Thursday, September 24, 2009

Time To Get Schooled

About 11 years ago......

We began to slowly get connected to people. Sometimes through Early Intervention and sometimes by chance. Out in public we signed voice off to each other and we often were approached by people who signed deaf and hearing. These encounters were always positive and sometimes funny. People who didn't approve of us would sometimes make loud comments about that poor child. That really only happened a few times.

When he was about 14 months I was chasing him around the kids section of a books and he was asking me something. A man walked up and asked if I was deaf. It always started with that question which startled me because I didn't think I was fluent enough to look deaf. Turns out he was a preschool teacher at a deaf charter school. He was also deaf. We had a great talk and one lesson he taught me was to sign everything no matter how insignificant it seemed. If I asked my husband where the keys are sign it, if I said thank you to the grocery clerk sign it. It was so obvious but I hadn't thought to do that. I am sure strangers thought I was crazy signing everything as they talked to me not knowing my baby was deaf. I rarely mentioned that fact because it cracked me up to watch them politely try not and glance at my hands. That man later became one of my son's first teachers. He was also one of his best.

Our caseworker told us about the classes for children 0-3 at the local schools. There we could meet other families, learn more sign and parenting instruction! The one nearest to our home school was in South Central at a deaf day school. All I heard was deaf school and told her to sign us up. I was working so my husband took him. He told me there were several families most spoke Spanish. The staff consisted of a lead teacher, hearing, support staff , one hearing bi-lingual Spanish and English and one hh.

He said it was fine but they wanted all of the kids to wear FM systems the whole time. The kids sat for a story for about 10 minutes but other than that they played. My husband was curious about what they were hearing so he wore it while the kids were playing. He heard about someones husband, toilet flushing and odd enough what sounded like a fax. Hayden hated wearing it and I thought it was not being used properly so I told the teacher. She treated me like I was this poor pathetic mama in denial. I remember having a struggle from her but then oddly enough all the FM systems were eventually removed.

Then it was my hiatus so I could go. We entered the room and I introduced myself. The teacher seemed nice but on guard. Children were engaged at different activities and my son quickly joined in. I noticed people were not signing. They only signed when talking to a child.

I was so excited to connect with the other parents. I asked the Spanish speaking aide to help me. I met some moms who seemed startled that I was talking to them. Looking back I was maybe a bit too excited.

The lead teacher gathered the children for story time. She pulled out a book and proceeded to simcom the story. It wasn't even simcom really because if I were translate her signs it dropped a lot. The story really didn't make sense. Some of the children got squirrely ( I imagine the ones who had a profound hearing lose would find this boring) and she seemed irritated.

After story the children went outside to play while the parents were given parenting lessons. This is where it gets a bit sticky ............

About 3 years ago...........

My son was up for 3 yr evaluations and an IEP. It was a constant struggle to get the deaf school to provide ASL instruction. Every year I would insist on ASL goals and every year they would try to piece together a curriculum. He had been in school for 4 years and never been taught ASL as a language. By this time it was more political than anything else. As for his other goals, it was more of a formality. I was concerned about his writing because it tends to be a bit ASL but other than that he was doing really well and in some areas above grade level.

At the meeting was the ASL specialist who is deaf and several hearing staff members. The most critical person was this deaf staff member because his ASL goal was my main concern. 10 minutes into the meeting a woman walks in and sits down. Up until that point the meeting was signed with no interpreter because there was no need for one it wasn't requested. I looked at her and asked who she was. She told me she was from the school district and she was there to observe in case Hayden needed to mainstream ( the deaf school was a state school so he wasn't even registered in the system) . I asked if she signed. No. I told her we didn't have an interpreter so she wouldn't understand and Hayden wasn't mainstreamed and I didn't understand why I wasn't told she would be there. She told me it was standard practice. Then something very strange happened.

The other teachers started to scrambled to accommodate her! The first idea was to cover the ASL goal so the deaf teacher could leave. The deaf teacher said that would work. I said NO. She was a very important part of the meeting and this other woman had no reason to be there. She could sit and watch but not at the expense of my son's IEP or the deaf teacher. My son also attends his IEP meetings so this was even more insulting. I stood my ground and suggested she leave and perhaps if we ever needed her services we would contact her. A hearing teacher offered to interpret and she stayed. Looking back I still don't know why she was there.

My son is so excited at his new school. He has more friends, he joined the ASL club and had his 3rd call back for a play. There are some things that we need to tweak but really it is amazing.


  1. Hooray for you!

    Deaf are *always* told to make advance arrangements if we want accomodation. The woman from the school district should have known to make advance arrangements if she wanted any accomodation. *And* she should have a taste of what life is like for mainstream kids every day.


  2. Well David thank you!

    Another thing is why do people think they can just show up at my son's meeting? I need to be notified. I could go on and on.....