In with Family, Out with Steps, Halves, & Adoptees

Vlog Summary: The holidays often mean families, and the words we use to describe our family relationships say a lot. Some families make a point of distinguishing between their biological children and their adopted children or their foster children. Even sisters and brothers may emphasize that so-and-so is a full sibling, while another family member is a half sibling. Sharon Duchesneau considers the impact of making such distinctions and the potential for creating feelings of not belonging or being second-class. Constantly identifying members of the Deaf community as Deaf-of-Deaf (DOD) or Deaf-of-Hearing (DOH), for example, does little to contribute to the feeling of family within the community, particularly when there is no real reason to make the distinction (i.e., no research-based need). Likewise, in families, simply identifying one’s children as children and siblings as siblings can go a long way in fostering feelings of acceptance and belonging.

To cite: Duchesneau, S. (2007, December 22). In with Family, Out with Steps, Halves, & Adoptees. ASC on the Couch. Retrieved (date retrieved), from http://www.ascdeaf.com/blog/?p=332

  1. michael cardosi December 22, 2007

    Very true words can be be powerful and can flatter or hurt others – like some family involve friends as family as they consider them as part of family but not always.

    Appreciate your insight especially during the holidays!

  2. Jules -oo- December 22, 2007

    Amen, Sharon. Words ARE powerful. When I’m asked how many brothers and sisters I have I always mention my five sisters and one brother. I don’t say I have one real brother and one real sister and four half sisters. I also have a step-dad who raised me who I called “Dad.” I met my biological father in my late teens and while he is not “Dad” he is in a not-just-biological sense. However, I have several Deaf individuals I think of as my “real” sister or brother because they know me better than my biological family. So, yes I do differentiate but not to cause an imbalance in my or their lives. The differentiation is to help me define how I see “Family.” I am blessed to have two families who don’t know each other…yet: my biological and my “Real” Deaf families. Smiles.

  3. Carl Schroeder December 22, 2007

    Very good! As Spinoza the 17th century Dutch philosopher says, “We approach perfection the more connections we apprehend of the innumerable links and branches that hold the world as one.” So can we can approach ASL in the same way that holds the Deaf together as one people.

  4. Suzann December 22, 2007


    I agree–labels can hurt. I wonder, did you get a chance to watch Patti Durr’s vlog on the FOUR AGREEMENTS by Don Miguel? It’s important to be ”impeccable with our words” or in our case, signs. As for identities, ‘black and white labels’ or those passed on from traditions can send the wrong or a mixed message as you pointed out. Intention is everything!

    And old Christian adage: if you have nothing nice to say, don’t say it at all even though it is distinguish someone from someone else. Furthermore, one can lace their disgust or selfish pride with humor to camouflage or mask the effects of their comparison. Someone also mentioned something about karma and how it creeps up on ones who know what they are doing.

    Bottom line: hearts are at stake and quality of care in who matters most and be a role model for those of which ‘don’t matter’ (non-related; don’t know, etc.) or where there are feelings of indifference (detachor separation.

    Thank you for a very nice vlog, it remind us the importance of being sensitive to one another during this end of the year time with how we communicate.

    Among all differences in our ‘small Deaftown’ and for 2008: here’s a wish for harmony and balance as we are One creation. Like Santa’s reindeer lined up on Christmas eve: may peace and ‘mindfulness’ reign in hand.


  5. JustJan December 22, 2007

    I remember reading about Roy Rogers and if memory serves me right, he had 4 children, 2 with his wife and 2 adopted. When asked which ones were adopted, he’d say “ah, I forgot which”. Simply put! A family is what you make.

  6. Brian Riley December 22, 2007

    I remember a father who was an attorney, explaining to me that his form of charitable work for society was adopting two children. That way, he didn’t feel obligated to donate any of his time as an attorney to offer any free legal services to anyone. Then he explained that his two kids were having psychological issues because of a “failure to bond.” Gheez.

    Is it any wonder why they didn’t bond? I found his attitude and philosophy to be very offensive.

