You are on page 1of 17

Parent Interview

Maxine Lynch
EPSE 521

Interview Method
Sophie and Chris are the parents of Allegra, a child who has a hearing
loss. They were kind enough to allow myself to interview them, in their
home. This interview lasted for 60 minutes, and provided a wealth of
personal information. The names of all of the parties involved have been
changed to protect identities.
Family Background
Allegra is part of an intact family of four, and she is one of the 95% of
children who are deaf or hard of hearing (DHH), and born to typically-hearing
parents (Jamieson et al., 2011). Allegras family is comprised of her mother
and father, Sophie and Chris, and an older brother Scott. Scott is 10, and 2
years older than Allegra. Scott is a typically-hearing child, who developed
language early in life. Allegras parents, Chris and Sophie both have full-time
Monday to Friday jobs outside of the home. Sophie is a high school teacher,
and academic adviser at a university, and Chris works for the Canada Post.
Chris often leaves from work early in the morning, but is able to come home
in the afternoon. The entire family is very busy, with work, school and extracurricular activities. Both children are involved in multiple activities outside
of school, including soccer, dance, baseball and social engagements. Sophie

and Chris are actively involved in their childrens lives, and Chris is a soccer
coach for both of his children. Sophie and Chris both have large families,
although most of Chriss family lives in the UK. Sophies grandparents and
siblings live in the area, and the extended family often gets together during
the week. When Sophie and Chris were asked about other family members
with hearing loss, they were able to cite one extended family member who
requires a hearing aid. Sophies aunt uses a hearing aid, but Sophie believes
the hearing loss was due to an accident and is not biological. This is not
unusual, as most DHH children are born to families of typically-hearing
parents. The family lives in an affluent neighborhood in North Vancouver, on
a tree lined street. Both Scott and Allegra have only known this home, and
have grown up in the neighborhood. The children both go to the local
elementary school, and really enjoy this area. Sophie and Chris are happy
with their home, the childrens school, and the community.

Background of the Deaf or Hard of Hearing Child


Allegra was born after universal newborn hearing screening was
introduced to British Columbia. Sophie and Chris suspected that Allegra had
a hearing loss when she was around 1.5 years old, and was not talking. Since
Scott was the first-born child, and a typically-hearing child, Sophie and Chris
had experience with children that have normal speech development. They
both realized that Allegra was not reaching her developmental milestones,

and she had trouble with her speech. At first, Sophie and Chris thought
Allegra may have vocal issues, and they had no inclination that she may
have a hearing loss. Allegra was brought to a speech specialist, who referred
her to an audiologist for a hearing test. The first hearing test could not be
completed, because Allegra was awake, and not cooperating with the test. At
2 years old, she had an auditory brainstem response (ABR), which diagnosed
her with a bilateral mild to moderate sensorineural hearing loss. Her hearing
levels have fluctuated throughout the years, because of a history of middle
ear fluid. Allegra has often been negatively affected by middle ear fluid,
although luckily, she has not had any reoccurrences this year and Sophie and
Chris feel as though she is growing out of that issue.
Immediately after her diagnosis, Allegra was fit for hearing aids. She
has had behind-the-ear (BTE) hearing aids since she was 2 years old. The BC
early hearing program gave Allegra her first BTE aids, which she used for 5.5
years. She has recently gotten new hearing aids, which Sophie and Chris
purchased their health care coverage took care of most of the cost. Allegra
always uses her hearing aids, and she does not like to turn them off. The only
time Allegra will refuse to wear her hearing aids is when she has middle ear
fluid, and she feels like her hearing aids do not work. Allegra loves using her
hearing aids, because she likes to have access to all of the sounds around
her. With her hearing aids, she can hear almost all sounds, including all
speech, music and background noises. Since Allegra has been accustomed to

