Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Excuse Me! Can I have your attention please?

The Sales Pitch



Mother of Deaf child enters large auditorium and pull out a dusty, rusty, battered soap box. She steps on top and the spotlight comes on. Electronic ad music is blasted over the sound system.

A small audience is scattered throughout the hall.


Excuse me please! Can I have your attention. I am here today to show you the latest advance in raising a deaf child. Can I direct your attention to the thing that will change your families lives. Ladies and gentlemen,

Mother makes a sweeping gesture towards a rotating platform.

MOTHER (cont'd)
Natural Communication!

A shiny drape is lifted from a revolving disc to reveal ASL. The music gets louder and lights are flashing




Yes my friends Natural Communication is the tool of the future. No
more confusion or frustration. This little dandy is CI and hearing aide compatible. Imagine the look on your child's face when you can communicate naturally. Watch as tantrums are reduced and you begin to have easy in depth conversation. Use ASL to support speech and it even reduces stress in public when you need to discipline. ASL is a lovely compliment for your CI or other listening devices.

Try it for free for one month and if you decide this is the answer for you we will ship fluency for free. Yes folks at no extra charge! Natural Communication comes with a life time guarantee.

A hand raises from the small audience


But my family is hearing. My child needs to know how to live in a hearing world


ASL is hearing family compatible plus it increases unity.

Another question


But I want my daughter to be able to order from a restaurant.


Studies show that deaf people can order from restaurant whether they own ASL or not.


I don't have time to learn another language


Unlike other products with ASL you learn it and that is it! All you need to do to keep it charged is use it!


But I have other kids.


ASL is shown to benefit all children hearing or deaf.

So step right up to get your risk free trial of Natural Communication!

People get up and start to leave. The crowd is grumbling.


Folks come try this! I have proof it works!

Mother of Deaf child gathers up her soap box and walks off


Sometimes I Wonder

My son is very aware that hearing and Deaf culture are different. He often will point this out to me. I ask a question and he replies, "Mom it's a Deaf thing". There are many small ways we navigate differently. He does it with ease. I love how he can just turn a switch and fit in both worlds without thinking.

Over the years every time I am introduced to a Deaf adult it is normal to be asked for a sort of deaf resume. I offer my name and depending on who it is maybe my sign name. It goes like this.

Meeting a Deaf person

Me "My name is (finger spell my full name name), sign name (my sign name)"
Other person " Are you Deaf?"
Me "No I am hearing my son is Deaf"

At this point if there is someone I know standing by they jump in and explain me. It goes something like this,

" She is very involved her son has beautiful ASL. He goes to such and such school"

Then we go on to offer a brief background into how we fit into the community. I may learn if they were mainstreamed or attended a deaf program. I may find out where they were from and if their parents signed. I will not find out if they talk. If I later find myself with them and they start to talk to someone it will startle me a bit. They usually don't ask what I do for income and I won't learn this about them unless maybe they work in a Deaf related field.

Meeting a hearing person,

"Hi I'm Mel"

" Sally, nice to meet you. "

" Nice party, do you know Jack?"

"Yea I work with him"

"Oh what do you do?"

"I make packing peanuts"

"Interesting I have always wondered how they do that. I'm in sales."

" Really? What do you sell?"

" Tractors, here is my card if you are ever in the market."

There are other little differences and I understand why but the one that I am really curious about is makeup. Yep that has stumped me for years. When my son was younger I bought professional face paints because why pay a non signing hearing person when I could do it myself? I also have done theater makeup for both hearing and Deaf kids. I was thinking really hard about how to paint a deaf child's face. I thought about how it would feel if they shut their eyes and had no idea where the brush was going. So I developed a strategy. I would gently touch the are I was going to paint as a signal before painting. Boy did I feel clever.

