Dissertations and Theses @ UNI


Dissertation (UNI Access Only)


Deaf children--Means of communication; Parent and child; Deaf children--Family relationships;


The purpose of this study was to better understand the supports and barriers to the development of shared language between hearing parents and their deaf child. Research suggests that the lack of adequate communicative interaction between parents and their deaf children causes significant language and knowledge gaps in the deaf child’s acquisition of linguistic competence. The failure of hearing parents to learn how to communicate may result in deaf children entering school at a disadvantage and experiencing significant difficulties throughout their educational careers. This qualitative study examined one family’s communication interactions through participant observation and in-depth interviews. The research questions focused on the supports and barriers to developing shared communication for this family. Three theoretical frameworks served as the lens through which the communication interactions were examined: cross-cultural conflict theory (Avuch, 1991), socio-cultural theory (Vygotsky, 1978), and Erikson’s (1964) theory of identity development. Several themes emerged in response to the three research questions. Advocacy by knowledgeable school personnel with a foundation in deaf education, parent-secured resources, and perceived school focus to introduce and expand the use of sign language were shared by the parents as significant factors contributing to the development of shared language. Participant observation and interviews revealed five themes in response to the question addressing barriers to developing shared language. These included (a) an acceptance of limited interaction and indisposition to enhance signed communication, (b) the inadequacy of early intervention in helping parents understand the impact of language develop or in teaching parents how to communicate, (c) parental frustration in learning to sign, (d) parental inability to understand their deaf child, and (e) parental difficulty in expanding and connecting ASL concepts. The data also revealed several findings associated with the theoretical frameworks. First, parental difficulty in breaking their “speaking habit” contributed to a disruption of social-cultural language learning. Second, cross cultural conflict was experienced by this family in arriving at their decision to securing cochlear implants for their daughter. Third, the different visions the parents have for their deaf daughter’s future may influence the psychosocial mutuality necessary for positive identity development.

Several recommendations to address the barriers to the development of shared communication were suggested. First, families should be provided standard introductory information about the importance of developing communication access and shared language for the deaf or hard-of-hearing (DHH) child within the family at numerous intervals throughout the child’s development. Second, families must be provided much guidance and support to acquire sign language skills to communicate effectively with their children throughout their early childhood and school age years. Third, early intervention services must incorporate the evidence-based best practice. This support needs to be provided to families of how and when to communicate with their DHH children in their shared language. Fourth, school districts must be required to hire certified deaf educators proficient in the DHH child’s language shared by the families. Suggestions for future research included the need to examine whether families benefit from learning linear ASL as opposed to nonlinear spatial ASL and to examine communication patterns specific to fathers of deaf and hard-of-hearing children.

Year of Submission


Degree Name

Doctor of Education


Department of Special Education

First Advisor

Susan Escheidt

Date Original


Object Description

1 PDF file (vii, 220 pages)



File Format


Off-Campus Download