Choices in Deafness: A Parents' Guide to Communication Options, 3rd Edition
by Sue Schwartz, PhD, Bethesda, MD, Woodbine House, 2007, 400 pp, $24.95, Softcover.
Choices in Deafness should be considered required reading for parents of children with newly identified hearing loss, as well as for pediatricians who work with these families. By its title alone, it is a good reminder for physicians that parents of deaf children have a need and a right to choices regarding communication modes for their child, and should be supported as they choose the option that makes the most sense for that child and that family.
Choices in Deafness, takes parents from the initial diagnosis of hearing loss with audiological assessment, through descriptions of 5 approaches to communication, Auditory-Verbal, Auditory-Oral, ASL-English Bilingual, Cued Speech and Total Communication, each provided by a professional in the field. The highlights of these chapters are first person accounts by parents and children of their experiences. The personal stories are accompanied by unaided audiograms so that parents can appreciate the similarities and differences between these children's hearing loss and that of their child. There are also accounts from college students utilizing different communication modes, with words of wisdom regarding how to make the most of the college experience, and adults looking back on a lifetime of deafness. These often emotional tales offer hope to parents as they look to the futures of their children so that they can see deafness as Shanna, a profoundly deaf high school student does, not “… as a hindrance, but merely as an inconvenience.”
A number of chapters will be unfamiliar to readers of previous editions of Choices in Deafness. Chapters on auditory neuropathy and genetic causes of deafness are based on newly evolving research. A chapter on universal screening of the newborn may be informative to physicians, but is less relevant to parents whose children were diagnosed some time after the newborn period.
There is an extensive chapter on how to identify a quality educational program for a hearing impaired child, irrespective of which communication mode is chosen. It walks the parent through how teachers should be trained, and what resources should be available (both in terms of personnel and technology). This is a particularly useful chapter for parents trying to develop an educational program where none exists currently.
Another strong chapter outlines the expanding technologies available to assist people with a hearing loss.
The book, does have one weakness, the chapter on cochlear implants in its attempt to be unbiased, doesn't adequately convey the incredible impact the cochlear implant has had on deaf children, particularly those utilizing the auditory-oral approach.
Schwartz has collected a broad range of professionals and families with a broad range of ideas about the best way to communicate with deaf children. Throughout the book, each option is considered with respect and dignity and the implicit understanding that no communication mode is right for all families. This book is recommended for pediatricians as well as parents.
Rachel Cramton, MD, MED
Pediatric Resident, Rhode Island Hospital/Hasbro Children's Hospital.