While many researchers focus on the educational development of deaf children, precious little time has been devoted to studying the child’s social development and “self-concept.” Conducting interviews with seven deaf children between the ages of 7 and 10, author Martha Sheridan offers a fresh look at the private thoughts and feelings of deaf children in Inner Lives of Deaf Children: Interviews and Analysis.
“What does it mean to be a child who is deaf or hard of hearing?” Sheridan asks in the beginning of her study. She turns to Danny, Angie, Joe, Alex, Lisa, Mary, and Pat for the answer. The author selected the children based on their unique cultural background and conversed with each child in his or her preferred method of communication. Her procedure remained consistent with each: in addition to standard questions, Sheridan asked each child to draw a picture based on their life and then tell a story about it; next, she showed them pictures clipped from a magazine and asked them to describe what they saw.
The results proved to be as varied as they are engaging. Angie, an adopted, profoundly deaf, ten-year-old girl who communicates in Signed English, expressed a desire to attend a hearing college when she grows up, while also stating she hopes her own children will be deaf. Joe, an African-American, ten-year-old, hard-of-hearing boy, drew pictures of deaf people who are teased in public school, reflecting his own difficult experiences.
Sheridan draws upon her tenure as a social worker as well as her own experience as a deaf child growing up in a hearing family in analyzing her study's results. “From listening to the voices of these children we learn that they do not always see themselves, their lifeworlds, and their experiences as researchers have traditionally described them,” she writes. “These children have strengths, they have positive experiences, and they enjoy positive relationships.” With evident devotion to her subjects, Sheridan renders Inner Lives of Deaf Children an enlightening read for parents and scholars alike.