Acceptance and Self-Esteem

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This document contains several testimonials revolving around the subject of self-esteem of deaf persons and the acceptance of their deafness by their parents.

The reader may want to review also the following documents:

  • Cochlear Implants - Arguments pro and con
  • Oral vs. Sign Debate.

Conflict between parent's psychology and deaf child's self-esteem

  1. The first stage is denial;
  2. The second stage, anger;
  3. The third stage, acceptance laced with anger and disappointment and sadness;
  4. The fourth, final acceptance.

"Often feelings of indignation and determination" come directly out of grief.


             If a deaf lives with criticism,
              He/She learns to condemn.

             If a deaf lives with hostility,
               He/She learns to fight.

             If a deaf lives with ridicule,
               He/She learns to be shy.

             If a deaf lives with shame,
               He/She learns to feel guilty.

            If a deaf lives with tolerance,
               He/She learns to be patient.

          If a deaf lives with encouragement,
               He/She learns confidence.

            If a deaf lives with praise,
               He/She learns to appreciate.

            If a deaf lives with fairness,
                  He/She learns justice.

            If a deaf lives with security,
               He/She learns to have faith.

            If a deaf lives with approval,
               He/She learns to like themselves.

      If a deaf lives with acceptance and friendship,
            He/She learns to find love in the world.

(Contributed by Mike Wilson

"But do you love my deafness?"

Recently I heard reported that many Deaf children have the following (or similar) conversation at some point in childhood:

Child: Do you love me?
Mom and Dad: Of course we love you. (kiss, kiss)
Child: But do you love my deafness?
Mom and Dad: Well, honey, for you we wish that you could hear.

I don't know. I'm a mother, and to me that sounds like saying, "Well, honey, I wish you had blue eyes, but otherwise I love you." I guess I wish there was some way to educate hearing parents early on that there is NOTHING more important from the very first moment of that child's life to the very end than complete and unconditional acceptance. Not loving a physical quality of your child seems to be an awfully limited kind of love. Maybe I'm naive, but I think loving your child is more important than which program they have at school or what amount of hearing loss they might have, etc. Self-value goes a long way.

(Contributed by Jolene J. Cassidy at 6 Jan 1994.)

Parent, do you really "grieve" about your child's deafness?

Someone claimed the other day on DEAF-L that parents who feel as if they lost their children because of deafness are IDIOTS!
The following article puts things in proper perspective.

Go visit some cancer survivor groups. There you will see parents whose profound loss transcends any mothod of expression. Parents of deaf children who feel as if they lost their children are confusing their own feelings of inadequacy with grief. Their children went forth on a journey into life and they were unwilling or incapable of sojourning with them.

Don't misunderstand me - I'm full of sympathy for these parents (of deaf kids). They remind me so much of the good and ordinary people who could not understand why their kids hated them when they got back from VietNam. The kids didn't hate their parents. They had just lost their common ground.

But however wide the nomansland seems between people, it can be bridged. Not so with death. To people who have experienced real grief, this pretend loss seems the worst form of lethargy. Makes you want to say, "your child is not dead, is deaf - learn to spell."

        Only an idiot can stare so straight on facts so plain and miss
        seeing their truth; why I was myself such an idiot only yesterday.

        What fools we mortals be....

(Contributed by Henry W. Meyerding at 22 Dec 1994.)

Medical people may overlook the bigger picture

Much of the medical profession has been rather insensitive to the wholistic needs of people in general, so I'm not surprised that there's insensitivity to the needs of deaf children when it comes to "trying to fix the deafness." Medical professionals are usually trained to focus on pathology, not health, and often seem to ignore the overall picture in order to zero in on their field of expertise. I think psychologists and social workers and their ilk are, in general, moving towards nurturing growth in people rather than focusing only on problems, and certainly educators have been growth-oriented---but we still tend to pay too much homage to the medical profession and the "medical model."

(Contributed by Dana Mulvany <> at 6 Jan 1994.)

Social worker's point of view about the importance of identity

To me identity is my ability to identify who I am in this world and how I fit into the world both within my family, my community and my world in general. In order to live my life successfully I need to feel a "fit" in whatever social framework I have surrounded myself. I need to feel like I am a contributing member of my society in order to feel comfortable with who I am (my identity).

This might not be true of everyone but in my years of social work, working with the elderly who are now in many cases dealing with how well they lived their lives and in the last 36 years of contact with the d(D)eaf, each person I have met who is at peace with themselves feels they have "fit" into their world well.

