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

mal as a deaf child. Normalcy, by definition, involved the development of the external trappings of a hearing child -- speech. This perversion of the concept of normalcy rejected any type of variation. There was only one standard, and any differences were considered to be deficiencies.

Using this pathological model of deafness, a deaf person without good speech cannot be considered successful academically, socially, or emotionally. It would be a contradiction in terms. Within this context, Meadow-Orlans pointed out that one thing difficult for many hearing parents to accept is the irreversibility of deafness. Despite the promises of improved hearing aids and cochlear implants, most deaf children will grow up to be deaf adults. Parents must be helped to understand this and also to understand that deaf people can do anything that hearing people can. This is a message that Dr. Meadow-Orlans has been delivering for decades. Too often, the outside world puts pressure on deaf children to adjust when it should be encouraging them to grow.

Schlesinger, in her 1972 book with Meadow-Orlans, applied the work of Erik Erikson and his model of eight stages of the human life cycle to issues affecting the development of deaf children. Each stage, or crisis, offers both the opportunity for growth and the danger of failure. The stages have been characterized as basic trust versus mistrust, autonomy versus shame and doubt, initiative versus guilt, industry versus inferiority, identity versus identity diffusion, intimacy versus isolation, generativity versus stagnation, and integrity versus despair.

Each of us negotiates these eight stages with varying degrees of success, and none of us is completely successful. To a large extent success depends not only on our own resources, but also on the actions of family members and other significant members of our environment. In 1972, Schlesinger and Meadow:

We are fully aware from our contact with deaf individuals that the eight stages can be traversed more productively, more joyfully, and with a more adequate resolution of each developmental crisis. This more successful passage through the life cycle we have found most frequently (although not exclusively) in the deaf children of deaf parents. We hope that our account has helped to explain this higher achievement. We also hope it will help hearing parents to ponder, to increase acceptance of deafness in their children, and with this acceptance help their children to meet and master the challenges of each life crisis. (p. 29)

Those words are as significant today as they were when they were written.


REFERENCES

Liben L. S. ( 1978). Deaf children: Developmental perspectives. New York: Academic Press.

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