Isolated at Dinner: A Deaf Perspective

A Deaf person’s loneliness at the dinner table; Are you part of the problem or the solution?

Eating with hearing family members has repeatedly been one of the most painful experiences of my life.

Dinner Table Syndrome

Dinner Table Syndrome is most frequently discussed during the holidays, but it happens year-round, and it is all the harder for Deaf and hard of hearing people because it is avoidable; a matter of awareness and conscience and energy, rather than an impossible thing in and of itself. Sitting with those one loves most, delighted to see and chat with them, and to see how they interact with each- other, yet missing 60-100% of what they say, is quite a harsh human experience. One feels keenly aware that opportunities to gather and get to know one’s own family cultures better are limited. And also for many of us, un-necessarily wasted, and turned into trauma, rather than joyful family time.

There are many ways to improve this situation so commonly experienced by Deaf and hard of hearing people when among groups of hearing people. We sit there in this dark cloud of separation and no-one around us realizes it. The first step is simple awareness. Then you can begin to brainstorm beautiful solutions.

My article on this topic was published last year on Yahoo News.

“Family dinners are incredibly lonely for Deaf people like me. They don’t need to be.”

“Hearing people, listen to advice and solutions from the Deaf community members, who are resourceful, tough, humorous and creative. At the dinner table, ask Deaf family members how much they’re understanding and what can be done.”

Yahoo News

Learn more about Rachel Zemach and her book, The Butterfly Cage here.

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Rachel Zemach - Light skinned woman with brown hair in a purple shirt with flowers on it.

An important book written from the heart about the educational challenges of deaf children

“I had the privilege of interviewing the author on my podcast, “The Art of Medicine with Dr. Andrew Wilner.” I would highly encourage anyone who knows a deaf child or who works in the public education system, especially special education, to read this enlightening, thoughtful and well researched book. It is likely you will view those who are hard of hearing and deaf very differently. It certainly opened my eyes to how much better we can do in our education of deaf children.”

– Andrew Wilner, MD


Black cover of The butterfly cage. Title and Author name are in yellow.  There is a painted butterfly on the front drawn by Nancy Rourke. It is colored in shades of blue, yellow and red.

The Butterfly Cage

‘In “The Butterfly Cage,” Rachel Zemach fills that gap, and then some! Writing from the perspective of both a Deaf student, and long-time Deaf teacher of the Deaf, Rachel enabled me to finally gain some real insight into the severe impediments to learning that we educators create for our Deaf students…’
Woman in a library holding the Butterfly Cage book by Rachel Zemach.

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