Mental Health Issues for the Deaf Research Proposal

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Mental Health Issues for the Deaf

Trapped: A Review of Problems Among the Deaf Needing Psychological Intervention and Solutions

Victor and Helen: Synthesizing Disabilities

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In both the world and the United States, the history of care for the deaf, mentally handicapped, and those suffering from psychological maladies have been remarkably similar. A montage of confusion and misunderstanding, institutions and education, and finally integration has been the timeline that both roughly followed. Two of the most famous cases that intertwine the three conditions are the mysterious boy of Aveyron and Helen Keller. The boy of Aveyron was a young child of about twelve who was found in the French woods. His wild mannerisms suggested that he had never been out of the words nor introduced into society. Several times he was found and taken in, and each time he escaped to the mountains of Aveyron. Finally, he was captured for a final time, after which he was sent to an orphanage where he was determined to be both deaf and mute. Now stationed at an institution for the deaf and mute, the boy began to work with a French doctor, Jean-Mark-Gaspard-Itard. It was Itard's work with the boy that championed many of the educational processes that are currently used in the field of special education. To meet the boy's unique situation, Itard "developed a broad educational program for Victor to develop his sense, intellect, and emotions" (Biasini et al. nd). This educational program helped pioneer some of the earliest work in special education and the education of those with developmental disabilities. Though the boy, named Victor, did not make incredibly vast improvements, it was clear that Itard's educational system was working. Victor was improving. Although deaf and dumb, and certainly suffering from the non-human existence that he had lived, one cannot be sure if Victor was stricken with a mental handicap of psychological problem. By working with him in a manner that covered all maladies from which he could be suffering, however, Itard was able to make strides in the field of education for those with all three types of disabilities.

Research Proposal on Mental Health Issues for the Deaf Assignment

The second case in which the deaf and dumb was brought together with the mentally handicapped or those suffering from psychological problems was the case of Helen Keller. Keller was born a perfectly healthy child, but upon becoming ill, lost both her eyesight and her hearing. Although Keller was only about a year and a half old when she was stricken blind and deaf, her early biography does not contain signs of any mental of psychological disability. Understandably frustrated by her disability, however, Helen Keller began to demonstrate serious maladaptive behavior after becoming deaf and blind. She was viewed by some as a "very difficult child, smashing dishes and lamps and terrorizing the whole household with her screaming and temper tantrums. Relatives regarded her as a monster and thought she should be put into an institution" ("The Life of Helen Keller" 2008). After Anne Sullivan began to work with Keller, however, it became clear that Keller's psychological, or behavioral, problems stemmed from her inability to communicate. Thus, the inability to communicate has long left the deaf, like Victor and Keller, frustrated when it comes to finding services that will diagnose and treat their other psychological or developmental problems. While treatment for these groups is improving, problems still exist that must be addressed. The following review will explore how a broken communication barrier results in poorer care for the deaf in need of mental care, along with solutions to help solve these problems.

Picture of Broken Communication

The largest issue affecting the deaf in need of mental care is an inability to communicate. So many psychological and developmental assessment tools measure communication as one of the signals of these disabilities of afflictions. This not only makes it difficult for the deaf to complete this assessments, but also increases the possibility that a deaf person will be labeled as either having psychological problems or being developmentally disabled because they cannot complete the assessments. For instance, in their 1979 study, Kropka and Williams argue, "Since the mentally handicapped are often found to be speech deficient, there is a danger that a deaf resident, without speech, may be mistakenly thought to be mentally retarded, or more mentally retarded, than he really is."

On the other extreme, because the deaf cannot often communicate, one may worry that they will be able to complete any form of psychological assessment. According to Mar (1998), for instance, some children who are both deaf and blind are called "untestable," in that standard assessments of their development cannot be completed because they are not applicable to the student's type of learning. Mar (1998) continues to suggest, however, that non-standard psychological examinations can still be given.

Learning in itself is the second largest problem that tends to present itself among the deaf in need of mental intervention. Because of the communication barrier, deaf people in treatment must be treated in a non-standard way, and the communication barrier they possess is a natural deterrent to that instruction. Kropka and Williams begin their 1979 study by suggesting that a hearing difficulty on top of a mental malady is not simply a conglomeration of problems. Instead, a haring difficulty is "reciprocal" because it inhibits a person's learning and may cause them to sink into further retardation, if this is their other affliction.

Finally, the issue of socialization can be determined as the third largest issue facing the deaf who are also in need of mental intervention. Hunter (1974) suggests that the only hope for the deaf with a mental disability is hospitalization (p.22), as it is the only climate in which their learning can be maximized. However, Hunter then suggests that the deaf suffering from a mental handicap often become dependent on the security provided by such environments (p.23). That the deaf in need of mental intervention become so cloistered, used to living with others who suffer from similar maladies and their therapists and doctors, does not allow for adequate socialization, nor does it prepare the sufferer for their eventual place in society among others. Thus, the communication barrier severely alters the mental intervention experience for the death from assessment to socialization.


Although the deaf suffer from a broken communication barrier, this does not mean that the barrier cannot be healed in some way. In regards to the first problem, assessments are a vital part of treatment for the mentally handicapped and those with psychological problems. While communication is necessary for some types of assessment, other observational assessments can be completed, in addition assessments requiring communication that do not require a patient to hear or speak. For instance, Mar (1998) suggests that children and teenagers who are both deaf and blind can communicate in other ways, and that a therapist should be able to pick up on these ways, communicating with the patient in this manner to form an assessment. Furthermore, Mar (1998) suggests that some assessments are merely observational, regarding "basic life skills" and how the patient performs these. While it is important for the patient to communicate for an assessment, psychologists can use of these methods in order to assess the patient. Additionally, psychologists must continue to come up with assessments that fit the needs of the deaf.

Similarly, the fact that a communication barrier exists certainly affects the deaf as they attempt to learn to overcome their disability and/or psychological affliction. Because the deaf express themselves in a variety of ways, however, learning can also take place through a variety of methods (Mar 1998). In fact, Kropka and Williams (1979) found that there was no significant difference between the deaf developmentally disabled and the non-deaf developmentally disabled when it comes to communication and social consciousness. Thus, both the deaf and… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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APA Style

Mental Health Issues for the Deaf.  (2008, October 20).  Retrieved October 20, 2020, from

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"Mental Health Issues for the Deaf."  October 20, 2008.  Accessed October 20, 2020.