On the passing of
“Our Favorite Dutchman”
and world-renowned expert
in the deaf-blind community…
Dr. Jan van Dijk
It is with deep sadness that the team at Connections Beyond Sight and Sound shares information about the passing of our dear friend and colleague, Dr. Jan van Dijk, who died Tuesday, January 23, 2018, after a recent diagnosis of inoperable pancreatic cancer.
Affectionately known by phrases such as “Father of Deaf-blind Education,” “Creator of Child-Guided Assessment,” “The Deaf-blind Child Whisperer,” and “Our Favorite Dutchman,” Dr. van Dijk was one of the most respected experts in the field of communication and assessment of children with deafblindness. His work in the field spans more than five decades, and has shaped the way we think about, assess, teach, and interact with children who have multiple disabilities, including dual sensory impairment.
Since the early 1960s, Dr. van Dijk has traveled from his home in the Netherlands to work with state deaf-blind projects and related organizations across the United States and in countries around the world. He is the creator of the “calendar system” — a tool widely used by educators and families, and his countless research and practical application publications includes his landmark book, “Child-guided Strategies: The Van Dijk Approach to Assessment” which changed how people understand and connect with children and youth with sensory impairments and multiple disabilities.
Dr. van Dijk has been an important “expert partner” to the team in Maryland for decades. During his frequent visits, he supported the team in direct child assessment sessions, and then in the consideration and development of intervention and communication strategies. He also shared his insights and expertise with families and providers in special topics workshops that followed these interactions.
While in Maryland, Dr. van Dijk also spent time connecting “at the human level” with the Connections team members. We learned that in addition to his love for the children with whom he worked locally and globally, Dr. van Dijk was intensely proud of his family and he shared many stories expressing his love and pride for his wife and children and grandchildren back in the Netherlands. He was an amazing storyteller, and we learned much about his family, about history, about our world, and about working with children and families because of the time he chose to share with us — at work and at play.
Dr. van Dijk was gentle and wise, he was strong and sincere, and he was able to connect quickly and beautifully with children who struggled to connect and communicate with others. He will be greatly missed. As a team, we at Connections are at a loss for words to express our grief at the passing of this dear friend and colleague. And so, we will close this tribute with one of our favorite “JVD quotes” — uttered by Dr. Jan van Dijk himself: “I think we can all agree, this is dreadful.”
(click on images to enlarge)
Dr. Jan van Dijk was able to connect with children with deafblindness and other disabilities, and to help families and providers develop strategies for connecting and communication.
When his son, Rick van Dijk — who had become a colleague to his father, died several years ago, the Connections team added a personalized memorial brick in his honor to the Peace Garden in the Mattie J.T. Stepanek Park. Dr. van Dijk had read books by the late teen poet and peace advocate (who was the son of CBSS team member Jeni Stepanek), and said he was inspired by Mattie’s wisdom, and that the memorial brick was a gift of hope and roots for healing for him as he dealt the loss of his son.
The CBSS team will be sponsoring a brick
in honor of Dr. Jan van Dijk during Spring, 2018.
Photos of the installation and brick
will be added to this page at that time.
Dr. Jan van Dijk was a well-respected colleague, and also a friend to the members of the Connections Beyond Sight and Sound team. We will miss his visits — bringing together shared expertise and joyful camaraderie.
Rest in peace, Jan,
our dear friend and colleague.