Well, it has been more than a while since I have been able to update this blog, but I am excited to report back after such a long delay. Back in the summer of 2015 I began a research project that I expected to take a year. The effort produced about 35,000 words of a manuscript. This manuscript included all my field notes since Landon was born, research from my doctoral studies and a new survey I conducted with parents of CI children from around the world. This manuscript was written over a nine-month period when I delivered a draft of it over to a former professor for review.
I thought about compiling a book, but given my limited publishing experience as well as the additional time it would take to get the manuscript published, I decided to take the writings and divide it up into a series of blog posts on this site. Then, the unexpected happened. In August of last year our house was flooded in the Great Flood of 2016 in South Louisiana. Jennifer and I have spent the past 6 months rebuilding the house, which is now livable. So, here I am a year and half after my last post ready to start sharing my most recent research project. To that end, I will start with a few mechanical issues first; reflexivity and methodology.
I have a bias. I feel it is important for me to state this fact upfront to you. This is not an easy statement to make; all my educational training has been geared toward becoming an “unbiased” or “detached” researcher. But, I cannot divorce myself from the fact that both my wife and I decided to have our newborn son implanted with a cochlear implants at a very young age. Let me be clear, I am a normal hearing person, unless you ask my wife. But, eight years ago, my wife and I made a decision for our son that introduced us to a new, rich subculture. Although I do not have a cochlear implant myself, my role as a parental advocate does not allow me to detach myself from the community, which I have been observing for eight years. I acknowledge that my writing, research and conclusions agree that implanting a pre-lingual child is a positive decision. As a parent who has decided to implant a pre-lingual child, I cannot detach myself from that decision and I tend to view that decision in a positive context. To combat this tendency, I have not cherry-picked the research surrounding cochlear implants. My goal with this book is to inform you the reader of my journey and that of other parents. As a member of the cochlear community, I believe that I am position to provide a unique viewpoint of that community and its struggles and needs. I am keenly aware of the ethics of studying a community for which I am a member. Given the issue of reflexivity in this form of qualitative research and the potential influence of my position as a member of the community that I am studying, the goal of this work is to give the reader an insider’s view of aspects of that community.
The idea for this book started as a blog. When my son was diagnosed, I was clueless about implantation and deaf issues. That blog started by my wife, then picked up by me, turned into an academic career that has culminated in a doctoral degree and this manuscript. Specifically, I wanted to produce something that would give others information I did not have when trying to make this decision. Over the past eight years, I have helped a number of families by providing information about learning, cochlear implantation and other issues surrounding this new cochlear community. Over that timespan, I have collected those thoughts in a personal journal, research and field notes and online blog. These sources where created from interviews with other families, research from academic libraries, work with online support groups for cochlear parents and other sources. The goal of this manuscript is to provide you the reader with an inside view of the decision-making process that I went through as opposed to the traditional unbiased, detached view researcher.
This manuscript will explore issues that I wrestled with during the time that my wife and I were trying to decide the best course of action for our deaf child. It will focus on what I have learned about language acquisition and cochlear implantation. It will use not only my words, but the words of other parents that decided to pursue the same route. My goal is to convey my story and the stories of other parents who have faced what you are facing right now. I hope to lay out the latest information about cochlear implants, learning and other aspects of this new cochlear culture that is available at the time of this writing and hopefully arm you with information. It represents the honest understanding of the author in all areas of decision-making and current research in the areas of learning, cochlear implantation, and deaf and hearing cultures.
Many of my professors and colleagues that have been privy to this manuscript in various forms and have encouraged me to publish this as a series of scholarly articles. Over time, I have felt that the constraint of space in a traditional scholarly journal format was not the best venue for this manuscript. Although I feel this is a work of worthy academic scholarship, it is not intended for an audience of academics. It is my intention to write this for you, the parent of a newly diagnosed deaf child. To do that I have divided this book in what I consider a number of unique ways.
To compile this research, I decided to take a grounded ethnographic approach. What does that mean for you as the reader? Ethnography is simply recording the life and events of a particular group. As you have surmised by now, the group I have chosen to look at is the new cochlear community. This group consists of those individuals who have been implanted with a CI and their families. The approach I have taken to collect data and research for this book can be characterized as one that takes a multiple instrument approach to generate a picture of the parental socialization processes post diagnosis of child hearing loss. In typical qualitative research one would review all interview data and code them for meaning. From those coding, a theory might be developed from the “ground” up. With this writing, the lived experience of the researcher is matched with the other similar experience of parents to develop the major themes discussed in this book. Unlike most ethnographies that seek to describe the surroundings of what I see and experience, I have attempted to derive some “patterns” or theory from the data I have collected over the past eight years. Specifically, this manuscript will attempt to document the process of decision making of parents rather than a narrative story about that decision-making. The idea is to give you a conceptual rendering of the thought process that I and many other parents who have chosen to implant their child.
To accomplish this, I documented the vast majority of my thoughts and decisions as part of personal journal during that time period. In many cases, qualitative research looks to the outliers to develop a richer, deeper understanding of an issue. The approach I have chosen to take varies slightly from that perspective. I have chosen not to select any outliers but compose all the collected data to align with my observations throughout my time working with my own son and others. With this approach, I hope to synthesis the most current literature in the areas of cochlear implants, learning and deaf cultural issues.
The next installment of my manuscript will include the methodology I used to gather information for this writing.