hearing aids since she was 2 years old, she uses them naturally, and they
are another part of her identity.
Allegra attends a mainstream school, and has the assistance of a
teacher of the deaf and hard of hearing (TODHH). Allegras parents chose to
send her to a mainstream school because of her communication method, and
degree of hearing loss. This is consistent with the findings of Mitchell and
Karchmer (2011) who stated special schools tend to enroll students with
greater hearing impairments. In this context, special schools for DHH
children had more students enrolled who had moderate-to-severe hearing
losses. The authors stated that 60% of students in the special schools were
profoundly Deaf, and only one-fifth had hearing impairments in the less-thensevere (moderate) range (2011). Allegras educational path fits with this
assessment, and she is part of the DHH group of children with less-severe
hearing loss, who attend mainstream schools. Since Allegra has a mild to
moderate loss, she is able to use oral language with the aid of technology. In
the article Educational Placement Decisions and Outcomes, Spencer states
use of advanced hearing technologies, leads to an even greater proportion
of deaf children being placed in general education classes (2010). If Allegra
did not have hearing aids that allowed her to access oral communication, her
parents may have chosen a different school setting for her. Allegra is part of
the majority of children with hearing loss who are educated in mainstream
settings, as Karchmer & Mitchell stated, 75.3% of the students in the 20002001 Annual Survey can be said to be educated in a mainstream facility

(2011). For Allegra, a mainstream school was the option that best fit her
family and their communication choices.
In her mainstream school setting, Allegra has different adaptations that
allow her to access communication. Allegra has the use of an FM system, her
hearing aids, and an Educational Assistant (EA). In school, Allegra has had
the use of an FM system since kindergarten. Allegras current teacher uses
the FM system consistently, but she has had teachers in the past who did not
use the FM system. When Allegra was in grade 1, her teacher often did not
use the FM system correctly. Sophie was really disturbed by the fact that
Allegras classroom teacher would not participate in using the FM system,
because this directly affected Allegras ability to be involved in the classroom
and her access to learning. In Spencers article, he states that both hearing
students and the teachers of the general education classes considered the
attendance of the deaf and hard-of hearing students to be negative and
disruptive. The fact that Allegras teacher would not use the FM system
indicates that she did not take how important it was to Allegras learning
seriously. The teacher may not have known how to use the FM system, or
may not have wanted to bother with the extra equipment. It has been
reported in other articles that some general education teachers do not use
hearing-technology properly or consistently. Jamieson et al., reported
teachers sometimes refused to use the FM equipment that was critical for
their child to access auditory information (2011). For Allegra to be able to
learn, she needs to have access to oral language, and a teacher who does

not consistently use the FM system is denying Allegra her educational rights.
In the last 2 years, Allegras teachers have used the FM system, and Allegra
has had access to classroom information. Allegra also has an EA that assists
her, as well as another child in the classroom. The EA helps Allegra with the
FM system, and turning the equipment on and off. Allegra is very
independent and capable of telling the EA and her teacher if she cannot hear
something, which shows that she is developing self-advocacy skills.
According to Reed et al., DHH children should have the ability to advocate
for oneself, rather than waiting for others to address needs (2008,). If
children are unable to advocate for their own hearing needs, they may miss
out on communication. Allegra has worked on her own self-advocacy skills
with her TODHH, and she now has advocacy skills that will be vital to her
access to communication for her entire life.
Sophie suspects that Allegra might have a learning disability with
regards to cognitive processing. If information is not broken down into small
into small increments, Allegra has comprehension trouble. Allegra has good
long term memory but her short term memory is an area that needs to be
worked on. In the article Cognitive functioning in deaf adults and children,
by Marschark, he reports thatrecall for printed words by the deaf
participants was significantly lower than that of the hearing participants"
(2011). This finding is consistent with the difficulties Allegra has with
recalling information. Allegra has taken standardized assessments that
consistently show she is academically in the median of her peer group.

Standardized tests should be one tool, of many, used to assess the academic
skills of students. On the values of standardized tests, Karcher & Mitchell
state Standardized scholastic assessment offers a glimpse of some of the
important academic achievements that students have made across multiple
contexts and does so in a way that permits a fair measure of comparison
among groups of students (2011). Although standardized tests have value,
they cannot be the only means of assessing students. A balance needs to be
found, where educators emphasize the individual skills and talents of a child.
Standardized and informal classroom assessments, have shown that Allegra
is in the low percentile for reading comprehension skills. Many DHH children
have been reported to have below-average reading skills, and in the article
Demographic and Achievement Characteristics of Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing
Students, Mitchell and Karchmer (2011) state the average performance on
tests of reading comprehension for deaf and hard of hearing students is
roughly six grade equivalents lower than their hearing peers at age 15. This
statement clearly reflects that DHH children are more at risk of having low
reading skills. Allegras parents and her teachers recognize that reading
needs to be one of the main focuses for Allegra. Sophie and Chris are
working with Allegra outside of school to improve her reading skills, because
they recognize that reading is an important, essential skill. It is important to
remember that Allegra is different from her typically-hearing peers, and she
may need to have learning styles tailored to her specific needs as a DHH
child. As Marschark (2011) stated "differences in the environments and

