Conversations at the dinner table typically involve reciprocal and contingent turn-taking. This context typically includes multiple exchanges between family members, providing opportunities for rich conversations and opportunities for incidental learning. Deaf individuals who live in hearing non-signing homes often miss out on these exchanges, as typically hearing individuals use turn-taking rules that differ from those commonly used by deaf individuals. Hearing individuals’ turn-taking rules include use of auditory cues to get a turn and to cue others when a new speaker is beginning a turn. Given these mechanisms, hearing individuals frequently interrupt each other—even if they are signing. When deaf individuals attempt to obtain a turn, they are frequently lost in the ongoing dialogue. This experience, wherein deaf individuals are excluded from the flow of conversations at mealtime, is known as the dinner table syndrome. This study documents deaf adults’ retrospective experiences with dinner table syndrome growing up. Personal interviews and a focus group were used to explore how deaf adults experienced conversations during family dinner gatherings. A phenomenological approach was used for analysis. Developed themes include: Missing out on Communication and Language with Hearing Family Members, Access to Current News and Events, Conversational Belonging and Sense of Exclusion within the Family, and the Realization of Missing Out on Conversations. These themes revealed the essence of Loved, yet Disconnected. Results of this qualitative research study can help identify what happens when participants miss cues during dinner table conversations, leaving them out of the conversation.


Deaf, Qualitative Research, Phenomenological Study, Communication, Missing Out, Belonging

Author Bio(s)

David R. Meek, Ed.D. is a postdoctoral fellow under the mentorship of Matthew W.G. Dye, Ph.D. in the SPaCE (Sensory, Perceptual and Cognitive Ecology) Center at Rochester Institute of Technology/National Technical Institute for the Deaf. He received his Bachelor of Science in Deaf Education and a Master of Arts in Mild Intervention from Ball State University, Muncie, IN. He also received his Doctorate of Education in Deaf Studies and Deaf Education from Lamar University, Beaumont, TX (M. Diane Clark, Ph.D., Advisor). David has 15 years of experience as an educator in Deaf Education, Special Education, working with students with various degrees of disabilities and Higher Education. Correspondence regarding this article can be addressed directly to: drmeek78@gmail.com.


The author thanks the PAH! 2019 Writing Retreat for their support and guidance, and the mentors for their peer reviews and feedback. This manuscript is part of my dissertation and also from my presentation from the Early Hearing Detection Intervention (EHDI) in 2019.

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 4.0 International License.





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