Perceptions of the Child

As societal perspectives about people with disabilities have been modified, whether through federal legislation or through changes in society itself, we have begun to separate the disability from the person. Reading about the accomplishments of a woman who is both deaf and blind, or having an adult with Down's syndrome on a popular television show, or seeing a Miss America who happens to be deaf successfully handle the complexities of modern press coverage, point out how alike we are and how extraordinary some of us can be despite intellectual or sensory disabilities. It should also highlight the importance of being comfortable with oneself, with one's strengths and limitations. We are beginning to understand more clearly how our earliest experiences affect our adjustment and self-perception as adolescents or adults. How well do we understand the implications of implant surgery on the child's perception of themselves, as someone who needs to be "fixed," rather than accepted as a child who happens to be deaf? The importance of children with congenital deafness viewing themselves as competent people who have a variety of strengths, whatever their hearing status, must be recognized. The role of the implant in this process is not clearly understood. If the child has sufficient communication and cognitive maturity to be interviewed, scales or forms can be employed to examine their attitudes and perceptions about implantation. Clearly, this is not a choice if a child is implanted during the preschool years. Because deafness is not a life-threatening disorder, only a life-altering one, we must be careful not to suppose that we can guarantee adult adjustment by means of a cochlear implant in a very young child.

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