Lessons for Change From the Deaf President Now Protest

Have you ever wanted to make a change? Maybe you would like to improve your child’s school? Change something in the community or even the government? This month we remember one group who made a huge difference at Gallaudet. They also changed the Deaf community as a whole, forever.

The Deaf President Now (DPN) protest was a huge success. It is taught in every beginning ASL course and any class on Deaf History and Culture. Again and again we tell the story of DPN. The pride and joy that was felt on the day that a Deaf president was sworn into the office of President at Gallaudet University is still felt every time it is told.

Why do we feel such joy?

Could it be because a group of ordinary people (people like us) were able to do something amazing in the face of opposition by those who were in power?

Was it because they made real change happen?

Is there something that YOU want to accomplish that you feel is impossible?

Is there something that you want to change that affects you and your life?

I know there is!

What made the DPN protest so successful?

What can WE learn today and apply to our own challenges we are facing?

On the Gallaudet website there is an article that lists some ideas as to why the DPN protest succeeded so completely and so quickly. I’d like to take a quick look at some of these factors and how they can work in our lives to move us forward to success in any organization and against any challenge.

  1. They had a TEAM. In the DPN movement there was a huge number of community members involved. They included deaf and hearing students, faculty, staff, and alumni.
  2. The DPN Team used examples. The protesters looked to the past at what had worked in their time to overcome similar issues of oppression. Then they used similar strategies. Since 1989 many things have changed in the way that political battles are fought. It is a good idea to look to recent history and current political methods for good examples. The best way to move forward in a fight against oppression in the political world often changes.
  3. A PLAN:
    • The group of protesters had clearly defined goals. Their approach was focused and direct.
    • Talking to the right people: the DPN protesters focused on communicating with the Board of Trustees. These were the people that could take action on the demands they were making.
    • The protest leaders were incredibly organized. They began the groundwork for their movement months before the actual protest, got the media interested early, and once the protest started, formed an organizing committee and control center.” (The Week of DPN, Epilogue)
  4. Legal, ethical, moral: The protest was non-violent. In almost every way, the protesters respected the law. No one was injured and minimal property damaged.
  5. Use your strengths! The students who became leaders through this protest were able to clearly present their case to others and address an audience. They were intelligent and able to present a strong argument.

What does this mean for you?

When you look to make a change in your life, in an organization, or in government, these are great tips to follow! This is how DPN was successful.

First, decide what you want to change. Then, get a team. Using examples from others who have succeeded, make a plan. Finally, stay on target and keep it legal, ethical and moral! Use the strengths that YOU have! This is how we can change our world.

Reference: The Week of DPN, Epilogue – from Gallaudet.edu  http://www.gallaudet.edu/about/history-and-traditions/deaf-president-now/the-issues/the-week-of-dpn

A Deaf Sense: a Sense of Belonging

Last week I introduced the idea of Maslow’s Hierarchy and focused on the need to create a sense of belonging. It is important to create that sense of belonging in the family. Today we’ll look at outside the family to foster a sense of belonging in the youth around us. Both deaf children and hearing children that are connected to the world of deafness in some way need to develop this “Deaf Sense.”

A sense of belonging is a sense of unity, a connection with others who are like you. A Deaf Sense is when that belonging is felt as a deaf individual. This is actually where the name of our business came from. When individuals can FEEL connected to themselves, they can start to belong to something outside of themselves. The first place this usually happens is in the family, as I described last week.

However, there is another place that belonging is needed. And if the belonging in the family is struggling, youth look to the larger community to feel belonging. Individuals need to belong to a group in society. For Deaf children, that group is Deaf people. Sure, deaf youth can be a part of other groups: sports, church, etc. but the belonging that will come from a group that shares the same experiences, challenges, values and language will be so beneficial in their lives.

I have also seen the value of having CODAs and SODAs come together and share common experiences. They support each other and gain common understanding. It’s important for them to understand their place in the Deaf community and also feel a sense of belonging to their hearing world.

Research shows that identity is important!

Research has shown that those who can identify themselves in the world have a more positive sense of well-being. This well-being increases when the children can identify themselves in their family and then in the w

orld at large, and even more when they can do so bi-culturally with both the deaf and hearing cultures.

