As the American Psychiatric Association's Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM-IV-TR, 1994) is under revision, the complexity of diagnosing and treating childhood trauma with the current trauma-related diagnoses, including Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and Acute Stress Disorder (ASD)is being debated (van der Kolk,2 005). Regarding deaf individuals, significant differences in symptom presentation (e.g., avoidance/numbing, hyperarousal, and re-experiencing symptoms) suggest that caution is needed when using the current criterion for the diagnosis of PTSD within this population (Schild & Dalenberg, 2011). Despite diagnostic uncertainties, it is generally accepted that regardless of hearing status, early childhood is a critical period for the development of relationships and attachment styles which profoundly affect the later development of interpersonal relationships (Bowlby, 1988; Ainsworth, Bell, & Stayton, 1971).
The existing research acknowledges that in comparison to hearing individuals, deaf children are exposed to interpersonal traumas (e.g., neglect, physical abuse, sexual abuse and emotional abuse) at greater rates of prevalence (Sullivan & Knutson,1998). Furthermore, significant behavioral and emotional problems have been associated with the experience of abuse for deaf and hard-of-hearing children, including increased symptoms of PTSD, anxiety and depression (Sullivan & Knutson,1998). It is well documented that over ninety percent of deaf children are born to hearing parents, a factor thought to contribute to impaired communication in the home, creating an environment in which a deaf child is uniquely vulnerable to abuse (LaBarre, 1998). Indeed, Ridgeway (1993) contends that due to the high rate of childhood abuse within the deaf community, some children may view the abuse as part of being deaf. Given the prevalence of childhood trauma, the invasive effects of childhood maltreatment, the potential for subsequent behavioral and emotional problems there is clearly a need for intervention. Within this context play therapy is one treatment modality that is considered in this paper as potentially effective in treating deaf children who have experienced trauma.
Schwenke, T. (2019). Childhood Trauma: Considering Diagnostic and Culturally Sensitive Treatment Approaches for Deaf Clients. JADARA, 45(1). Retrieved from https://repository.wcsu.edu/jadara/vol45/iss1/3