Do you REALLY believe your Deaf child/student can succeed?

Raising Deaf Children with Dreams, Success, and Confidence.

It’s not easy. In fact, in our society today it can be downright difficult! However, the key, believe it or not, is YOUR belief in him. If you don’t believe your child can succeed, how can you instill that belief in him and help him actually do it? I was faced with this as a young parent. Although I knew that deaf people do succeed in many endeavors, there are obvious blocks that prevent them from doing some things. Or so I thought.

My Journey to Believe

My journey to believe started on my way to become a teacher of the deaf, an advocate for students and their success in life. I saw low expectations from teachers, “It’s ok,” the teacher would say, “He’s deaf. What more can I expect?” I vowed never to say the same and always push my students to their full potential. 

Fast forward many years and I’m driving in the car with my 2 young boys. The eldest is 5 and hearing. His brother was only 3. I was shocked to hear this come out of his mouth (talking about his brother): “He’s not smart, he’s deaf.”

Where in the world had he learned this? Had society taught him at such a young age that deaf people are not smart? That you need to be able to speak and hear to be smart?

Teaching Success

I began to actively teach the concept of “We Succeed Because We can” to all of my children, hearing and deaf. We talked about deaf adults who succeed and what they do. I gave examples of deaf adults we knew who were obviously “smart.” I let them pursue whatever challenges they wanted, encouraging them all the way.


Yet no matter what we do at home, society will have their say. Here are some things I’ve heard or seen said.

From teachers:

“I’m preparing my students for middle school. They MUST learn to read and write.”
~ while neglecting the content curriculum ~“Write about your dreams. I’m not talking about playing football kinds of dreams. 
I’m talking about college or what you want to do when you grow up.” 

~  paraphrased from a teacher’s instructions. ~

From Classmates:

“You can’t … You’re deaf.”   ~  Hearing classmate in a public school ~  

From just about everyone:

“You want to be a _________? That’s impossible. You’re deaf!”  ~ Fill in the blank, almost every career or job has been found in such a sentence. ~
~ Many times spoken by teachers, parents, and specialists. ~

When my own son encountered these comments at school, I was relieved and amazed at what he answered.

 “I’m Deaf and I can do anything. Deaf and Hearing should be equal.” 


I was also grateful that his brother had learned a thing or two in the last 6 years. He recently had written a paper on his dream that Deaf and hearing people would be equal and have equal access to education, language, and careers. My deaf son asked permission to take his classmates and show them the paper that was hanging in the hall. His classmates were able to read the essay and many were impressed. He wasn’t afraid to stand up for himself.

Bullying deaf children happens on a daily basis. Whether it’s society, their teacher, their parents, a hearing peer, or a neighbor. It doesn’t matter if it’s a deaf school or a public school. I’ve also come to see that it doesn’t matter so much if you use ASL, hearing aids, CI; talk or not. It’s an issue all deaf children, and even adults, face. For years, deafness has been seen as a disability. For years, deaf children have been told, or have just even felt, they can’t succeed.

I later asked my son, “What helped you respond so confidently to those kids? You knew they were wrong and weren’t scared to tell them so. How did you know that?”

“That poster.” He answered.

He’s talking about a poster my husband made entitled, “We Succeed Because We Can.”

When my deaf son was 5 and was asked this question: “What do you want to be when you grow up?” he answered, like every other 5 year old boy, “A fireman, or a cop.” You can see his fun cop story on our YouTube channel.

 I was tempted to tell him, “That’s not possible because you can’t hear.” Luckily, I didn’t, even though this is one of those areas where society has set rules that normally make it hard for deaf people to serve in this capacity. I let him dream. He still loves firemen and policemen, though his ambitions now include construction, science, engineering, forestry service, being a comedian and story teller, and more.

I am privileged to have married a dreamer. He knew the meaning of “We Succeed Because We Can” more than many and is sharing that very message. Through this amazing poster, he introduced me to 48 successful Deaf adults of the 21st century. He taught my children about these people, who have succeeded and thrived in careers often thought impossible for a Deaf Person. It is their stories that gave my son the confidence to stand up for himself.

Seth Terkhorn, Fireman

Seth grew up and became a volunteer fire fighter during high school. He liked helping out, giving back. When he went to college at RIT, he applied to volunteer there. His first application was denied, but he went to the next town over.

“He drives the department’s rescue truck and responds to house fires, helping set up hoses outside the structures. He can lip read well and has even been more of an asset when deaf patients have been involved in car accidents—he asked in sign language whether the victims were hurt.”

And he’s not alone. The article notes there are around 50 deaf firefighters nation wide. (

Keith Nolan, Army ROTC.

