March 13th, 2021 - April 15th, 2021
When I was 11 years old I would ride the bus home with one of my best friends, Matt. He was several years younger than me, but our families had been friends all of our lives. We would ride bikes, chase their farm animals, and play in the stream next to his house. In order to communicate with Matt I took sign language classes at a local community college. Matt is deaf. He couldn't communicate with me like my other friends and family, but other than that he was 'normal'. In middle school we did a family trip to Disney world, and in high school I attended his dance at Gallaudet University. Today, Matt is married, has a son, travels extensively, is a computer genius, worked on NASCAR cars, and now a teacher. Matt and I chose to focus on the things we had in common and developed an amazing friendship. I still use many of the skills I learned from Matt today; like teaching my children basic sign language when their verbal skills were not as developed.
National Deaf History Month is recognized and celebrated every year from March 13th to April 15th to recognize the accomplishments of people who are deaf and hard of hearing. Three key events impacted the deaf community that occurred in American history: On April 15th, 1817 the first public school, American School for the Deaf was opened. On April 8th, 1864 Gallaudet University – the world’s first institution devoted to advanced education for the deaf and hard of hearing – was officially founded, and more than 100 years later on March 13th, 1988 Gallaudet University nominated I. King Jordan as their first deaf President. Deaf History Month appears to have started on March 13th, 1996 when two deaf employees working at Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial Library in Washington, D.C. started teaching their colleagues sign language. This occurrence progressed into a week of deaf awareness created by the library. Quickly after that, deaf awareness week evolved into a month-long period devoted to promoting a greater understanding of the deaf community. In 1996, the National Association of the Deaf proposed the week become a full month, and officially in 1997, the first annual, nation-wide National Deaf History Month was in effect. In 2006, the American Library Association (ALA) and the National Associate of the Deaf officially announced that March 13th to April 15th is National Deaf History Month.
Do you know that these famous five deaf people who changed the world?
Ludwig Van Beethoven
Now is a great time to discuss with your children about diversity and inclusiveness by sharing about these people and all they accomplished in their lives.
As parents, we can encourage inclusiveness by giving children opportunities to interact with peers who are different than them. This builds friendships, comradery, and a sense of community. Everyone has strengths and weaknesses; let's help children develop their strengths while focusing on the strengths in others too!
Below is the American Sign Language alphabet. Maybe you can all learn to spell your names!