All posts by deafsense

Why Camp Ollin?

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Give your child the gift of a summer to Remember – that will set him or her up for a life of success. Limited space available.

Making the Most of your “We Succeed Because We Can” Poster

Teachers! We are so happy you have ordered your “We Succeed Because We Can” posters! Here are some great ideas of how to make the most of your poster in your classroom!

Heck, we even include the Common Core Standards the activities fit under!

Together, we CAN make a difference in the lives of youth everywhere!


Students actively engaged in a lesson about the Poster.

Lesson Plan Ideas and Suggestions

  1. Together as a class, pick a person from the poster. Create an ASL letter poem with that person’s name or occupation. Use qualities of good community helpers (honest, brave, hard worker, etc.) and what that person does. Have students pick a person and do one on their own, or in partners.
  2. In turn, have each student pick a person and keep it a secret. Play charades with each student acting out the career he or she chose. You can also have dress up clothes that are used in the different careers to do some creative play.
  3. After a lesson explaining the different jobs and careers, making sure that the students understand that ALL of the individuals are Deaf, have each student choose a career that he or she would like to research or become in the future. Give the students time to do research on that career and write about it. The writing assignment could be a simple essay or a fictional narrative that pictures himself or herself as the person he or she wants to be. Add to the activity by having each student do a presentation of their writing in ASL.
  4. This activity is done best with a small group. Discuss several careers and individuals on the poster with the students in ASL. Write questions about some of the individuals in English on the board and have students write the answers on their own. Allow the students to go to and look at the poster in order to answer the questions. Review some of the answers as a class in ASL. Example questions: Where does ______________ work? Find someone who was the first Deaf person in their career field. What does _____________ do?
  5. Create cards with the name of different careers and place one on the back of each student. Have the students play 20 questions to discover what career they have on their back. When they guess correctly, have them get another card until all the cards have been used. You could also use these cards to play a matching game where students find the matching word on the poster.
  6. Have the students imagine themselves all grown up. What job might they want? Is it a job that is on the cards or a different job? Have them draw a picture of themselves in their future career and share it with the class.
  7. Bring in a guest speaker, or go on a fieldtrip to visit a deaf adult at work. It could be someone in one of the careers on the cards or a different career. This could be a good opening activity for this unit as it would bring careers and working into reality.

CCSS Reading Standards for Literature K–5 (RL)

  1. RL-K.1: With prompting and support, ask and answer questions about key details in a text.
  2. RL-1.1: Ask and answer questions about key details in a text.
  3. RL-2.1: Ask and answer such questions as who, what, where, when, why, and how to demonstrate understanding of key details in a text.
  4. RL-3.1: Ask and answer questions to demonstrate understanding of a text, referring explicitly to the text as the basis for the answers.
  5. RL-4.1: Refer to details and examples in a text when explaining what the text says explicitly and when drawing inferences from the text.
  6. RL-5.1: Quote accurately from a text when explaining what the text says explicitly and when drawing inferences from the text.

From Bystander to Believer: My journey as a Hearing Mother

I am a hearing wife of a Deaf man and a hearing mother of 4 children, three of whom are Deaf. I was born in a hearing family with all hearing siblings. Although I learned a bit of sign language, and even performed a song in sign at my 8th grade graduation, I had never met a deaf person.

When I was fourteen, my sister, who was just two years older then I, was losing her hearing. She saw an audiologist, who gave her hearing aids, but my wise mother knew that there was something more, something better for her. She found a program for the deaf and my sister switched schools, started learning ASL, and using an interpreter. I didn’t want to be left behind! I started learning and my sister would ‘help’ me by not using her hearing aids on weekends and forcing me to sign with her.

Learning ASL led me to involvement in the ASL community; however I was reluctant to become fully involved. In college, I was a little bit involved with the deaf community and decided that I wanted to teach deaf children.  I became a huge advocate for Bi-lingual/ Bi-cultural education and looked forward to teaching. In my naiveté, I said I believed deaf people could do anything hearing people do. I was convinced that I really believed it too.

