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November 2, 2006

deaf kids, trauma and therapy

From: NCTSN - Nov 2, 2006

Deaf Children Have High Rates of Sexual Abuse and Inadequate Treatment --White Paper Seeks to Bridge Treatment Gaps

Los Angeles (October 31, 2006) A new white paper from the National Child Traumatic Stress Network (NCTSN) seeks to ensure that deaf and hard of hearing children who experience traumatic stress receive treatment tailored to their individual, cultural and communicative needs.

"When a deaf or hard of hearing child is referred for mental health services, they may be lucky enough to live in an area where they have access to specialized mental health services and clinicians with expertise in treating this population. However, it is much more likely that the clinician assessing and treating them will not have this knowledge or experience,” said Mary Starlit, LCSW, a therapist with the Deaf Counseling Services at the Mental Health Center of Denver. “By encouraging greater consultation, our goal is to help mainstream providers feel more confident in their ability to help deaf and hard of hearing children who have experienced trauma, and thereby improve the quality of care for children.”

Deaf children experience trauma more frequently than their hearing peers. An important study on sexual abuse conducted in the mid-1980s found that deaf and hard of hearing children appear to be abused at rates significantly higher than hearing children, and that this abuse often happens in homes, buses or residential school settings.

· Approximately two to three out of every 1,000 children in the U.S. are born deaf or hard of hearing.
· Deaf children are more vulnerable than hearing children to neglect and emotional, physical and sexual abuse.
· Approximately 50% percent of deaf girls have been sexually abused as compared to approximately 25% of hearing girls.
· Approximately 54% of deaf boys have been sexually abused as compared to approximately 10% of hearing boys.

Like others who have experienced abuse and other types of trauma, deaf and hard of hearing children often need trauma-specific mental health services to ensure their safety and to equip them with the skills they need to overcome their traumatic experiences. Ideally, deaf children would receive treatment from mental health professionals who are deaf or fluent in sign language and have expertise in child trauma. Unfortunately, such dual expertise is rare.

Therefore, it is essential to create collaborative efforts involving the Deaf community, mental health professionals who are knowledgeable about Deaf culture, and mainstream treatment providers to design and develop effective treatment services for deaf children and/or families who experience traumatic stress. The NCTSN white paper proposes a model for cultural consultation that supports this type of collaboration. For information on the paper, “Addressing the Trauma Treatment Needs of Children Who Are Deaf or Hard of Hearing and the Hearing Children of Deaf Parents,” see

The National Child Traumatic Stress Network works to improve the quality, effectiveness and availability of services for traumatized youth. The National Center for Child Traumatic Stress, based out of the Duke University Medical Center and the UCLA Neuropsychiatric Institute, coordinates the NCTSN. The NCCTS and NCTSN are funded through the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.