The difference that baffles me is Deaf kids don't flinch. They don't as a rule mind if you paint on their eyes but hearing kids go nuts. I can tell a hearing kid to shut his eyes the verbally tell him what I am going to do and they still squish up their faces in nervous anticipation. I use the most quiet gentle voice. A deaf child will shut his eyes and remain relaxed not moving until I tap their shoulder. Why is this? I know it is such a small thing that in no way impacts the lives of our kids. Why do the deaf kids trust I won't poke their eye out but the hearing kids look like they are at the dentist? Other folks have told me the same thing but don't know why.

OK, I know that is a really strange thing to waste space on but I am on vacation and this is what happens when I have free time. Rest assured today I will make better use of my time. My son is teaching my daughter and I how to make a Comedia Del Arte mask. I didn't even know what that was until he told me. So always learning on this end.

Monday, December 28, 2009

A Thought On Relatives

I saw a great comment on my Silent Night post. The question was,

"How do you deal with the extended family not signing?"

That is a very important question that I Think all hearing/ASL parents think about. Not only family but close friends that don't sign. I haven't thought in depth about this topic in awhile but I can share some rambling ideas off the top of my head.

I like to stand back and look at the big picture. I have relatives I never see and that is fine with me. As we grow older we can pick who we have relationships with. You can't force people to learn anything. I used to feel frustrated and sad but really now it isn't a big deal. All of the family that we do see has taken at least one class. The reality is they don't have people they see often enough to practice with. I taught myself Japanese when I worked at a sushi restaurant about 20 years ago. I got some books and practiced at work and became conversational. Now I could maybe say "I am sorry" in that language. It is very hard to maintain fluency if you don't use it often.

Now if we saw the whole family often I would be frustrated. For example if they saw him once a week. When he was really little we solved the problem by hosting a sign brunch every Sunday at our house. A lot of people don't learn well from videos and are too intimidated to go to a class. We were frustrated they weren't learning. We realized they wanted to learn but needed help. We had a full spread of food, only friends and family and a Deaf teacher. In this comfortable environment they were able to really learn.

Sometimes just giving folks and opportunity to sink or swim helps. We allowed my son to visit his grandparent's house without us since he was very little. They are not fluent in ASL. This helped them all bond and made it easier for the grandparents to learn how to communicate. You know how it is easier to learn ASL if you are forced to sign with a deaf person? Well without us there to act as the go between they got on board faster and they found ways to communicate. I felt safe because they raised my husband and he turned out fine. As a result of this trust and time spent together they are very close.

This also forced him to start to learn how to get by in the hearing world without assistance. I knew he was in a safe environment so I felt comfortable. I am always amazed at how they understand each other. I think it has helped him become the independent kid he is.

I wish we had all the tech tools back then that we have now. I would had loved to have Skype and VP. Hearing relatives can Skype deaf children. I remember every now and then I would get a call asking what my son was trying to say. It would have been so easy if we had Skype. Best of all Skype is free.

Another thing we do is not always interpret our conversations. What I mean is if I am chatting with just my son I don't feel I need to make everyone comfortable by telling them what we are saying. It is so interesting how awkward folks get when we do that. It helps them understand more what is at stake. Some people tell me it is rude. It is like whispering in front of them. Well does that mean the majority of the world is whispering in front of my son? If someone has had the opportunity to learn to sign and chose not that is fine but it is hard for me to talk and sign. I don't feel I need to do that all the time. I interpret for my son's benefit not for the comfort of others.

At our home he has full access to communication. If visitors don't sign and have known him a long time I don't force him to socialize. We know a family that has tried to learn to sign. The mother can pretty much communicate but the kids don't even try. My son doesn't really want to hang out with them and I understand why. The only thing they would do is read all of his comics. At their house they don't really include him. They are the sweetest kids but it just doesn't work out well. My friend was a bit upset when I let him go to his room the last time they came to visit. I have avoided that conversation in the past but she seemed really insulted. I told her the truth. She said he could always write notes. I responded then that is how we all will communicate. I told her that if he was going to do that we should too that way we would understand how he felt. I just think in his own home he should have the right to free communication. If the children had learned to sign or tried harder to include him in the past I would have probably made him come out and entertain them.