experiences of deaf children and hearing children might lead to different


approaches to learning, to knowledge organized in different ways and to
different levels of skill in various domains". Sophie and Chris are aware that
Allegra learns differently than her brother, Scott, and she may need help with
skills that he has picked up easily but with different strategies, Allegra will
learn all the skills she needs. No one has any doubts that DHH children can
achieve the same academic levels as typically-hearing children, but that
does not mean they are the same. As Marshark stated, [the claim] deaf
people can be every bit as competent as hearing people should not be taken
as equivalent to the claim that deaf individuals necessarily think, learn, or
behave exactly like hearing peers (2011).
Allegra is a spunky, fun and sometimes dramatic child. Until the age of
6, Allegra would sometimes have large, vocal tantrums (like many children).
Luckily, her tantrums have subsided as she has matured. Allegra needs to
have a lot of sleep usually more than 8 hours, or else she may be tired and
cranky. Chris suspects this is because of the extra energy she uses to process
sounds and information. Allegra likes routines, and knowing what is
happening in a day. Chris and Sophie will go over plans with her in detail, so
there are no surprises, and Allegra is prepared for what to expect. Sophie
believes that Allegra may have slight anxiety issues, which is why she craves
routines and needs to be prepared for any changes. Socially, Allegra has
many friends. The fact that Allegra has friends and is accepted by her peers
is really comforting to both Sophie and Chris. Spencer (2010) stated that

deaf and hard of hearing (DHH) students who attend mainstream schools
report negative self-esteem, lack of friendships, and loneliness among
students. Luckily, this is not the experience that Allegra has within her
school setting, and her parents want to keep her actively engaged in the
social aspect of school. Allegra is often busy with playdates, parties, and
also after school activities. Allegra is involved in dance, and she takes ballet
lessons, as well as acro-dance. She often puts on music and dances around
the house, while she sings (although not in tune). She is a really active child,
and her hearing impairment does not seem to affect her socially at all.

Communication
Allegra communicates through oral language. As a baby, she was
exposed to baby-sign, as her older brother Scott was. After Allegra was
diagnosed with her mild-moderate loss, her parents decided on her
communication method. Since her hearing loss was not severe, her parents
felt that Allegra would be able to use oral language, and have full access to
communicating orally. Sophie and Chris feel that with her hearing aids,
Allegra is able to access oral language. If Allegra had a more severe hearing
loss, they may have chosen a different communication option. Allegra
attended BC Childrens Hearing and Speech Centre before she entered
elementary school, which helped her with her oral language skills. Allegra did
speak clearly and fully until she was 4 years old, but now Allegra

communicates with everyone orally. It is so important for a child to be able to


have fully accessible language for communication, and without access to
language a child can have problems communicating with the world around
them. In the article Risk and resilience for social competence, Anita et al.
state, the lack of full accessibility to language and communication can
negatively influence deaf childrens social development (2011). Allegra
developed her verbal communication skills slowly, but now Allegra has full
access to oral language. Since Allegra uses oral language, Sophie and Chris
have not introduced her to sign language. They both agree it would another
tool for her to use to communicate, but since she has access to full
communication through oral language, it is not a necessity. Allegra does look
at peoples faces a lot while they are talking, which leads her parents to
believe she uses lip reading skills. In school, Allegra does not always project
her voice, because of confidence issues. She is shy to talk in front of her
class, but around her friends and family her voice projection is good.
Choosing oral communication for Allegra has meant that the family has not
had to change the way they communicate, and Sophie and Chris feel that
because Allegra uses speech and hearing to communicate, she is fully
integrated into the hearing world.
Family Life and Diagnosis
During the diagnosis process, the families of DHH children go through a
journey that changes the family forever. Sophie and Chris described the

