"My child can hear me. He is just stubborn and doesn’t want to respond."

Helping families through the initial stages of

denial and rationalization


        Ferris, Caren (1980). A hug just isn’t enough. Washington D.C.: Gallaudet University Press.

        Luterman, David M, D Ed and Ross, Mark PhD (1991). When your child is deaf: A guide for parents. Parkton, Maryland: York Press.

        Luterman, David M. D Ed (1979). Counseling parents of hearing impaired children. Boston: Little, Brown and Company.

        Ogden, Paul W (1996). The silent garden: Raising your deaf child. Washington, D.C.: Gallaudet University Press.

        Spink, Diane (1976). Crisis Intervention for parents of the deaf child. Health and Social Work, 1 (4), 141-159.

        Watkins, Susan Ed D, and Clark, Thomas C PhD (1993). The SKI*HI model. Logan, Utah: SKI*HI Institute.

Synthesis of Information

Prior to the diagnosis, many parents experience an emotional roller coaster ride in which they feel hoplesness when there is no response to sound or exhilaration when there is a response to 'sound' (Luterman, 1979).

As families ride the roller coaster, they also undergo "fight or flight:  responses (Luterman, 1991, p64).  Parents either attempt to flee from the situation or accept the reality, choosing to fight/deal with deafness (Luterman, et al).

Denial is a psychological defense strategy utilized by parents to flee from the situation because they are emotionally unable to deal with the reality that their child is deaf or hard of hearing (d/hh) (Spink, 1976). This strategy filters out "painful knowledge from conscious awareness" because what they can’t deal with it in a socially appropriate way (Ogden, 1996 p. 9). While we tend to look at the fleeing action negatively, it provides a comfort to parents who would fall apart if they initially confronted deafness directly (Luterman, 1991). Denial gives parents the time they need to find their inner strengths, as well as external resources to meet the needs of their child and family (Watkins and Clark, 1993).

Some signs of denial are (Ferris, 1980, Luterman, 1979 and Luterman, 1991):

Rationalization is a technique parents use to explain why their child is not as responsive to sound (Spink, 1976). At this point parents realize that their child is not responding to all the sounds, but are overwhelmed with their discovery. To cope with this discovery, parents blame other factors rather than dealing with the hearing loss (Luterman, 1979). An example is: "He's too busy playing to listen."



I found that most of the reasons many parents are not involved with their d/hh child stem from the emotions of denial and rationalization. If a parent does not work with the child, they don't have to directly face the reality that their child is d/hh. I believe that parents need to face the realities of deafness on their own, and this can occur through increased parent-child interaction time. Ask parents questions in which they need to observe their child to obtain an answer. Initially they may deny what they see, but they may believe their own discoveries more quickly.


        Adams, John W. (1997). You and your deaf child. Washington D.C.: Gallaudet University Press.

        Murphy, Albert T. (1979). Counseling ways: Lessons parents have taught me. Volta Review, 79 (3), 145-152.

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