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Yes, You Can, Heather!: The Story of Heather Whitestone, Miss America 1995

March 30th, 2008 by | Tags: , , | 15 Comments »

Hi, everyone!  It’s Elizabeth, glad to be here joining with Rachel in blogging about the miracle of listening, spoken language, and cochlear implants in the lives of today’s young people with hearing loss.  Reading is one of my favorite things to do, and I am always on the lookout for good deaf-related books.  Over time, I’ve developed quite a collection!  So, for my first post, I’d like to share a book recommendation with you:

Yes, You Can, Heather!: The Story of Heather Whitestone, Miss America 1995 by Daphne Gray and Gregg Lewis (Zondervan, 1996).

This book tells the story of Heather Whitestone, the first deaf Miss America, from the point of view of her mother, Daphne Gray.  Deafened by a childhood illness, Heather learned to listen and speak with the help of her mother and therapists following Doreen Pollack’s “Acoupedics” method (a predecessor of today’s Auditory-Verbal Therapy).  Heather also spent three years at Central Institute for the Deaf, a famous oral school in St. Louis, Missouri, during Jean Moog’s tenure at the program. (Jean Moog now has her own school, the Moog Center for Deaf Education, also in St. Louis).

The book gives great insight into one parent’s mind – how she chose the listening and spoken language approach for her daughter, various educational placements and accommodations, reactions received from the Deaf community, and all of the challenges and triumphs they faced along the way.  It follows Heather from birth, her illness and subsequent deafness, through her elementary, secondary, and college education, all the way to her crowning as Miss America 1995, with lots of details about every step of the way.

Mrs. Gray’s descriptive writing style gives the reader a real feeling of all that went into Heather’s education.  Parents of children with hearing loss may enjoy reading about struggles similar to their own – and the wonderful feeling of success when mothers and fathers realize that all of their hard work and sacrifices have paid off!  The book is a personal memoir, not a professional text, so it is quick, enjoyable, and easy to read.  Older middle-school and high-school girls may also enjoy this book.  Today, Heather Whitestone is Heather Whitestone McCallum, married with children and continuing her career as a public speaker, advocate, and entrepreneur.  She has also received bilateral cochlear implants!

The book is no longer in print, but there are many inexpensive copies available from used book sellers at  Heather Whitestone McCallum has also written some books of her own, mainly in the “Christian Inspiration” genre.

Heather Whitestone McCallum – a wonderful CI role model!!!

Written by

Elizabeth Rosenzweig MS CCC-SLP LSLS Cert. AVT is a Listening and Spoken Language Specialist Certified Auditory Verbal Therapist. She provides auditory verbal therapy, aural rehabilitation, IEP advocacy, consultation, and LSLS mentoring for clients around the world via teletherapy. You can learn more about Elizabeth's services on her Website or Facebook.


March 31, 2008 at 2:56 am

If you’re expecting me to agree that Ms. Whitestones’ upbringing was right, you’re barking up the wrong tree.
You see, I was deafened, at the age of ten, when I suffered a two-week 108 degree fever, while afflicted with Spinal Meningitis. Almost from the very beginning, everybody kept demanding that I was less than the rest of the family.
Well, in 1972, I began my first year at the old Georgia School for the Deaf and, almost immediately, people started saying I would be unable to speak, within 5 – 6 years. The next fall a new principal arrived, who was an orralist.
This man told me that, if I signed, I would be unable to speak, within 4 – 5 years.
Well, guess what? It’s now 2008 and I am still able to converse, either through sign or orally.

My problems didn’t end, when my parents took me out of GSD, either. I was placed in a private school for eight months and, when the family could no longer afford it, Mom tried to have me committed to the old Central State Hospital, with emotional problems.
However, after a few tests, the doctors told not only me but MOm as well, that I had no problems. She was told that she could take me home or they would place me in a foster home (that wouldn’t have been necessary because Dad would have, immediately, stepped in).

Before I completed high school, an interpreter was hired. I only had her assistance for half my Senior English classes.
Back then, I was told that I needed to lipread, which is impossible, when you consider that the teacher isn’t talking to me, but to hearing kids and often will turn his/her back on the class.

In 1994, I told my mom that Ms. Whitestone couldn’t sign and Mom said, “Her parents wanted her to talk.”
I replied, “The basic idiocy of parents, who live in denial…make the kid a hearing kid, wtihout hearing — an oxymoron!!!

So, as I said, if you’re trying to get me to agree that oralism is good, you’re barking up the wrong tree!!!

Also, as soon as the Cochlear Implant became available, my dad began calling doctors, all over the nation, because he thought I would be a good candidate (he, too, cannot accept what has been my life for 37 years).
At that time, he was willing to fork over $15,000 to have a manmade device change me from what I am satisfied with to what he wants.

Even after proving, once and for all, that I am a candidate (by passing all the test .. even making Dr. Steinerson become emotional by identifying noises, when he did the needle through my eardrum test) I am no more willing to change my life than I was in 1985.

For me, I’ve been Deaf (with absolutely no mark on my audiogram), since 1971. It took time and struggle, on my part, to learn this life and I’m unwilling to endure the same, just because my old man cannot accept the truth.

A woman, who was born premature and deaf, who lives in the same city, where I live, and whose maother is just as much in denail as my dad, got the implant a few years ago.
This woman’s entire family .. siblings, mother, etc. .. all keep telling me “she can hear, perfectly,” which anyone, who knows anything about the implant, knows is untrue.
This stuff really grates on my conscience.