process of Allegras diagnosis, and how they eventually evolved as a family,


and have accepted Allegras hearing loss as a part of life. When Allegra was
diagnosed with a hearing loss, her parents had different reactions to the
news. Chris was relieved when he was told about the hearing loss, he
thought to himself if thats all it is, thats ok. He immediately wanted to
find a solution to the problem, and was happy to know what the issue was.
Chris was worried that Allegra might had had something worse, not just a
hearing loss. Sophie had a different reaction. She was sad at first, she
thought that she had a perfect child, and was shocked to learn about the
hearing impairment. Jamieson et al., recorded similar reactions that parents
had to their childs diagnosis, and stated most hearing parents are shocked
by the diagnosis and initially unprepared to provide a meaningful and
mutually accessible communication environment for their child (2011).
Sophie was shaken by the news that her child had a hearing impairment, and
in an instant, she had no idea what her childs life would be like. Their
firstborn child, Scott, was talking at an early age, and Chris and Sophie got to
know him easily, but they both felt it took longer to get to know Allegra. The
hearing loss became a big part of their life, and since Allegra did not talk for
a long time, Sophie constantly wondered is it going to get better? Many
issues and illnesses in life are temporary, but this hearing impairment would
never be fixed. When the initial diagnosis happened, Sophie and Chris
were both at the appointment. The audiologist performed the ABR, and
diagnosed her with a hearing loss. After the ABR, the audiologist told Sophie

and Chris about the hearing loss in a cold way, and immediately started
taking ear molds for Allegra. The audiologist was taking advantage of the
fact that Allegra was asleep, and did not want to waste time, but for Sophie
and Chris, this was a shocking moment. They had no time to digest the
news, and the information they received from the audiologist was very
technical and unclear. Chris and Sophie had pamphlets of the three different
BC agencies that deal with hearing loss, and they wanted to decide how they
should approach Allegras loss. They eliminated some of the centers because
they were really far from their home. Sophie and Chris chose to have Allegra
attend the BC Childrens Hearing and Speech Centre (formerly the BC Oral
Centre), because of the degree of her loss and the communication method
they wanted for her.
Friends and family had different reactions to Allegras hearing loss.
Everyone was very supportive of Sophie and Chris, and most people said it
is not a big deal she will be fine. Sophie found comfort in her friends, and
how they were able to assure her that her child would be find. Some of
Allegras extended family still do not seem to understand the hearing loss
that Allegra has. They often ask Chris and Sophie when Allegra will be able to
stop wearing the hearing aids, as if her impairment will be fixed. Sophie
believes this is because of how Allegra communicates, no one can tell that
she has a hearing loss. Children have always accepted Allegra. Chris said
that when Allegra started to socialize with other children (in preschool and
elementary school), that is when he felt everything is going to be ok. He

was concerned that her hearing loss would make her isolated from her peers,
and that she might have trouble making friends. When he saw her
interacting with children in a natural way, those fears were erased. Sophie
said that her fears were eased when Allegra started talking. Sophie was
really worried about Allegras lack of speech, but as soon as she started
communicating, Sophie felt huge relief.
For Sophie and Chris, Allegras hearing loss has had a huge effect on
their family life. When the diagnosis first happened, it was tough for both of
them but since Allegra has gotten older and communicates clearly, they
have been less concerned about the effect her hearing loss will have on her
life. About the journey that parents have through diagnosis of DHH children,
Young & Tattersall, stated "understanding grows, knowledge is slowly or
quickly acquired, decisions are made and remade, different directions taken
from those originally envisaged, and different and conflicting professional
views regularly encountered" (2008). This really exemplifies the journey that
Sophie and Chris have had - they have dealt with the diagnosis, the emotions
that the hearing loss caused, the process of deciding on a communication
method, and finding support for Allegra. This has been a tough journey for
them, but the family has adjusted to Allegras hearing loss, and Sophie and
Chris are only hopeful for her future. As Jamieson et al., state Family
empowerment is an important goal because strengthened and empowered
families become increasingly able to support and promote their child with
disabilities towards optimal outcomes (2011).