In my experience many Deaf people did not feel this "fit" or sense of positive self worth until they became part of the Deaf community.

This is not to say that on the surface or to the casual observer they did not appear to be doing well within the hearing community. Only each individual at the end of the day can state whether or not their life has been well-lived. Those of us who are not Deaf and even those who are deaf should never presume to judge another person's identity. What is right for one person might be totally wrong for another person.

We all are the product of our upbringing and many d(D)eaf adults today were raised to be slightly ashamed of their deafness and made to feel they were failures if they were not or could not appear to be hearing.

(Contributed by DeLores Wilson [now Lamb] at 29 May 1995.)

Father to a deaf son proposes a cure

I was sowing some new grass seed this morning and thinking about this topic, and all of a sudden it hit me. There is a cure for deafness. You won't find it in a medical laboratory, on an inventor's bench, or in a schematic of an electrical circuit. It's right here in front of us, but we're so busy arguing that we don't pay any attention to it.

The cure for deafness is our deaf children.

Sometimes I think we spend so much time theorizing, studying, working towards our methodologies that we forget why we're doing it and who we're doing it for. It doesn't matter what methodology we choose. What matters is that we teach our children to be open minded and objective. We need to praise our children for their achievements. We need to focus on their abilities, instead of their disability. If a child is a beautiful signer, we need to praise her. If a child has beautiful speech, we need to praise him. If a student does well in class, we need to praise her. We must teach our children tolerance of other's beliefs. We do this best by example.

Tolerance and understanding are the best lessons we can teach our children. It's so much more important than sign language linguistics or proper oral pronunciation.

There is a cure for deafness. We can cure it by showing the world our children and their accomplishments. We can show the world a world of deaf children that communicate differently, yet they all respect each other for their differences. We can show our politicians, our business leaders, our community leaders, that our children are different yet they are capable of anything. Our children will break down the barriers of deafness. We owe them our patience, our respect, and our help.

(Contributed by Chris deHahn at 15 Apr 1995.)

Letter from a mother to her Deaf son


When I first learned you were deaf, I was shocked. No one in either family had been deaf. Many people kept asking "Why". I did not care why, I just cared that you were alive and you were my son.

As you began to learn signs I realized that if I was to be a part of your life I would have to learn also. Many classes later, I am still a slow hearing signer. The important thing is I keep trying and we can communicate.

Moving you to ISD was the hardest thing I have ever done...but also the best. You have turned into a wonderful young man and have grown in ways I never thought possible for any of my children. In sports, schooling and socially you have made a name for yourself.

Often when I hear the bird sing in the mornings I close my eyes and think of you. The birds sweet song reminds me that although you can not hear the sound of my verbal world, you can see, feel and grasp the love that is there for you. I remember being able to sign "I Love You" across a crowded gym as you competed in the State Wrestling meet. Though the voice is silent...the hands are loud.

Now that you are becomming a man, I wonder what will the future bring. Marriage, children, success? These are things I wonder about all my children. I have taught you to be strong, have pride in yourself and be confident, honest and faithful. You have done well. It is an honor to say you are my son. Though you may not hear the song of the bird, the music of the band or the love in my voice, you can grasp this through your eyes, your mind and your imagination. Feel sorry for you ... NEVER. Wish you were a "hearing son"...NEVER. I love you just the way you are. I am proud to be your mom.


Well, that is how I feel about having a deaf child. Left out a few things that had to do with family life (personal you know) but Rich gave me a big hug and kiss the next time he was home...and signed "thanks for the letter and the love."

(Contributed by Dorinda Byers at 21 Mar 1995.)

It is not enough to browse through this document!

As a parent who "has been there" and whose deaf children are now adults I truly empathize with you young parents who are trying your best to understand this deafness thing that you are having to deal with for the first time in your life.

I just want to caution you to not view the various deafness related Internet resources as having the final solutions to your questions. Get out and become friends with d/Deaf adults who were educated in all sorts of methodologies.

Oralism sounds great to hearing parents because we are comfortable with being oral! The truth is that it just doesn't work with many deaf kids. The most important thing you can give your child is language in some form as early in his life as possible; stay intimately involved in his education (you know your child better than any professional); and then accept, love and treasure your child regardless of what happens in his life. He is a separate individual and will not be just like you when he grows up.

(Contributed by DeLores Wilson [now Lamb] at 17 Jun 1995.)

Last update date: 
2005 Oct 24