So a final thought is really how does he feel? We left Christmas Eve all feeling great. He had an awesome time. I don't resent that we have to interpret. Of course it is a bit more work but not that much. I don't really have to do much work in his life because he is Deaf so interpreting for family don't cause any burden. He always loves it when the whole family is together so there really isn't a reason for me to have negative feelings. When we first were getting started everything was so raw and I would get so frustrated. Now I have mellowed and found that if I approach people with empathy things work out better.

So I don't really have the answers. I find my family does better at this stage of the game if I don't worry about what others choose to do. Life is too much fun to waste time on things I can't change. I do however strongly advocate when someone is paid to educate my son and change is needed. That is a whole other story.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

I Didn't Ask for a deaf Child

I didn't ask for a deaf child

I was given one

I saw his eyes light up

I wanted to know why

He asked me about a caterpillar

I found the answer

He snuck a cupcake

I redirected with my words

I was given a Deaf child

I didn't ask why

He told me he loved me

I asked why

"Because we are the same"

"You are an artist and so am I"

I would ask for this Deaf child

Now ask me why

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Silent Night

I love Christmas. It is the one time every year when the entire family on my husband's side commits to be together. This can also present challenges for us. My son sees his grandparents often even though they live almost three hours away. My kids are the only grandchildren so they get lots of attention. When he was very little they took ASL classes and even though they are not fluent they can communicate and were taught about Deaf culture. His aunts and uncles don't sign so here lies the challenge.

When my son was first identified I did tons of research and discovered many deaf kids of hearing families didn't fully enjoy family gatherings. Families would leave the deaf child in the dark about conversations. Maybe the whole table would be laughing and when the child inquired about why the family for many reasons wouldn't clarify. We just couldn't accept this.

I read about different ways people approached this. One family hired an interpreter. This just didn't seem like something that would make the gathering natural and comfortable for my son. So we decided to always invite Deaf people. That is what happened for most of his life until a couple of years ago. Now it is just family but we have found a balance so he is always included.

Every Christmas my husband and I, as much as we can, interpret everything that is said at the party. Even if he is not in the conversation I sign. that way if he looks over he can decide if he wants to join in. Sim com is not easy for me so it can be a bit exhausting.

This year my son learned how to play the guitar,

For the first time in many years I didn't host Christmas Eve. My husband's sister has a new house and new boyfriend so she offered to host. This gave me the option to relax and enjoy! We were all so excited and on the way over my son kept asking how many more minutes until we would arrive.

So everyone arrived and the party started. My kids were antsy to open presents and soon my son was bored. This is where I figure out that of course he is bored, not because he is deaf but because he is twelve. I remember being bored at that age. So he settles on the sofa to text his friends. Turns out they are all bored too (they are also all hearing).

He then decides to join the family in conversation. After awhile six people start talking about a cake someone brought and the bakery it came from. Soon all six people were talking at the same time and I was a mess trying to keep up and sort it all out for my son. He was asking questions which of course were a beat behind. So I just told them to stop so I could catch him up and please slow down and take turns talking. For the most part everyone knows to do this but sometimes they forget.

After that he plays WII with his sister. This gave my brain a break form trying to communicate in two languages. After that for the rest of the night my husband and I took turns interpreting. Everyone was having a great time. He was involved.

My son had discovered a room full of guitars. We were talking with the new boyfriend and my son mentioned that when he had to pick an instrument at school for music he wanted the guitar. I asked the boyfriend to teach him a bit. We sat him on the amp and he learned how to play a scale. It was the most natural thing in the world. He can't hear a thing but he does feel music. I was standing there watching him concentrate. He looks like a surfer kid, he is the kind of kid that wears flip flops in the winter. He doesn't look deaf. By that I mean a stranger looking at this scene wouldn't guess he couldn't hear the sounds he was generating. He was having a great time and told me he is excited to take music at school. This is a good example of why I never assume he can't do something. He may get bored with the idea later but that will be his decision not ours. I can't begin to understand why he likes music and dance but I can encourage him to explore anything the world presents.

