My Unique Situation in Missoula, Montana


So far, Missoula has been an awesome place to get to know.  However, I do face some unique challenges as I settle down here.  I thought for this week that I’d describe my disability and how it affects my ability to communicate and network with others here, since it is a major player in all the things I’ll be talking about.

I am profoundly deaf, and have been so ever since the age of eleven months, when I came down with spinal meningitis.  It destroyed practically all my hearing in both ears.  Nevertheless, my parents brought me up in the normal world, teaching me how to lipread and speak orally.  I used hearing aids until I received my cochlear implant at age 17, which I have used ever since.  If any of you talk to me today, my speech may sound a little different and I need to more attentively watch you as I lipread, but otherwise I am not much different from anyone else.

Dan Saxton

My Nucleus 5 cochlear implant

However, my disability does mean that I need to adopt certain strategies when dealing with others, especially in a new situation like moving to Missoula.  For example, I had to make sure that I contacted people well ahead of time before coming up here so that I could build good social bridges which would give me some security as I came into an unfamiliar location.  Such people would be able to recommend me to others so that I wouldn’t have to try to make a good first impression all on my own.  Because I speak differently and have more trouble understanding others, it is hard for me to create that critical rapport with them without someone else to vouch on my behalf.  This is particularly true for me when it comes to finding employment.

I also have a natural tendency to be shy and self-protective, since I know that not everyone will react positively to my disability.  That often means it can be difficult to “step out” each day into the world and meet new people.  I am thus thankful that Missoulians (and Montanans in general) are welcoming and friendly people.  It means a lot to me when I am able to network with others and they start supporting me from Day 1, even though it is more difficult to communicate with me!

My Unique Challenge by Daniel Saxton

A peaceful scene along the Clark Fork.

I am glad to say that ever since I came into Missoula a month ago, I’ve stepped out in many ways that I’ve never done before.  I have also become more active at Internet networking with others.  I’ve been more forthright about connecting with people who have similar interests as mine (hiking, climbing mountains, etc).  Much of this new boldness on my part is happening because I have a deep conviction that Montana is one of the best places for me to be, and I am determined to make things work here.  My friends have also been a great encouragement, and that is another important source of strength for me.

There are still many challenges for me to face, and every day I still have to choose between continuing to go out and connect with others or stay by myself and not get anything done.  But a good foundation has been laid during this first month, and I believe that I can continue building on top of it so that I will be an active and valuable citizen of Missoula.


bio photo1Dan Saxton is a newcomer to Missoula.  He originally hails from New York, and spent the last four years in California attending graduate school in San Diego.  Dan was first introduced to Montana (and the West) at the tender age of six, and has considered it one of his favorite places ever since.  Although Dan is hearing-impaired and uses a cochlear implant, he refuses to view his disability as an insurmountable barrier.  Now he seeks to make a living in Missoula, spending plenty of time hiking and climbing along the way and sharing his experiences with many others!