14 SES 08 B, Family Education and Parenting - Parental Involvement in the First Stages of Schooling
Over the last decade, cochlear implant surgery in children who are profoundly deaf has become an increasingly routine provision in the Western part of the world (Archbold, Sach, O'Neill, Lutman, & Gregory, 2006). A cochlear implant (CI) is a surgically implanted hearing device which allows the brain to perceive sound and thus enables the deaf child to hear and develop spoken language. Overall performance after paediatric cochlear implantation varies tremendously, but there is relatively little knowledge as to what causes these variations (Geers, 2006). One important factor that seems to influence the spoken language development of children with CI is related to aspects concerning the child’s family (DesJardin & Eisenberg, 2007; Wie et al., 2007). It is suggested that parents play a substantive role in the child’s learning processes following cochlear implantation (DesJardin & Eisenberg, 2007; Hintermair, 2006;). However, the parental and family perspective after cochlear implantation is considered an area which is “under-researched” (Thoutenhoofd et al., 2005: 267) and still ‘comparatively sparse’ (Archbold & Wheeler, 2010: 227).
Although cochlear implantation starts as a medical and technological procedure, the actual outcomes lie in the social, psychological and educational domains (Thoutenhoofd et al., 2005). Parents of children with CI typically meet different service providers before and after implantation, which all represent diverse views on educational follow-up after implantation, residing in the medical, pedagogical, psychological and educational domains (see for example Strand, 2003). Most parents who choose CI for their child do this to enable their child to to understand and develop spoken language, so that they can interact with hearing people (ASHA, 2003; Kluwin & Stewart, 2000). However, ‘the most effective way of attaining that goal’, especially with respect to the choice of communication modality (whether to use only spoken language or a combination of sign and spoken language) is subject to debate (Archbold & Wheeler, 2010: 233). The research on follow-up after paediatric cochlear implantation is perpetually in the hold of debates about which communication modality leads to what is called ‘most successful spoken language acquisition’, without there being empirical evidence in favour of either one of them (Knoors & Marschark, 2012). These discourses have been a core issue in the international body of literature for a long time. For hearing parents caught up in the on-going controversy, the dilemma about the choice of communication modality is a difficult one (Archbold & Wheeler, 2010).
Gaining understanding about how the discourses on communication modality are reflected in parental narratives is relevant, because discourses are described as power structures and representations of ‘truth’ which govern the way people think and act (Foucault, 1966; 1972). This paper aims to address the following questions: How are the discourses on communication modality in follow-up after paediatric cochlear implantation reflected in parental accounts, and how can these discourses be understood to affect the parents? Michel Foucault’s theories on discursive power (1966, 1972, 1975, 1980, 1982) were applied as analytical framework in order to identify power dimensions in the empirical data.
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