Celebrating Deaf History Month can give deaf youth a sense of belonging to the deaf community: A Deaf Sense. This identity and acceptance of his or her own Deaf Sense will then allow each individual to continue onto the next level of Maslow’s hierarchy: a strong Self Esteem, accomplishments and Self-actualization. Children who belong are more likely to become successful citizens who contribute to society and give back in a way only they can.

Going back to Maslow’s Heirarchy

Young woman without a sense of belonging.

If a young teenage girl does not feel like she belongs in society or her family, she may try to fit in by losing weight and cause an eating disorder. When the level of belonging is gone in the triangle, the lower levels also suffer.

Once this teen can feel a sense of belonging, she will be more likely to take steps to get help with the eating disorder. With help, the basic needs of survival and safety can be taken care of and the teen can move onto achieving goals and becoming the person desired.

For the teen that still does not feel any sense of belonging , she continues to search for it. This search for belonging leads children to gangs, to drugs, to sex… and for some, to suicide.  “If I don’t belong, why am I here?” They ask themselves.

Finding an identity within the Deaf community CAN and WILL make a difference.

What can you do?

You can make a difference by helping a youth feel that sense of belonging!

As a parent; as an educator, we have the power each day to help a child feel like he or she belongs in this world. A smile, a chat, a video of a story, a word of encouragement, a lesson about another deaf person, or an experience in  meeting other deaf youth is all it might take to let that youth know that you care, that there are others out there just like him or her and that he or she is important.

Confident student with a sense of belonging to her peers.

Please! Reach out today!  Reach out to that child who is struggling. Help him feel a sense of belonging in your family. Help her feel a sense of belonging in your classroom. Help him find his hearing sense and make sense of the hearing world he is a part of. Help her find her Deaf Sense through the fun of Deaf History.

Sign up for more great ideas to build self esteem in your child or students today: www.deafsense.com

Our posters are a great way to help youth feel that sense of belonging!

Get your Deaf American Time Line and the                         We Succeed Because We Can posters today!

It’s Deaf History Month… Why Should I Care?

It’s Deaf History Month!

As a parent of Deaf children…. Why should I care?

What is the value of Deaf History for deaf youth? Huge. It’s so huge, I had to divide this post into TWO! Watch for Part 2 coming next week!

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs

To start off, let’s go back to something you should have learned in Psychology or a child development class. It’s called Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. It looks like this:

The idea behind the picture of a pyramid is that we need each level of needs fulfilled before we can really move on to the next level. Self Actualization (living out your personal potential, being successful and teaching others to be successful) is where we all want our youth to end up someday. This requires that the other levels are in place! Now, as a parent, I am busy everyday focusing on the first and second level, Physiological and Safety. We work to provide food, shelter, water, etc. for our kids. But how much emphasis do we put on the third level: Belonging? Do our kids belong in our family? Does each one feel that love and acceptance; that connection with the other members that will tell them: “You Belong Here!” I think this is a place we all can improve. Stay tuned – I include some tips on this soon!


One way I have discovered belonging in my family is learning our history as a family. Looking at scrap books from the past, reading stories of grandmas and grandpas and how they grew up, connecting with these people in real life. All of these experiences help me feel connected and give me the sense that I belong to my family.

So… what does this have to do with Deaf History Month? Everything! Youth that grow up with deafness in the family often struggle with belonging. Whether it’s a deaf child with hearing parents and siblings, a hearing child with deaf parents and siblings, or a mix, belonging in a family that has such differences can present a challenge.

I remember when my 3rd child was born and was found to be Deaf. My oldest, then 5 years old, looked at me, his face filled with sadness, “Mommy,” he said, “the Deaf team is bigger than the Hearing team.” I looked at him and said. “No honey, we are all ONE team!”

The Power of Deaf History

One way I have found to bring that team together, is to teach and celebrate the deaf culture and history in our home. As we have come together as a family to learn about the many successful deaf individuals and the story of American Sign Language, belonging has increased. My hearing son is connecting more with his Deaf father as he learns who he is and why he values his language and history. My Deaf son is encouraged to succeed in whatever he does as he finds role models in the many successful deaf people throughout history. There is understanding on both sides; understanding of the challenges and the need for both hearing and deaf individuals in our society. They are learning to see that by working together, we can all thrive.

A Message for Hearing Parents!

I know what you are thinking! I remember feeling the fear that because I was hearing, I wouldn’t be able to fully understand my Deaf child. I was afraid that he wouldn’t want me to read to him, to do things with him. I was afraid he wouldn’t confide in me and just push me aside because I was hearing. After all, this is how other youth had treated me as a hearing adult in the Deaf community. Why would my child be any different?

