The purpose of this research was to produce jewellery that would address the communicative and expressive needs of deaf children within the context of the Thai Buddhist culture. The researcher shared this cultural background. The rationale for the research was that jewellery, which in Thailand has communicative and spiritual significance, would permit deaf children to communicate powerful, suppressed emotions. Their limited spoken language would be compensated by the enhancement of other senses, and the visual, tactile aspects of the jewellery would provide a sensory language that the children could use to express themselves.
Research involved working with children as part of the design process. The first stage was the observation of children at special schools for the deaf. This was followed by interviews with specialist workers to identify a set of criteria for the making of the jewellery. Finally, the jewellery pieces were tested with children using a set of response tests. The jewellery was analysed as a mode of communication, according to its visual, tactile, sensory, and cultural effectiveness. Three aspects of the jewellery appeared to be significant: materiality – its material features may be expressed tactilely and visually; communication – it permits the communication of emotional meaning; spiritual – it was felt to encourage the development of a form of spiritual enlightenment in the Thai Buddhist tradition. The effectiveness of the jewellery depends on the cognitive development, and perceptual and learning skills of the children, as well as the strategies used to engage children.
Participants were deaf Thai children (7-15), a group suggested by the literature to be more susceptible to psychological problems, such as depression, fear, loneliness and low self-esteem.