“Nolan, 29 and deaf, has been trying for decades to join the U.S. military. While some of his persistence has paid off — he’s passed the first two levels of ROTC, joining the Bravo Company at California State University — he’s currently prohibited from moving on to level three.” 

He is continuing the battle, working with legislatures to allow him to serve in the army. Over 80% of army jobs are noncombat, which deaf can qualify for, yet are still kept from working them due to long standing rules. He’s working to change that, and has a good chance at doing so.

 “Each morning I get up and put on my uniform, I feel privileged,” Nolan said, “It’s truly an honor to wear that uniform.”

TEDx: Keith Nolan, Deaf ROTC Soldier, Works To Change Military Acceptance Rules,

Real People, Real Stories, Real Success


I heard one time that . . .
“True success lies in discovering what you love to do, and finding someone to pay you to do it.”

So.. Let them dream.


Then give them the skills the need to achieve, 

no matter how long it takes;

 no matter what we have to fight for.

Get your own We Succeed Because We Can poster and start teaching your deaf child and students today about Success!

Decisions and Change!

Decisions and Change!

Emotions surge through me. Questions fill my mind.
Is this what I want for my baby?
Is this what he wants?
Does he understand what challenges he will face?
Will the other kids be nice to him?
Will he be getting a quality education?
Will the interpreter be qualified? 
For the last two months, my son had been at home with me. Field trips, nature observations, projects, sensory activities, sibling teaching sessions, planning, reading, filming, viewing, etc etc.
Not that it was all fun and games and went just the way I wanted it to. Quite the opposite. But, it became clear to me that what my boy needed was a period of time to heal, to discover himself again, to gain confidence once more; to discover learning again. 
Then one day, he decided that that  time had come to an end. After a particularly hard day, I looked at him and signed, “You’re not happy. You miss school, don’t you?” 
We then launched into a conversation of what options he had for school: a local deaf program with part mainstreaming and part resource classroom with a teacher of the deaf, home, or the local elementary school where his brother goes
Perfect, I thought, it’s time to teach him how to make good decisions in his life. If he can learn this now, it will benefit him greatly in his future!
Being a faithful Christian family, I brought in the scriptures. In the Doctrine and Covenants (scriptures from the LDS faith), these verses are found. They guide anyone seeking answer to finding a decision based on answers from the Holy Ghost:
“Study it out in your mind; then you must ask me if it be right, and if it is right I will cause that your bosom shall burn within you; therefore, you shall feel that it is right.
But if it be not right you shall have no such feelings, but you shall have a stupor of thought that shall cause you to forget the thing which is wrong” (D&C 9:8-9)
We sat down, Mom, Dad, son, and brother for support. We listed and discussed all pros and con’s to each decision. We asked others who may know more. We talked to deaf adults who went to school in their local schools (mainstreamed) growing up, including Dad. 
He made a decision.
Then he prayed. And our whole family prayed with him. 
He felt he had an answer… Attend the local school with his brother. He was excited. 
And here’s the condition we discussed, “Since this is your decision, and your Father in Heaven has said it is a good choice, whatever happens, we face it together. There will be challenges. You may find you hate it. You may love it. No matter what, you stick it out until the end of the year. Then we’ll reevaluate and see what to do.”
It’s been 4 weeks now. Not without challenges, but with motivation to learn, to grow, and to do his best. He has made friends and figured out ways to communicate with them. He has come home sad, frustrated, excited, concerned, happy, calm, and angry. There have been bullies and really great friends. In other words, he’s having a normal experience. 
Is this what I want for my baby?
     I want him to be happy, engaged, leaning and growing… All of that is happening. Could there be a better place for him out there? Maybe, but for now…he’s doing ok.
Is this what he wants?
    Yes…he explored all the options. He decided this for himself. For him, that was really important.
Does he understand what challenges he will face? He does now, and is facing them bravely! 
Will the other kids be nice to him?
Some will, some won’t…isn’t that true for most kids? We’ve dealt with that before (Dealing with Bullying) and I love how this little guy responded to the bullies! Stay tuned for my next post for that!
Will he be getting a quality education?
    With 20% of content lost through interpretation even with the best interpreters, some educational value is sacrificed. However, this local school and teacher are using many of the effective strategies that I talked about earlier, and they are challenging and engaging my boy, pushing him on. For 3rd grade, with added support of reading and writing at home, he’ll be alright for now. The best answer for every deaf child? I would say, emphatically, no! Those arguments will make this post too long, I’ll add it to my list! 
And what of next year? And the year after? I don’t know those answers. I guess we have more decisions yet to make. Thank goodness we know the steps to do so.

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