So the funniest part of the night was the ride home. We stooped at a store in a kinda creepy area. My husband ran in to get something and I locked the doors of the car from the inside. When he came back I unlocked the door for him and the alarm went off. It was so loud people came outside and stared. We couldn't concentrate and tried starting the car and flipping switches. My son tried to tell us he knew what to do but my husband was so flustered he wasn't paying attention. Nothing was working and we didn't have the set of keys with the remote buttons so we decided in a chaotic fashion to drive home and get the keys. The noise had rendered us useless. As we backed out my son again offered to help. We parked he got out and grabbed the keys. He calmly told us to lock the doors again. He put the key in the door and unlocked them. Duh.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

I just spit coffee on my keyboard...

So it is Christmas Eve and all my work is done. I have free time for the next few hours and I came down to play around on my blog and catch up on emails. I have a fresh cup of java and the kids are busy getting ready. All is calm, life is good. Well I noticed a comment on my last post so I decided to read that first. As I read it I started to laugh so hard I spit coffee on my keyboard. My whole last post was about literacy and I had left out the MOST IMPORTANT element to success (yes that is my outside voice sorry), a common fluent language. It was an awesome comment and it also reminded me that I sometimes live in my own little world out of touch with the wider community. So I tried to put myself in the shoes of a parent that can't have in depth conversation with their child . I imagine it would look like this.

My post
"So I often see people stating that deaf children struggle to read. This is so strange for me because it is an area where my son doesn't struggle at all in fact he is way above grade level. I know of other deaf children who also not only excel but love to read.

My son tells me that at the deaf school the other kids don't like reading and I have also been told this by many of the children.

This morning I was just thinking what is the difference? Here are some thoughts I have,"

*At this point maybe the other parent is excited that I may have some answer, some idea they hadn't thought of! They begin to read and for one of many reason realize I am no help at all and come to think of it a bit odd.*

So just to clear up my mistake in order for any of my tips to work you must share a common fluent language with your child.

One challenge I face writing this blog is Deaf is just part of our family culture. We don't give it much thought. It is like brushing your teeth, you do it all the time but you don't discuss the toothbrush with anyone and the family doesn't engage in any tooth brushing activities. We sign all the time and don't give it much thought as to why, it just is. He doesn't have an audiologist or SLP. We don't have any special equipment on his body. He has a VP but we all use it so it seems typical. This blog is really forcing me to look at what we are. One thing I thought of after reading that comment is how close we are. A lot of people sign in this town so ASL is not a private language. If we are in public and don't want others to know what we a saying my son and I can have a conversation in code. We can read each others gestures, facial and body language. We know each other so well we can read each other. I never really thought about that before but it is kind of cool.

This is going to sound a bit harsh. We don't have a lot of hearing friends with deaf children. One reason is to be honest it sometimes makes makes me sad. It often is awkward also. I really want all kids to be happy so I don't judge. Here is a good example of why we don't mingle much,

When my son was four we went to a deaf playgroup. We met a family with a boy the same age and got along really well. There child had a CI. I noticed she was really tense and nervous when talking about her boy. I just sat and listened because I knew by then if I talked about what we do the conversation would end. My son was across a small field in a berry patch. He was waving at me. I looked over,
" Mom, I have to pee!"
" Tell dad he is right over there near that tree"
I turned back to my new friend and saw her face all tense,
"Did he understand what you said?"
At this point I admit I was horrified that maybe her son couldn't tell her when he needed to pee let alone all the other conversations one typically has with a child.
"Oh yea, he just needs to pee"

So last year my son went to Deaf camp. It is really fun and everyone signs. The same mom showed up with her son. I was excited to chat but soon felt a bit depressed. She started of by telling me how great her son was doing. ( I was so relieved because now we could just chat) I asked how the CI was for him. It turns out it broke and they couldn't communicate for three months. That is a pretty big deal in my book. The good news is he is learning to sign. My son said the CI kids were kind of left out because they didn't sign. He didn't even know their names.

