Because 90% of deaf children are born to hearing parents, educating them about Deaf history is something hearing parents may not think about. However, teaching your children about Deaf history can be beneficial for them and help them be more culturally aware.
In an article by Deaf Sense (2017), they touch on Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs (picture left, from deafsense.com). It gives the idea that we need to fulfill the red level before the orange, the orange before the yellow, and so forth. As parents, you want your child to reach the top level of self-actualization; this is living up to your potential and being successful enough you teach others to be successful. But, before you get there, you need all the other levels met.
The first two levels are basic, everyday needs. However, how much time do you put into the third level with your children? Does each one feel the love and acceptance and the connection with other members of the family? Deaf Sense (2017) believes everyone can improve this level to need. One way to cultivate belonging is by teaching your children about their family history. Whatever mix of hearing and deaf your family is, belonging in a family can present unique challenges.
I want to share one part from Deaf Sense’s article that fits so well with this topic:
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!” (2017)
I think that kids can feel this same way when a new child is born and suddenly there are more girls than boys or vice versa.
Another way to cultivate belonging? Teach and celebrate deaf culture alongside your own culture. As for Deaf Sense’s mixed family, learning about deaf culture, Deaf history, and American Sign Language helped change her perspective and become confident in parenting a Deaf child. In similar ways, teach and celebrate cultures that are different from your own -- emphasize women’s history, teach about gay rights, acknowledge Deaf history, explore other cultures.
An important aspect in relation to Deaf history you should educate your child about is cultural appropriation. According to Reid (2019), “Cultural appropriation hinges on the idea of a person taking a cultural touchstone and using it for their own benefit, without giving due credit or respect to the source.” An example, “We see if when white women wear a bindi or Native American inspired headdress to festivals without thinking about what they mean, or when mainstream designers steal ideas from artists who have used their cultural backgrounds as inspiration.” (Reid, 2018).
Deaf Sense. (2017, March 14). It’s Deaf History Month... Why Should I Care? Deaf Sense. https://deafsense.com/deaf-history-why-care/
Reid, R. (2019, December 12). We need to talk about the cultural appropriation of sign language. Metro. https://metro.co.uk/2017/08/11/we-need-to-talk-about-the-cultural-appropriation-of-sign-language- 6845467/