By Jean F. Andrews
Is there a connection between early child abuse and adult criminal behavior among deaf and hard of hearing persons?
While exact statistics on this question are hard to find, from 10 cases of deaf youths in juvenile facilities around the country, it was found that 6 out of the 10 were abused by a parent, a relative or a by a neighbor. The deaf youths in turn physically or sexually abused a younger child then found themselves in a juvenile corrections facility. Thus, at one end of the spectrum we have deaf children who were physically, emotionally, communicatively and sexually abused. When they became youth and adults they act out by aggressively and physically bullying or assaulting or sexually molesting younger children.
At the core are two key issues according to Dr. Harold Johnson, professor of special education at Michigan State University. In his research he has found that deaf children often do not have the ability to report the abuse because they do not have the language skills. In addition, caring adults, particularly teachers around them lack of awareness to pick up on the cues of the abused child.
According to Dr. Johnson, awareness and building a knowledge base about childhood abuse is critical for teachers and teacher-educators. Dr. Johnson, a professor of special education in Michigan State University’s Department of Counseling, Educational Psychology, and Special Education has focused his research, training and writing on how web-based technologies and resources can be used to reduce isolation, facilitate collaboration, recognize excellence, and enhance teaching/learning within K–20 deaf education. He also has investigated the maltreatment of children with disabilities, particularly those with hearing losses.
Dr. Johnson has provided outstanding resources for schools, administrators, parents and families to address the heinous crime of the abuses of children who are deaf and hard of hearing. Such work can lead to preventive measures that have the potential of curtailing the growth of deaf adults in jails and prisons who after being victims as children, become the victimizers as adults.
Dr. Johnson’s resources are:
Protecting the Most Vulnerable From Abuse
The Risk & Prevention of Maltreatment of Children w/Disabilities
At the other end of the spectrum are the deaf children and youth who do not receive proper treatment and end up as adults in the criminal justice system. If not appropriately rehabilitated, they become repeat offenders and as adults, they are incarcerated in Federal or state prisons where interpreters and accessible rehabilitative services may not be provided. Most of these deaf adults have low reading levels and low signing levels which further compounds their difficulties in prison and getting their Constitutional Rights in court.
If teachers, interpreters, social workers, counselors and psychologists-in-training could see both ends of the spectrum—Dr. Johnson’s work on child abuse preventive measures and www.deafinprison.com’s work on deaf adults who fall through the cracks and become adult offenders, then professors in teacher-education and other professional programs could make a significant contribution in educating the next generation of professionals in prevention, and when prevention fails, to care for the victims and victimizers beyond the school yard.
Jean F. Andrews is a Reading Specialist and Professor of Deaf Studies/Deaf Education at Lamar University.
- Promises Made, Promises Broken (deafinprison.wordpress.com)
- Your Money or Your Life (deafinprison.wordpress.com)
- Downton Abbey’s Jim Carter Demands Action Over Deaf Services Cuts (contactmusic.com)
- Communicating with a D/deaf Child (earlylearninghq.org.uk)
- How Can *You* Stop Hearing Loss Bullying? (lipreadingmom.com)
- GCSEs: Big council cuts hit deaf pupils’ grades (mirror.co.uk)
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