In my senior year of college, I met my husband who was the ASL lab instructor. We started dating and just after graduating, married. When he felt moments of discouragement regarding his success in life, I encouraged him. I believed he could do anything he wanted to. . . except run a business of his own. His experience was in construction and that’s where he wanted to start out. Eventually he wanted to do something big that would inspire deaf youth to succeed.

The first few years of marriage were rocky as I finished my degree and started teaching and he ran into difficulties finding a steady job in construction. After much thought, he decided to go back to school, major in history and become a teacher.  I was secretly relieved that the big talk of starting a business had stopped. I knew he would be a wonderful teacher, and he had a passion for that. It would also provide us with a steady income. That’s what I needed.

Our first child was born and I worked full time while my husband attended school. My son was hearing and began signing at 6 months of age. We were a happy family.

Then, my second son was born deaf. No big deal, I thought. I still thought I believed that deaf children, and deaf adults, could succeed and do whatever they wanted. I had no idea how it (his birth) would shake my beliefs and my marriage.

My mind filled with questions and doubt. What if he doesn’t want me as his mom because I’m hearing? What if I don’t know how to teach him to read? What if he never learns to read above the 4th grade reading level? What if he says he wants to be a fireman? How do I best support him? Should he get hearing aids? Should I make sure he has speech? If he can talk, won’t he have a better chance at success in the future?

Only a parent understands the dreams and desires her or she has for her children. Only a parent can understand the gravity of having those dreams crushed. It’s natural for someone who gives birth to a child who is different than herself to grieve. But I was the hearing wife of a Deaf man! The hearing sister of a Deaf adult! The teacher of d/hh children! What was my problem? Didn’t I believe my child could do anything he wanted to?

I realized that as much as I had thought I ‘believed’ in the Deaf individual, it just wasn’t true. As much as I thought I had been truly accepted and enculturated into the Deaf community, I felt alienated. I was only a bystander after all.

After going through the grief and seeing a counselor who understood Deaf culture; making decisions and moving forward as a hearing mom of a Deaf child, I had nagging thoughts. Nagging, negative thoughts that would come to me as my little boy grew. They didn’t disappear as my 3rd child was born: a Deaf girl. In fact, they probably became a little worse.

I remember my son telling me, “I want to be a fireman someday.”  That was a moment when I put on a face without expression and said, “Ok! That’s awesome.” However, inside, my nagging mind was posing questions the whole time: They won’t let him be a fireman! He’s deaf! He can’t hear! How can he become a fireman? You are feeding him false hope! STOP! He also said he wanted to become a policeman or a soldier. I felt all of these jobs were impossible.

It was during this time that my husband began to dream again. He was in his Master’s program and doing a research project on Deaf Culture and History. He wanted to develop a poster that would show the world that Deaf individuals can and DO succeed, in many different careers. He finished that poster, (link “that poster” to  featuring 48 deaf individuals in 48 different career pathways. To my amazement I saw on the poster a Deaf fireman, a Deaf police officer, and a Deaf ROTC participant. What? My mind went into shock. It couldn’t be. My husband must be wrong.

So I did my own research. I found that not only was he correct, but that these men weren’t the only ones who were changing the career field for my son. There were 50 documented firemen who were d/hh. There were other d/hh men who were serving on a police force. The ROTC participant is still lobbying to change the laws to where d/hh people could serve in non- combat positions.

At this same time, I began to go through a personal transformation. I began to see that I, with my bystander beliefs, was holding my husband, and my children, back from succeeding. It wasn’t his deafness that was holding him back; it was his insecurities coupled with my insecurities and beliefs that we couldn’t succeed in achieving our dreams.

The world today teaches us to settle for less than what we might want to achieve. The world says go to school, get a job, settle down, the end. Our hearts, deaf or hearing, tell us differently. They tell us to set our expectations high and go for them through whatever challenges beset us.

