Managing Behavior Problems in Children Who Are Deaf or Hard-of-Hearing: 

A Skills Training Program for Parents

offered through the
Child and Family Clinic and the Department of Psychology
Eastern Kentucky University

Is this program for me?

All children misbehave.  At what point does "normal misbehavior" cross the line and become problem behavior? How can parents decide when to seek help managing their child's behavior?  Psychologists Rex Forehand and Nicholas Long, in their book Parenting the Strong-Willed Child, offer some guidelines.

         Does your child engage in several of the following behaviorsdisobedience, temper tantrums, stubbornness, screaming, irritability, arguing, threatening others, aggression, swearing, lying, stealing, or showing off?  Does he/she demand attention, blame others, destroy property, or sass adults?  

         Does your child have difficulty behaving appropriately in several of the following situationsgoing to bed, getting up in the morning, mealtime, bath time, when you're on the phone, when you have visitors, when you visit others, riding in the car, shopping, or eating in restaurants?

If your child engages in several of the above behaviors, or has difficulty behaving appropriately in several of the above situations, you may want to consider a parenting program.  

What does the program have to offer?

The program is designed to help parents learn effective ways of increasing desirable behaviors, decreasing undesirable behaviors, and fostering a strong, positive parent-child relationship.  It is based on a collaboration between parents and professionals and recognizes parents as the most important influence on their child's development.  Our program is aimed specifically at parents of children who are deaf or hard-of-hearing.

Behavioral parent training programs have been extensively evaluated and consistently found to be effective for reducing behavior problems among hearing children.  Although it seems logical that this approach would work just as well with deaf or hard-of-hearing children, there have been no systematic efforts to develop and evaluate behavioral parenting programs for the parents of these children.  This is particularly troubling since there is evidence that behavior problems may be more prevalent among deaf or hard-of-hearing children.  An important component of this project is a careful evaluation of how well the parent training program works.  We will be asking participants to help us in this task by providing feedback and suggestions.

There is no charge to parents for participating in this program. We will ask you to purchase a book from your local bookstore, which should cost approximately $14.95.

How does the program work?

Parent training programs are typically offered in a group setting.  Participants meet weekly to review readings and to discuss and practice new skills.  Between meetings, parents try out the new skills at home.  They then report back to the group on their successes and work together to resolve any problems they may have encountered.  The group leader keeps the discussion focused and offers advice based on his/her work with other parents and expertise in child development and behavior.

While this approach has been very effective, it poses problems for many parents of deaf or hard-of-hearing children.  It is often difficult to gather a sufficient number of parents together to form a group, particularly outside of urban areas, and to find a convenient time to meet.  There are also relatively few psychologists with appropriate training or experience working with deaf or hard-of-hearing children and their families.  To address these concerns, our program will be offered via the Internet.
The program consists of four main components:

         Readings: Each participant should have access to the book  Parenting the Strong-Willed Child, 2nd Edition by  Drs. Rex Forehand and Nicholas Long. This book will serve as the text for the program and provides detailed information on each of the parenting skills and strategies we will be addressing.  Parents will be asked to read and discuss information presented in the book each week.  

         Meetings: In place of the weekly meetings incorporated into traditional parent programs, we will be using an electronic bulletin board.  The bulletin board allows program participants and leaders to communicate with one another throughout the 8-week program.  Participants post (i.e., type in) questions or comments about the program material on the bulletin board.  The posted information is displayed to all members of the group.  Group leaders and other participants can then post responses to others' questions or comments.  The bulletin board is accessible 24 hours a day, allowing parents to read responses to their questions or to comment on questions raised by others at their convenience.  The bulletin board will be accessible only to program participants (approximately 8 parents and 3 group leaders).  

         Home Practice: A key element of the program is practice implementing new skills at home.  Parents will be asked to try out new skills with their children and then discuss their experiences with the group on the bulletin board.  

         Course Materials: In addition to the basic text, participants will also be provided with a variety of supporting materials designed to help them evaluate their progress and to help us evaluate the program.

We will also give particular attention to tailoring the strategies presented in the readings to the specific needs of the parents and children in the group.

We will be covering each of the following topics:

         Why Children Misbehave

         Encouraging/Strengthening Desirable Behavior

         Communicating Effectively with Children

         Decreasing Misbehavior

How will the program be evaluated?

Participants in the program will be asked to provide information to help us evaluate how well the program is working.  Before and after the formal program, parents will be asked to complete a set of questionnaires designed to measure parenting practices and to determine the frequency with which various problem behaviors occur.  Parents will also be asked to provide some basic information about themselves and their child (e.g., ages, type and degree of hearing loss, type of educational placement, mode of communication).  These materials will be submitted directly to the group leaders and will remain strictly confidential.  This information will not be shared with the rest of the group or with anyone else.  We will provide feedback to individual parents.  In addition, parents will be asked to keep track of how frequently several specific problem behaviors occur each day.

Who are the program leaders?

The program will be conducted by Robert Brubaker, Ph.D. Amy Szarkowski, M.S., and Kelly Summers, B.A.  Dr. Brubaker is a licensed clinical psychologist and Professor of Psychology at Eastern Kentucky University.  He is the Director of the EKU Child and Family Clinic and the EKU Hard-of-Hearing Clinic, and Director of Clinical Training for a clinical psychology master's degree program offering specialization in deafness and mental health.  He has extensive experience working with parents and children with behavior problems.  Ms. Szarkowski is completing a doctorate in clinical psychology at Gallaudet University and has extensive experience working with children who are deaf or hard-of-hearing and their families. Ms. Summers is an advanced graduate student at EKU specializing in working with deaf and hard-of-hearing clients.

When will the program begin?

We expect to begin the program some time in mid to late February and continue for eight weeks.  The precise start date and time frame will be determined by the response from potential participants.

Who can participate?

In order for us to accurately assess the effectiveness of the program, it will be necessary to restrict participation to hearing parents of deaf or hard-of-hearing children between the ages of two and eight.  It is preferable, but not necessary, that both parents be involved in the program.  Parents must be willing to complete the evaluation materials and to participate fully in the program (i.e., do the readings, carry out the home assignments).  Of course, parents must have access to the Internet and a Web browser (e.g., Netscape Navigator, Microsoft Internet Explorer, AOL web browser, Web TV, etc.).


If you're interested in participating, send an e-mail to Dr. Brubaker at  Include the age of your child and a sentence or two describing any problem behaviors your child is exhibiting.   We will get back to you with specific details about the program.  Your inquiries will remain confidential.   Even if you express an interest at this point, you are certainly free to drop out of the program at any time.

If you would like more information about the program before deciding whether to participate, or if you have any questions or concerns, please feel free to contact Dr. Brubaker.

If you're interested in the program, but don't meet the standard participation requirements, let us know.  We may be able to work out some other arrangements.

Revised 09/18/2002