The main problem is simply the fact that too many people think if you’ve lost your hearing, the dumb, in the old expressoin, “Deaf and Dumb,” means you’ve become an idiot.
Not only that, they refuse to learn anything…even wait until someone, like me, who proves that theory wrong, leaves, so they can go back to their ignorance.

Karen Mayes

March 31, 2008 at 6:27 am

Ahhhh… I am an alumni of CID (attended there from 1967 to 1979) and I have fond memories there… a very normal childhood there. No, I have never met Heather Whitestone but I respect her advocacy…

Each to his/her own and whatever works for him/her, GREAT :-) I am glad she helps with educating us what CI is and what oral deaf education entitles so that the parents/deaf people could make the best education, after gathering all the information on sign language, cued speech, etc. We all know that each child has his/her own needs and we know that one size shoe does not fit all.


March 31, 2008 at 8:57 am

Gary, your story is one of many. It’s sad when parents are so focused on only one method that they won’t try anything else, even when their method clearly isn’t working. All the more reason to expose parents to ALL the different methods out there, and to Deaf role models who sign (Marlee Matlin, for example). It’s sad that parents seem to focus a lot on “She can hear! She can talk!” when the child still has no language.


March 31, 2008 at 11:30 am

Boy, Elizabeth, you sure jumped right in there, didntja? Goes to show that you’re not in touch with the greater Deaf community.

That aside, best of luck in this new venture.


March 31, 2008 at 11:35 am

While her methods and approaches don’t work for everybody, she is certainly an inspiration for the oral deaf community! I was amazed by her speech and lipreading skills when I met her twice!

dog food

March 31, 2008 at 1:09 pm

i hope that the measure of a man or a woman… isn’t their ability to speak and hear. I’m moreso inspired at how she was able to achieve things in her life such as winning Ms. America which she can certainly do it without lipreading and implants.


March 31, 2008 at 3:08 pm

Heather is an inspiration. She was able to benefit from intensive speech and aural lessons, with determination, hard work and dedicated parents. She was fortunate as the majority of deaf kids during that time wasn’t able to succeed so well.

I would love to meet her someday.

March 31, 2008 at 5:25 pm

Um, Gary, that “two weeks of 108 degree” fever would’ve caused death.

“Many organs and tissues of the human body could probably survive this high a fever for some time. The human brain, though, does not do well at temperatures more than four or five degrees above normal. Most adults begin to become delirious at temperatures over 103°F or so. Small children do somewhat better at surviving and remaining conscious at higher temperatures. At body temperatures around 105°F or 106°F brain damage begins to occur and fatalities are common. At temperatures between 107°F to 108°F death would be the expected outcome unless the temperature could very rapidly be brought down to a more survivable level. As a fairly experienced clinician it is inconceivable to me that a human being could be conscious if their body temperature were 107°F. At this temperature a human being would almost certainly be profoundly unconscious and unable to perceive any stimuli, including pain.”


April 1, 2008 at 5:07 pm

Why so much focus on her oral skills? Deaf people are not just about oral skills. We are more than that.

April 5, 2008 at 1:59 pm

Observer: I do not appreciate your blanket assumptions about me and my understanding of the Deaf Community. For your information, I sign fluently and am active in local Deaf events (just last week, I attended a lecture series on signing D/HH students from Spanish-speaking homes given by a Gallaudet professor). Just because, after experiencing these things, I have come to a different conclusion than you about the method I feel is best for educating children with hearing loss does not make my stance any more, or less, valid than yours.

Please keep in mind that many readers of this website are parents of children newly identified as deaf or hard-of-hearing. Your comments may be their first, and only, exposure to Deaf Culture. While there are many moderate Deaf voices on this blog that help to keep the discussion civil yet well-rounded, comments like yours might send a hearing parent running away from the Culture you claim to support.

Just catching a few flies with honey…


April 18, 2008 at 2:31 am

Heather, I heard so much about your stories in your past when you got your CI and with your sons. Heard about your bath water going on and you heard it, it’s makes me cried and so I finally got my own CI and it’s so wonderful to have a cochlear that’s I don’t want to be missed. I had mine in 2002, after my daughter was born and today Im volunteer at the school with the kids and I feel so great fully being with the kids, I loves it. I would be so happy to meet you someday! I hear perfectly and wonderful, much better than wearing a hearing aids.

Have a wonderful life and goes on….


April 18, 2008 at 8:54 pm


Thank you for your wonderful comment. This story was written by me (Elizabeth), not by Heather Whitestone. I will pass your comment along to her via her website, though. Thank you for sharing your wonderful story! I hope that you are enjoying your CI and hearing your daughter and many other beautiful sounds!

August 20, 2008 at 10:40 am

hey i am reading your book that your mom wrote and i think it is awesome i think that u dance so beautifully and how can u hear the music you should go on dancing with the stars oh and the website you should get one its a Christian myspace


January 13, 2013 at 5:48 am

Everyone is different. Auditory-verbal works for many people like Heather with proper support. Each person has the right to choose for themselves what method or methods they will use. However, to say all people should sign or that oralism is bad isn’t right either. I’m sorry that some people have had negative experiences, but not everyone has had negative experiences and are quite happy being oral.


January 13, 2013 at 5:54 am

I also want to say that I found some of the posts disturbing here. Just because an individual has had negative experiences with communicating orally, doesn’t meant that he/she has the right to dictate to everyone else what they should do. This book is about Heather and her success as an oral deaf person. That’s great and it works for her!! I admire her highly and met her in Ottawa at a conference many years ago. She is an amazing person. I’m so glad the implants are making oral communication easier for her.