Yale University

Improving Sexual Communication Between Parents and Their Deaf Teens: A Critical Gap in Needs

Principle Investigator(s):

Funder: CIRA
Project period: 09/28/2004 - 09/27/2005
Grant Type: Pilot Project

Abstract Text:

Recent Connecticut research demonstrates disproportionate rates of HIV infection in the state's Deaf community. National statistics estimate that half of all new HIV infections are among people under 25 years of age. Connecticut's 2002-2004 prevention and intervention plan targets youth ages 13-19 as priority populations. Deaf teens have less access to HIV prevention information than hearing teens and are therefore at higher risk. Little research on Deaf teen HIV prevention exists. Our hypothesis was that a major, unresearched issue in reaching Deaf teens about HIV/AIDS risks is that significant gaps exist in family communication about sexuality and HIV/AIDS risks due to the small numbers of parents fluent in American Sign Language.

Wheeler Clinic, Yale's Dr. Nora Groce, and the American School for the Deaf assessed communication gaps about HIV/AIDS between Deaf youth and their parents through the Improving Sexual Communication Project. Data regarding Deaf youth and parent perception of family communication was collected through parent and youth focus groups and a parent survey. An educational intervention was designed and offered to parents of Deaf teens and professionals who are Deaf/Hard of Hearing or who work with Deaf teens. The interactive workshops were based on the Cornell University curriculum, Talking with Kids About AIDS and included activities to increase knowledge and develop skills as well as supplying the resources needed to help parents provide accurate HIV prevention information comfortably to their children.

Quantitative and qualitative data measured the intervention's effects. Participating parents completed pre-tests immediately before and post-tests after completing the workshop to measure increased knowledge and improved comfort level with communication skills. A follow-up with parents using semi-structured questions helped to identify behavior changes at home and other longer-term impact.
American School for the Deaf's national prominence provided an excellent opportunity for this groundbreaking research. The Improving Sexual Communication Project addressed an unexplored area in global literature and provided the opportunity to learn much about this population and the information needed to develop training models.