It was learning about the deaf community, Deaf history and American Sign Language that helped change my perspective and gave me confidence in myself as his mother. As I opened myself up to see the things that other Deaf individuals had achieved, I realized my son could do the same. As I began to believe in him, I began to relax and enjoy him for who he was. As I allowed him to choose his path, I also found my place in his.

Parents, your children need you.

No one can take your place. You may be hearing, but you are still their parents. Imagine what you might see in their eyes as you show them the things you are learning about in Deaf History. Imagine their eyes light up seeing you sign, “He’s deaf like you.” Can you feel the gratitude for the acceptance they will feel? It will be amazing.

Be willing to open up to Deaf Culture and Deaf history no matter what education pathway or language pathway you have chosen. To know that others who have faced similar challenges as your child faces, and succeeded, is powerful. It allows YOU to dream and teach your child to dream and to achieve. It allows you to accept your child for who he or she is; to inspire your child to thrive as the person you want him or her to become.

I invite you to join us at Deaf Sense! We are here to support you on your journey as a parent of a deaf child!

  • Like us on Facebook and share our posts! We have monthly parenting tips, share success stories and success tips as well as information on Deaf Culture and History.
  • Get products and fill your home with a “Deaf Sense”: A Deaf History Time Line and We Succeed Because We Can posters are a great way to start! Watch for the release of an all new Children’s eBook later this month!
  • Connect with the local Deaf community, parent organization or Hands & Voices chapter. Get your to have experiences with other deaf children and adults.
  • Encourage a focus of Deaf History at school and at home.
  • Mentor with me or Deaf Sense??! Mentoring services coming soon…contact us for more information!

Tired of Spelling? Try some of these tips!

Tired of Spelling? Try some of these tips!

Spelling is NOT usually FUN!

Elementary schoolboy listening to his teacher at lesson


It’s not often that your child says, “My favorite subject is… Spelling!” More than likely, it’s not a favorite at all. More often, no one likes to do it. Many classrooms have stopped focusing on spelling and instead focus more on the whole language approach. I, personally, like a balanced approach where spelling is taught, but differently than the traditional approach.

Traditional Teaching

Traditionally, spelling has been taught as a separate task. Teachers typically give 10 words a week and the students practice these words for a weekly test. Often these words are taught in isolation, or by themselves, with no connection to familiar text. Sometimes, especially in the early elementary they are taught by word families: words that look and sound similar to each other. Skill and drill prepare the students for a test. The problem with this approach is that the correct spelling of the words and their meanings don’t always transfer to reading and writing skills.

Teaching Spelling to Deaf Children

Where children who are deaf are concerned, teaching new words in a way that they will remember them is crucial. Teaching spelling  and vocabulary through context and world knowledge is a must. I love to teach new words and vocabulary together and focus on words that are in the literature book that is being read and re-read in language arts class. This does several things that naturally reinforce the learning and memorization of spelling words.

  • The context of the story and the content will provide world knowledge that the students can connect the individual vocabulary/spelling words to.
  • The reading and re-reading of the book provides repetition in context so that the students are not only seeing the word again and again but understand the meaning of it as they practice using it in natural language.
  • The students enjoy the story AND spelling the words, as well as what the words mean.
  • Reading strategies including how to figure out what new words mean can be taught as the spelling words are practiced. (hitting two birds with one stone)
  • As the children re-tell or answer questions about the story, in ASL or English, they have the opportunity to use the spelling words naturally.
In other words: teaching spelling from context is VITAL to the deaf child.

Another place where deaf students struggle with spelling, is when words have multiple-meanings. There are also multiple ways to sign the same spelling word. It’s important to teach the different meanings when you focus on that word, even if that meaning is not used in the text you may be reading. Remember how I said that I like a balanced approach? Students will need direct teaching of words with multiple-meanings as well as natural interaction with the words in text.  This sounds like a great topic for another post!

Find ways to have FUN with spelling!
  • matching games (have the student make the matching cards by writing the words out)
  • Hang man
  • make up silly sentences or stories using all of the words
  • Post the words around the house and have the kids spell them out before they can go into a room or use an appliance.
  • games using ASL, like the one below


This game is awesome because it not only helps kids remember the word and how its spelled, but also what it means!        New words CAN be FUN!