Sunday, October 11, 2009

Keep It Simple

Off topic, I can't spell to save my life and I don't edit well. In the 7th grade I was awarded the most creative spelling award. One reason I don't write often in my life is because I am much more articulate in person. So that is my disability and I am grateful that folks are so patient. The funny thing is my son will sometimes walk in on me while I am sending an email and edit my English for me.

About 11 years ago.....

So we thought it would be so simple to add a language. We thought intervention services would be a great resource. We also wanted to involve the people who he often had contact with. There were a few problems. Our friends wanted to learn but didn't want to go to classes and we felt bad they had to pay. I worked all week a minimum of 14 hours a day so the only time I could take a class was on the weekend.

At first 2 friends signed up for a community class with me held on Saturday. The teacher was hearing seemed a bit nervous. She was explaining her back round and used the sign for who instead of hearing. I knew of her mistake because I had been studying from a book. At one point I raised my hand and asked how I could sign if I was holding my baby? She got flustered and reprimanded me for going off topic. Later when I started teaching parents that was always a question asked one the first day. I understand what it is like to wait for simple answers and love to answer that question. I call it mama sign, one handed manual magic communication. So my first sign class was useless and the teacher wasn't qualified.

As for our friends we wanted a group sign class at our home. My plan was to bust out a beautiful brunch every Sunday to entice my friends. They were all excited at the prospect of learning in a comfortable setting together. While we waited for the district to approve it I called GLAD and asked for help. I wanted to hire a teacher right away. We found someone but he was hearing and and not a real teacher but an actor. He was awesome but not deaf.
We finally got our teacher. A deaf adult with deaf children. The reason a deaf teacher was so important is it forced everyone to do their best to communicate with him. He also liked to joke and tease which was a really great way for us to get a view of a deaf person outside of a study or statistics. The one memory of sign brunch that really sticks out is how to get my child's attention when he is running from me. I asked this in a very serious tone because I was so worried he would run into the street and I couldn't call him back. The teacher laughed and said at his home he had a bunch of bean bags. He would just toss it past the kid and they would turn. If they were really in trouble he would toss it at them. Had it been a hearing professional the response would have been really different.

So over the course of a year our friends learned to sign and understand who my son was. For this I am grateful.


So the one thing that was a struggle for every year was getting an ASL curriculum in the school. Hearing children are taught English as a language in school but my son was expected to just pick it up. When we left our Bi-Bi program in L.A. they helped me fashion his IEP so it had ASL goals. My fear was if we didn't already have goals they could deny service. The problem is if it doesn't exist it doesn't happen. He has never been taught his native language as a subject in a way that is effective.

So in 2 years he needs to pick a foreign language. He is having to decide early so the school can accommodate. Right now it is between ASL and Spanish. If he takes ASL he will be bored but the teacher assures me she can have him assist and learn grammar. If he takes Spanish they have to find a way to teach it. Either way he will fulfil the requirement and learn in the process.

I welcome any thoughts on this. So far he just fits in but what about this language class? If you are stopping by and happen to have some feedback I will send you a cupcake.


  1. What memories you bring up in me! My solution to keeping close tabs on my deaf runner outdoors was either holler for his hearing sisters to attract his attention or keep him within grabbing distance. Bean bags, brilliant idea! However, I never trust active toddlers near the street, no matter what their hearing level.

    As for foreign language, pick Spanish (French if near eastern Canada). Those languages are more likely to be used and kept in practice. If it gets difficult because of the incompatible teaching procedure, suggest a special project like a visit to Mexico or working with Hispanic deaf people in the city to pick up credit.

  2. You might want to check with schools that teach Spanish or other languages, such as the Clerc Center at Gallaudet. They may be able to help your school figure out how to accommodate your son in his school.

  3. My oldest kiddo is taking Spanish and he loooooves it. He has an interpreter who knows Spanish as well. This is his favorite class and he's tackling it the same way as English--as long as he can read and write it, he can enjoy it.

  4. Well cupcakes all around!

    Funny the bean bag comment in my post was a reminder to myself that sometimes I think too much. At that time I was thinking about raising a deaf toddler. I needed a deaf adult to make me settle down and laugh. I found out once he was walking that hearing kiddos run just as fast and have selective hearing. Sure sometimes I had to run to catch him but at that age all kids need to be watched. So Dianrez you are right on target.

    Thank you all for the input on Spanish!! I will contact Gallaudet for advice and Karen you are a such the mama! He has been teaching himself Spanish so now I feel confident that is a good way to go. It is so helpful to hear about your son.

  5. I teach ASL and have had several students who are deaf but not fluent in ASL and CODAs in my class. Back in middle school, I remember taking ASL with high school students. It was beneficial for me...after all, it led me down the path towards teaching ASL as a career! ;) ASL 5 and 6 would be appropriate levels for your son if he decides to take ASL since those levels are based on storytelling (Vista Signing Naturally Level 3 curriculum). I strongly advocate Deaf children to take ASL courses so that they have had the formal ASL instruction experience like English speakers have had the formal English instruction experience. If your son's high school does not have ASL courses, you can request for an ASL instructor to come to his school and tutor him.

    On the other hand, if your son decides to take Spanish, it may be beneficial to have an interpreter fluent in English, ASL, Spanish AND Spanish sign language. That way, your son can participate in the recitation of Spanish by signing in Spanish. I learned Spanish better by learning LESCO (Costa Rican Sign Language). Good luck! =)

  6. Wow Keri thanks!
    I find as he gets older I am not prepared for the most simple things. He loves language and is self teaching himself Hirigami and Spanish vocabulary. So I want him to be able to take foriegn language courses.

    I will take your advice and explore some options. I really want him to have ASL instruction I just wish it was provided the same way hearing kids have English instruction starting at a young age. He often tells me he is frustrated with his ASL skills.

    Thank again!

  7. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.