The truth is, we all have challenges we must overcome. As parents, as spouses, we have a huge impact on what our loved ones will attempt to achieve in their lives. Will we stand by, allowing ourselves to be bystanders because we are hearing? Will we give into the nagging thoughts and beliefs that life is hard, and that there are only certain jobs a deaf person can do, and our children just won’t be able to achieve their dreams?

Or can we reach into our hearts and find true belief? Can we open our minds to the possibility that others are changing the dynamics in the career world and that what may not have been possible only years before, just might be as our children grow? Can we begin to see that, in reality, it has always been possible?

Can we see that we can become believers? And through believing, inspire those around us to become believers too?

First published on the Hands & Voices Blog:

From Bystander to Believer: My journey as a Hearing Mother

Butterflies and Deaf individuals… what do they have in common?

Did you know… Although scientists have found ears on some Butterfly species, most butterflies rely primarily on vision and smell to communicate?

That’s right. I think that’s pretty cool!

Here’s why!

Butterfly Communication:



Eastern Tiger Swallowtail on flowers

Butterflies use their vision, the beautiful patterns on their wings and UV rays to send and receive messages. They have this cool deal worked out so that when they move a certain way it sends different visual signals to their butterfly friends! They say, “Hey! I want to date you!” Or “Stay away from my flower!” Everything they need to communicate about is right there in their vision.

It’s almost like you could call butterflies deaf!

A butterfly is similar to a Deaf individual: primarily relying on vision to communicate.

When a butterfly is born, it looks so different. We don’t recognize it for what it can be; it is only a caterpillar. Caterpillars are stuck on the ground, crawling around to find food, often staying in the same general location that it hatched in. Caterpillars aren’t necessarily pretty and we don’t really pay them any attention. We think, “how in the world can you be anything really beautiful?”

Through time the caterpillar grows and builds its cocoon. After a couple weeks the butterfly emerges, more beautiful than we imagined.

And yet… the butterfly doesn’t use every part of the environment around them. They, like deaf individuals rely on their sight, their vision, light and movement in order to communicate and live. Yet, they live the life they were meant to live.

You, your child, me, all of us are little caterpillars working to transform and become a beautiful butterfly.

You and your child, every person here on Earth, were made just the way we were meant to be.

When you fully transform, you will become the butterfly you were meant to be. . .and live the life you were meant to live.

Isn’t that awesome? YOU are amazing! You have something within you that is bursting, just so excited to take flight.

Somewhere along the journey we lose our way. We might lack support from our environment, or the belief that our butterfly wings will really come. We need that plant stem to be strong so we can build our cocoons.

Sometimes we need a mentor. A butterfly who has already been through what we are wanting to do. We need a leader, a coach.

Let me be that person.



Lynell Smith, Transformation Mentor

I am an action centered transformation mentor.

The focus in mentoring is on YOU, where YOU are in your life and where YOU want to go.

Parents gain support in becoming better parents so they can mentor their children.

Your load is lightened so you can transform into who you are meant to be.

I am now offering FREE 30 min Discovery sessions.

Take the step. It’s time to transform. Your dreams are waiting.



Four ‘Hero Moms’ of Deaf Children

Hero Moms

Do you remember that day when you first found out your child was deaf? I still remember the look in the audiologist’s eyes, the tone of his voice, the feeling of sympathy and sadness, “It’s a severe to profound hearing loss,” he said.

The journey that followed was filled with visits to the medical professionals, early interventionists; an information overload dumped on us as parents of a deaf child. There are pressures from the audiologist to make choices for listening devices. Maybe your family has an opinion to chime in as well.  Not to mention the stress of everyday life and trying to connect to a child who is different than you.  It’s not hard to understand why we are overwhelmed.

In my journey I have met some mothers who have become heroes in my eyes. They have done their best to communicate with their children, make sacrifices for their child’s success and SO MUCH MORE.  Although there are many more like them, I will share four stories today. Know that for each story shared here there are many more stories that go untold everyday. I know you are out there Hero Moms and I salute you!

