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Dinner Table Syndrome: A Phenomenological Study of Deaf Individuals’ Experiences with Inaccessible Communication
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
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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Recommended APA Citation
Meek, D. R. (2020). Dinner Table Syndrome: A Phenomenological Study of Deaf Individuals’ Experiences with Inaccessible Communication. The Qualitative Report, 25(6), 1676-1694. https://doi.org/10.46743/2160-3715/2020.4203
Accessibility Commons, Interpersonal and Small Group Communication Commons, Quantitative, Qualitative, Comparative, and Historical Methodologies Commons