Sources of Support
Sophie and Chris expressed that they were not familiar with hearing
loss when Allegra was diagnosed. Both Sophie and Chris did not know
anyone who had a hearing loss; Chris had one classmate in high school who
wore hearing aids. Since they were so unfamiliar with hearing loss, they
wanted to get information about different programs. Sophie said she felt she
received too much support from different agencies. A couple of days after
the diagnosis, she received a call from someone (she thinks it was probably
BC Early Hearing Program), but she was still digesting the news, and was not
ready to talk about it. They received information from pamphlets from each
BC agency that supports DHH children. The sentiment that Sophie expressed
is echoed by the article Family support needs as perceived by parents of
preadolescents and adolescents who are deaf or hard of hearing by
Jamieson et al., where a parent stated probably the most difficult thing,
[was] trying to decide who you were supposed to put your faith in (2011).
Sophie felt as though there was too much pressure from the different
agencies, and they seemed like they all wanted to be selected for Allegra,
even if they would not be the best fit. Both Sophie and Chris said that when
they first found out about the loss, they were not ready to have all the
information that was thrown at them. What Sophie wanted was to meet a
parent that had been through the same process, and had a child with a

similar loss. This is consistent with the findings of Listman and Hauser, who
state that connections with people with similar experiences can lead to
gaining knowledge and skills learned through interacting with others within
ones community (2011). Sophie wanted to be exposed to another family
who had been through similar experiences, and learn from their journey. At
the time, she did not know about the Hands and Voices program, which
matches parents that have children with hearing loss to parents that have
just received a diagnosis for their child. Now, Sophie is a guide for the
program, and she believes parents feel assured about their children, after
they talk to another parent.
Sophie and Chris received a lot of support from the BC Childrens
Hearing and Speech Centre, from the professionals that worked with Allegra.
When Allegra started school, her teacher of the deaf and hard of hearing
(TODHH) was introduced to the family, and she has been there ever since.
One of the reasons Allegras TODHH is successful in working with Allegra is
because she is constantly engaging with Allegras classroom teacher.
According to Spencer, To provide such support, teachers of deaf and hard of
hearing students must be prepared to work closely with general education
teachers(2011). TODHH need to be in communication with general
classroom teachers, parents and other stakeholders involved in a childs life.
Allegras TODHH constantly communicates with Sophie and Chris, and
provides updates and support. Sophie and Chris have said that their TODHH
understands the challenges that DHH children have. Allegras TODHH has

had an integral role in making Allegra confident in herself, and her abilities.
According to Spencer & Marschark, when DHH students were taught by
experienced DHH teachers, "deaf students learned just as much as their
hearing peers relative." (2010). Allegras TODHH provides Allegra with
learning support, but also gives support to Sophie and Chris, when they have
questions or just need to talk.
This interview allowed for a glimpse into the lives of a family, where
one child has a hearing impairment. Throughout this interview, Sophie and
Chris were candid when they discussed their feelings, frustrations and the
diagnosis process. Jamieson et al., stated the importance that parents have
on a child, parenting is a key factor in the protection, nurturance, and
socialization of children, with important implications for developmental
outcomes (2011). Allegras parents love her immensely and are very
supportive of her these qualities will help ensure she meets all of the goals
she has for her life.

References
Antia, S.D., Reed, S., & Shaw, L. (2011). Risk and resilience for social competence:
Deaf students in general education classrooms. In D.H. Zand & K.J. Pierce (Eds.),
Resilience in deaf children: Adaptation through emerging adulthood (pp. 139-167).
New York: Springer.
Jamieson, J.R., Zaidman-Zait, A., & Poon, B.T. (2011). Family support needs as
perceived by parents of preadolescents and adolescents who are deaf or hard of
hearing. Deafness & Education International, 13, 110-130.

Karchmer, M. & Mitchell, R. (2011). Demographic and Achievement Characteristics


of Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing Students. In Marschark, M., & Spencer, P. E. (Eds.) The
Oxford handbook of deaf studies, language, and education (21-37). New York:
Oxford University Press.
Listman, J., Rogers, K.D., & Hauser, P.C. (2011). Community cultural wealth and deaf
adolescents resilience. In D.H. Zand & K.J. Pierce (Eds.), Resilience in deaf children:
Adaptation through emerging adulthood (pp. 279-294). New York: Springer.
Marschark, M. (2011). Cognitive functioning in deaf adults and children.
In Marschark, M., & Spencer, P. E. (Eds.) The Oxford handbook of deaf
studies, language, and education (464-477). New York: Oxford University Press.
Reed, S., Antia, S.D., & Kreimeyer, K.H. (2008). Academic status of deaf and hard-ofhearing students in public schools: Student, home, and service facilitators and
detractors. Journal of Deaf Studies and Deaf Education, 13, 485-502.
Spencer, P. E. (2010). Educational Placement Decisions and Outcomes. In Evidencebased practice in educating deaf and hard-of-hearing students (153-170). Oxford
University Press.