My Mom

When my sister lost her hearing at age 16, the audiologists fitted her with hearing aids and sent her back to the classroom with no further support. My quiet but determined mother always put her daughters first and was not satisfied with this arrangement, especially when she saw my sister continuing to struggle.  Finally, after asking everyone she knew about education for the deaf in the area, she found a program that used ASL. She contacted the school officials and soon my sister was attending a new school across town with other students who were deaf. My willing grandma with wavy gray hair, my nervous but dedicated mother and I began taking classes at the local community college with my sister. She passed us up quickly, but I was close behind. I always look up to my mother and grandmother for attending that class with us. My Hero Mom made sure my sister had the support she needed, even though it meant opening our world up to a new world that was in many ways overwhelming to her.

April Giauque

This little brunette fireball is one of my Heroes. You can read her blog here. I met April after learning her daughter was the same age as mine, to the very day! We met up at a McDonald’s. While her oldest 3 children, all who have autism, played in the playground, we chatted for over an hour. It was the first time we had met in person, but we had so much in common it felt like we had always known each other. Her sixth child, the baby at the time, was her first Deaf child and April was just learning ASL. She now holds an ASL endorsement for her special Education teaching degree and is teaching at a school for the Deaf. When her second Deaf child was born, she knew what to do. Pieced together in a beautiful family, this mother has tackled every challenge and is breaking through barriers for ALL of her children, as well as for others.

Tricia Feik

I remember when I met outgoing, friendly Tricia. We attended her church on a visit to her town. Her Deaf daughter was the same age as my Deaf son.  They played together. Later she would relate to me, “From that day that she met your son she has been a different child. Something clicked for her that day.” It is so important for children to meet others like them! Tricia, truly a Hero Mom, understood that.

After that meeting we kept in touch. In efforts to connect her daughter to a larger Deaf peer group, Tricia’s family moved to a different state just as we moved to the North West. As always, Tricia has been involved in the school’s parent organization and stayed active in her daughter’s education. I admire the effort by the entire family to learn and use ASL. They make sure all are included and have what they need, even when it meant moving to a different state.

Tricia has written about her family’s journey here.

Audrey Devan

I have enjoyed meeting and becoming friends with the reserved Audrey Devan. When Audrey, a member of the Winnemem Wintu Tribe  with long dark hair and large dark eyes, found out her daughter was Deaf, she immediately started learning ASL and becoming active in the community where she lived. She was supportive of other families in her same situation but quickly realized there were few families of Deaf children near her. When it became clear that her daughter would not be getting the education she needed where she was, she left everything she knew behind, including a close and loving family, and moved to another state for the greater good of her daughter’s education. The road has not been easy but the rewards for her daughter have been amazing. The changes I have seen in her and her language have been so fun to watch. A Hero mom makes sacrifices for her child.

Becoming a Hero Mom

Being a mother is hard. Being a mother of someone who is different than you is harder. Making sacrifices in order to make sure your child has every chance to succeed is invaluable.

I know what you are thinking, “I don’t think I’d call myself a ‘Hero Mom’.”

I remember thinking the same thing. I’d think of moving or pursuing my own career while being a mom and I’d be filled with fear. I’d ask myself, “Am I doing enough?” “Am I being the mother my children need so that they can truly succeed?” “Are my kids in the right place?” “How do I take care of my hearing and deaf children? “How do I ensure everyone feels accepted and loved?”

Becoming a ‘Hero Mom’ doesn’t mean you don’t make mistakes. It doesn’t mean your house is spotless and your kids are perfect angels. That isn’t realistic. No one is that kind of mom.

Being a ‘Hero Mom’ means you do your best to connect to your child, to let him know you love him no matter what. It means setting up your home for a safe place for all of your children. And a real Hero Mom will teach her child that anything is possible with the right tools, determination, sacrifice and dedication.

Are you ready to become a ‘Hero Mom?’ Are you already doing many things and just need a little push and support?

I’d love to help you pinpoint your areas of concern and provide tools that will support you on your journey. There are answers, and those answers look a little different for each family. There is hope. There is light at the end of the tunnel.