Category Archives: parents

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!