (Allensworth, 1992; Fitz-Gerald & FitzGerald, 1987), lack of proper information about sexuality (Byer, Shainberg, & Jones, as cited in Bundy & White, 1990; FitzGerald & Fitz-Gerald, 1987; Welshimer & Harris, 1994), and communication issues that may cause a gap in understanding between parent and child (Bundy & White, 1990; Fitz-Gerald & Fitz-Gerald, 1987).

Talking about sexuality causes particular concern for parents of children who are deaf. Despite the desire to communicate with their children about sexuality, this kind of communication rarely occurs (FitzGerald & Fitz-Gerald, 1987). Although parents of children who are deaf encounter many of the same problems faced by parents of hearing children, they also face unique issues with regard to sexuality. One primary issue is communication. Ninety-six percent of children who are deaf are born to hearing parents (Gallaudet Research Institute, 2001). Such parents are often unskilled in sign language and can be troubled by their child's inability to speechread (FitzGerald & Fitz-Gerald, 1987; Minter, 1983). Families of children who are deaf indicate that only 26% of family members use sign language on a regular basis (Gallaudet Research Institute, 2001). Furthermore, even hearing parents who know sign language may be unfamiliar with sexual signs, and thus can be thwarted in their attempts to have a meaningful discussion about sexuality topics with their child.

The issues that have prevented parents from educating their children about sexuality may partially explain the sexual dilemmas faced by youth who are deaf. For example, youth who are deaf are more apt to gain sexuality information from peers than from other sources (Fitz-Gerald & FitzGerald, 1987; Minter, 1983; Sawyer, Desmond, & Joseph, 1996). Many of these discussions transmit myths and misinformation. Thus, a disproportionate number of individuals who are deaf lack accurate sexual knowledge (Bounds, 1987; Minter, 1983; Sawyer et al., 1996; Swartz, 1993; Tripp & Khan, 1986). Students who are deaf have also been reported to engage in more sexual activity than hearing students (Minter, 1983; Sawyer et al., 1996). In addition, lower rates of contraceptive use, as well as higher pregnancy rates, have been noted among nonhearing university students compared with hearing students (Sawyer et al. …

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