Thursday, October 8, 2009

We Didn't Order This..

About 10 years ago.......

So we had been handed a menu of options to chose from that would help us become parents of a deaf child. We were told we could ask for anything.

It was like going to a diner and they hand you a giant menu with flashy pictures of all the delicious culinary delights they offer. Giant ham sandwiches with piles of cheese melted on sourdough bread, biscuits and gravy with a stack of bacon, three patty cheeseburgers and deep fried chicken. There are pages of options but you are looking for a nice healthy salad with a splash of olive oil.

You request this and are told the chef will try. An hour later a ham sandwich arrives. You send it back politely. Then a tuna salad arrives, you send it back explaining you realize it is a salad but you are allergic to tuna and asked for a green salad. You ask to speak to the chef.

The chef arrives 30 minutes later and tells you he can't open the cooler with the veggies. You ask who has the key? That would be the manager. You ask to speak to the manager and they send out the assistant who tells you he needs to research the location of the key and they have never served vegetables before.

At this point you are starving and getting grouchy. You have to maintain your cool because if you show your frustration they will kick you out and there isn't another restaurant for miles. The manager finally arrives and opens the door a crack for the chef. The lights are not working so he grabs some fruit and tosses it on a plate. This is your salad. You eat some of it and go home to just make a green salad yourself.

We thought our requests were pretty simple.

We asked for a deaf mentor. We were told they didn't have any deaf staff to fill the position and it had to be an employee of the school district. They didn't understand why we didn't just use one of our deaf friends.

We asked for the teacher who came for home visits to be deaf. Again same problem.

We asked that the home center class use ASL. They told us that the other families needed the service as provided. I asked for a new class to be set up. They would look into it. I told them my son needed and interpreter while we waited. The sent a pregnant staff member who walked in the room and said,
" I have no idea what you expect me to do and my legs are swollen"
" Interpret everything that is said so my son can see"
" He is too little to pay attention"
"That is not the issue"
She was frustrated and confused and tired from being pregnant so she needed to sit on the floor. She didn't interpret the class.

That is just a sample of some of the issues we had.


For the last 11 years we have been grateful for his education. The only thing is it was always just off. Except for a 1 1/2 years of preschool in L.A. we have always been fighting for something. The last fight was an ASL curriculum at the deaf school. They got a new Principal last year and guess what? He convinced the board that the school should go bi-bi! Too late for us but I am so happy for the kids.

This is the first school year where we can relax. More about that later I need to go watch my son's dance class at school.


  1. How were you so wise? Yeah, that's a silly question, but I do mean it. How were you not taken in by the "lures" of oral education? What impacted you, or what made a difference? From reading your earlier blog posts, it seems that you were just led by your common sense, but I'm hoping there was something external that influenced you in the direction of bilingualism.

    Here's why I'm so interested in this: I'm a speech language pathologist, and I am completely in support of a bi-bi approach with deaf children. Unfortunately, I have a difficult time convincing parents that this is reasonable. Many parents would rather have a child who is several years behind in language and academics but speaks with marginal intelligibility than a child who has age-appropriate language skills, albeit in a different language. And honestly, if the child has an implant, which is what most parents today choose, they can have BOTH ASL and spoken English.

    But whenever I advocate for ASL (not SEE, not SimCom, not PSE) as a primary language and as the language of instruction, no one wants to listen. Is there anything that you think might help?

    I'm dumfounded that you wanted an educator who was deaf. If such a thing were even suggested, many parents would threaten due process. You definitely have my respect.

  2. Wow, thank you.
    This is in my opinion a very simple and yet complex issue. You have my absolute respect for your philosophy. What kills me is my daughter goes to a Spanish immersion program, All day only Spanish. She is fluent in Spanish but taught herself to read and write in English. So what is so different with teaching a deaf child a naturally language? By the way my son is teaching himself Spanish so he can read to his sister.

    I am inspired to answer you question with a blog post and promise to do so in detail. *note to self buy a suit of armor*

    My opinion short answer is it is the way information is framed when presented to parents. Not you of course, I am sure the parents you see have a team they are working with. When parents enter this there is no guide book. Professionals have varied opinions and often no practical life experience. The deaf community is tired and frustrated so they come off as hostile . I am just a parent so nobody listens. People claim my son is doing so well because he is brilliant which is a great excuse. Parents are afraid to leave their comfort zone and the stakes seem to be so high. To be honest the whole system is a mess from this side of the fence.

    So thank you, my family has lived thinking the world would never get us but for a few. I will try and frame a blog post to explain our choice.