The experiences of hearing siblings when there is a deaf child in the family.
Thesis DisciplineHealth Sciences
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameDoctor of Philosophy
When a child is identified as deaf, intervention services typically focus on parents and the deaf child. In New Zealand and globally, little has been written about the experiences of hearing siblings when there is a deaf child in the family. We know very little about how sibling relationships might be affected when one child is deaf (Marschark, 1997). It is still unclear whether hearing siblings experience negative affects when there is a deaf child in the family or whether relationships with deaf siblings are warm and close with a special understanding.
This study had five main objectives. The first objective was to examine the experiences of hearing siblings who had either grown up with a deaf sibling or whose sibling had lost their hearing later in life. The second objective was to consider the influence that parents and extended family members had on the hearing/deaf sibling relationship. The third objective was to establish whether society’s perceptions of disability complemented the sibling/family’s perceptions and what impact, if any, this had on the hearing/deaf sibling relationship. The fourth objective was to determine whether hearing siblings and their families formed connections with the Deaf community and what those connections involved. The fifth objective was to triangulate the data and establish whether there was commonality between the views of hearing siblings, Resource Teachers of the Deaf and Advisers on Deaf children. This study employed a mixed methods research design. Six hearing siblings aged between 18 to 65 years living in a city in the South Island of New Zealand were interviewed. Six Advisers on Deaf Children and six Resource Teachers of the Deaf from both the North and South Islands of New Zealand completed a survey based on the findings from the interviews. The qualitative findings revealed that hearing siblings view their deaf sibling as typical and normal and it is only when they step outside the immediate family that they develop an awareness of disability. Furthermore, society for the most part continues to view disability or difference in a less than positive light. Significantly, the study’s findings reveal that hearing siblings make a substantial and enduring contribution to the lives of their deaf siblings yet they continue to be overlooked by professionals and wider society. Accordingly, it is recommended that educators, professionals and agencies begin to actively involve hearing siblings in the services they provide to families of deaf children including hearing siblings attending Individual Education Plan (IEP) meetings, Keeping in Touch (KIT) Days and Deaf Awareness Week events held in special and mainstream schools.