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!