Book by Ellen G. Horovitz
Review by Nikki Allen Dyer
Student Disability Support Services
Editor Horovitz, with the contributing authors of Visually Speaking: Art Therapy and the Deaf, has produced a volume which will prove enlightening to academic advisors seeking to expand their multicultural competency to incorporate Deaf culture. These authors, all experts on Deafness, have amassed a text with the mental health practitioner in mind; still, academic advisors will find that much is to be gleaned from its contents. More specifically, it is the coverage of the topics of Deaf culture, alternative modes of communication, and the examination of the hearing practitioner-Deaf person relationship that make this resource a handbook for any educator who works with Deaf populations.
Moehring (1997) noted that “Deafness as a disability is very relevant on a college campus, which stresses… communication above most things” (p. 63). As such, Miller (2002) suggested, “advisees expect effective communication on the part of the advisor (¶ 2).” Chapter authors McCullough and Duchesneau note that Leigh (1991) stressed that effective communication is critical to the Deaf person’s gaining feelings of validation and connection with the practitioner. While many Deaf students may use American Sign Language (ASL) as their dominant mode of communication, most academic advisors are not fluent in sign. “It is vital that [practitioners] working with Deaf clients possess a thorough understanding of Deaf culture, fluency in ASL, and specific training in working with this population. At the very least, hearing [practitioners] who do not sign should have access to qualified ASL interpreters who can serve as linguistic and cultural liaisons during the [interactive] process” (p.16). The same would hold true in the advisor-advisee relationship. The pros and cons of using an interpreter are explored including the effects of potential misinterpretations and misunderstandings which can result from employing the services of even the most competent and well-meaning interpreters. Also addressed are concerns surrounding confidentiality which may come into play when a non-signing practitioner must employ an interpreter in communication processes. Suggested too is the phenomenon that while written language may be a primary mode of expression for the non-signing advisor and the Deaf advisee to use, the advisee may be inhibited from conveying sensitive matters in this modality thus potentially making it a “risky” vehicle of communication in the advising process. Nevertheless, it is the advisor’s professional responsibility to identify and use the Deaf student’s preferred mode of communication.
To better understand students of any culture – including that of Deaf culture -- the academic advisor must explore a population’s life experiences, norms, values, and defining behaviors. Here Horovitz laments, “[Deafness] is indeed a physical difference that has resulted in a language system. From language springs culture and Deaf language is indeed a cultivation that celebrates such ethnology” (p. 5). McCullough and Duchesneau continue that “Deaf people are a vibrant community of individuals who share a rich cultural, linguistic, and historical heritage” (p. 8). The editor would thus support the notion that a modern approach to Deaf culture would prompt the advisor to consider whether Deafness is perceived as a disability by the Deaf or Hard of Hearing advisee.
McCullough and Duchesneau appear to suggest that academic advisors combat their developing misconceptions of Deaf students by establishing rapport with Deaf advisees and developing an awareness of the rich and unique diversity of Deaf people, Deaf culture and language, and Deaf history which is marked by oppression and paternalism. Silver concurs by stating that “…People who work with Deaf students tend to underestimate their abilities, aptitudes, interests, and vocational opportunities” and their low expectations can be self-fulfilling” (p. 27). “Hearing professionals… generally perceive Deaf people in one of two ways. The largely prevailing pathological perspective considers Deaf people to have an impairment that is in need of correction” (p.8). McCullough and Duchesneau (drawing from the work of Padden, Padden & Humphries, Lane, and Hoffmeister, & Bahan) note that “the social minority perspective… considers Deaf people to be members of a unique cultural and linguistic minority” (p. 8). The pathological approaches’ quest for assimilation may be oppressive to Deaf people. In contrast to the pathological view of Deaf people, those who view Deaf people as part of a social minority place language and culture, not hearing status, at the center of Deaf people’s identity” (p. 10).
Horovitz presents a comprehensive text in which the Deaf are celebrated, valued, and embraced. While this book contains valuable case studies that illustrate a myriad of phenomena related to the therapeutic effects of art therapy, future texts should offer the first-hand expressions of Deaf individual’s thoughts, feelings, and beliefs as related to their personal experiences when interacting with hearing practitioners. For the academic advisor, such expressions could offer an invaluable first-hand look at the unique experiences of Deaf students within the communication-driven milieu of academia.
Miller, M. A. (2002, December). How to thrive, not just survive, as a new advisor. The Academic Advising News, 25(4). Retrieved March 15, 2007 from the NACADA Clearinghouse of Academic Advising Resources Web site: http://www.nacada.ksu.edu/Clearinghouse/AdvisingIssues/newadvisor.htm.
Moehring, R. (1997) Advising students who are deaf. In Ramos, M. & Vallandingham, D. (Eds.) Advising students with disabilities (pp. 61-65). Manhattan, KS: National Academic Advising Association.
Visually speaking: Art therapy and the deaf. (2007). Book by Ellen G. Horovitz, (Ed.). Review by Nikki Allen Dyer. Springfield, IL: Charles C. Thomas Publisher. 250 pp. $56.95, (hardback), ISBN # 978-0-398-07715-0