    In a way, his attitude is similar to the attitude of many in deaf ed who think they are “helping” by becoming a teacher or an audiologist.

  7. ASCDEAF December 22, 2007

    Thanks for the comments!

    Michael Cardosi – Exactly – words and names are much more powerful than many people realize.

    Jules -I like your simple answer to people’s question about how many siblings you have. It’s true, differentiating between the different relationships in a family may be necessary sometimes, but more often than not it doesn’t seem to serve much purpose.

    Carl – I like your quote! I agree, the concept makes sense when applied to ASL and Deaf people.

    Suzann – Yes! I saw Patti’s terrific vlog. Good point you made in connecting the importance of being impeccable with our words with how we describe our family members.

    JustJan – Very funny – and very touching! I love this quote.

    Brian Riley – Ouch. Talk about putting all the blame on the children.

  8. Hilda Richey December 23, 2007

    Thanks for sharing your thought; it certainly is true. It reminds me of the following quote by Brian Weiss. I’ve shared it with some folks as food for thought on world peace which has to begin within every one of us: “Souls don’t have races or sexes or religions. They are beyond artificial divisions.” Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could apply what you’ve just said not only to families but also to various groups of people throughout the world. May we see that we are all one in the Spirit of Love and celebrate diversity on earth.

  9. Ella Lentz December 23, 2007

    an excellent point made! thanks…
    as you are well aware of our family situation (with all the blended family members)–both joy and painful–your message has a significant message for me. Happy holidays to all your loved ones and sending hugs your way.

  10. Jessica December 23, 2007

    I am like Jules too..I have 4 half brothers and 2 half sisters but it is too complicated for me to explain who is who so I just say my brothers and sisters. I don’t feel like “half” with them anyway even though we are so far apart in age and are not as close. We also don’t look alike so I guess that draws some reactions from others on top of the age difference. Oh, well.

    Thanks for your vlog because it sure is something I can relate to very well.

  11. Jean Boutcher December 23, 2007

    I just love your well- philosophised message. This approach fosters brotherly love. It eliminates divisivism and chosenism fostered by some philosophies, religions, and organisations that people have picked up from different schools of thought. Plato, Moses, and others are the paragons of utopiaism and elitism. Their philosophies are unrealistic; ergo, dead — in this new millennium. They would not say something more realistic that today’s great thinker Dalai Lama says “Compassion is the radicalism of our time.”

    I would love to quote three great thinkers’ sayings:
    “The heart has its reasons which reason knows not of.” Blaise Pascal.
    “The family is the nucleus of civilisation.” Ariel and Will Durant.
    “The family is one of nature’s masterpieces.” George Santayana

    Happy Holidays and Happy New Year to you and all.

  12. Jean Boutcher December 23, 2007

    Suzanne in #4,

    I wholeheartedly agree with you. I have read somewhere way back that labels as well as some English words can hurt, offend, or even destroy a person.

    Daddy sent my teenage sister upstairs in the middle of the dinner for calling our uncle who was a scholar, serving in China, “You are a liar” in the middle of the uncle’s conversation which I could not hear. An hour later, my sister came downstairs and apologised. She realised that she would be hurt and offended had someone else called her the same name. Daddy actually did not punish her; rather, he wanted her to go upstairs in order to reflect alone in her private room. It did work and help her develop a sense of principle.

  13. Sallie Mae December 29, 2007

    I was so glad that you bring that up, especially around this holiday time. As mostly people knew I grew up in many foster homes.I remember at one time I introduced one my “foster sister as “sister period” and she is white. Friends of mine thought I was joking but I was not. Then they asked me 5 “W” if u know what I mean. I asking if it was necessary for me to explain. But, I realized that in deaf community it is always necessary to explain for which I hate to do that. I sure hope that one day it will be ceased and be accept that we all are one happy family doesn’t matter about 5 “W”. Again, thank Sharon for bring that up and it make my Holiday and I am sure everyone else, smile. I hope the year 2008 will be good year for you and your family and for all of you who watch this vlog!


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