Examining the Relationship Between Genetic Counselors' Attitudes Toward Deaf People and the Genetic Counseling Session

Given the medical and cultural perspectives on deafness it is important to determine if genetic counselors’ attitudes toward deaf people can affect counseling sessions for deafness genes. One hundred fifty-eight genetic counselors recruited through the National Society of Genetic Counselors Listserv completed an online survey assessing attitudes toward deaf people and scenario-specific comfort levels discussing and offering genetic testing for deafness. Respondents with deaf/Deaf friends or who work in prenatal or pediatric settings had more positive attitudes toward deaf people than those without deaf/Deaf friends or those working in ‘other’ settings. More positive attitudes toward deaf people correlated with higher comfort level talking about genetic testing for the two scenarios involving culturally Deaf clients; and correlated with higher comfort level offering genetic testing to culturally Deaf clients wishing to have a deaf child. Attitudes and comfort level were not correlated in the scenarios involving hearing or non-culturally deaf clients. These results suggest that genetic counselors’ attitudes could affect information provision and the decision making process of culturally Deaf clients. Cultural sensitivity workshops in genetic counseling training programs that incorporate personal interactions with culturally Deaf individuals are recommended. Additional suggestions for fostering personal interactions are provided.