I saw a father dropping of his son and lecturing him on the care of his CI. That was awkward all of the other families were laughing and taking pictures and this guy was drilling his son telling him how expensive all the pieces were. Another dad was talking to a deaf counselor, ugh. " So you read lips?". I don't really know these families so maybe I just caught them at a bad time.

Another thing that separates us from other families is my hearing daughter. She is trilingual. She was given ASL as a first language along with English. She attends a full immersion Spanish program. Many parents over the years have told me they needed to think about their hearing kids and ASL wouldn't work because of that. Well my daughter is just fine. She taught herself to read and write English, I wonder how that happened? I am learning Spanish from her but really only vocabulary. I can't imagine if that was the language we used for primary communication.

We do have one family that are close friends, they whole family, the four kids and parents, sign.

So this is in no way an attack on anyone just stuff I see outside of my little world and my take on it. I am nervous to even post this because I am sure someone will take it the wrong way. I am sure there are tons of kids who are really happy not doing what we do. Maybe I am doing the wrong thing. I just think that no matter what you decide having a common fluent language makes the journey more fun and less stressful. That is just my opinion.

So thank you for the wonderful comment!
Happy Holidays!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

He is Deaf and Can Read....yea really

So I often see people stating that deaf children struggle to read. This is so strange for me because it is an area where my son doesn't struggle at all in fact he is way above grade level. I know of other deaf children who also not only excel but love to read.

My son tells me that at the deaf school the other kids don't like reading and I have also been told this by many of the children.

This morning I was just thinking what is the difference? Here are some thoughts I have,

We always expected him to read. We never bought into any of the stereotypes. If you raise the bar in your internal thinking the child will rise to the occasion. We didn't have a nervous stressed out approach to reading. He never sensed any fear of failure and this helps a lot. It was always fun. We made reading part of our natural daily rhythm. He was read books at all levels and allowed access to books everywhere.

When he was little we bought him some books for children that have both the ASL gloss and English word. His favorite was the ABC book by Linda Bove. We never bought anything that had SEE. We would read books over and over and sometimes change the story.

When he was about 5 we introduced chapter books. The challenge I had was keeping the book open while I signed. My husband found a weight at a book store that hold the pages open and that was solved. I think reading long stories over several nights motivated him to want to do it himself. If we had just stayed at his reading level he may have been bored and not realized what could do in the future if he learned to read.

We are a family of storytellers. I realized today each member of the family loves to tell stories. When my son was little my husband would dress up with a beard and funny coat and hat and visit us as story man. He really believed this old man had come to tell stories. When he was older he would dress up and join my husband to tell his sister stories. I think this also helped. Many parents are too self conscience to try and make up a story but really anyone can do it. Right now look around your computer and pick up an object. Tell a story about it. Just think of a crazy reason why that object could cause conflict. Maybe your child is not sharing. The story could be about a selfish prince who hoards paper clips leaving the village awash in unorganized paper. A good book to get started is "Storytelling With Children" by Nancy Mellon. Don't worry even if you are the most serious person nobody outside your house will see you so give it a try.

We live in a reading home. What I mean by this is we all love to read. I walked through the house to see how this looks and there was only 1 room (bathroom) that didn't have books. Both children have bookshelves full of books, the kitchen has cookbooks. The living room have a box of library books and 6 shelves packed. The basement has paperback, reference books for my husband and art books near where I paint. In my studio space upstairs again reference books, In our bedroom more books . My son sees us read for pleasure. I also read books with him if he tells me it might be of interest to me.

We encouraged him to read about what he was interested in. If he wants to learn something we go to the library. We don't teach him to depend on others to learn and don't jump on the computer first. If you want to learn to cook, get a cookbook. Need to fix your car? Well their are books for that. He loves comic books. So he has a ton of books on how to write and draw them. Once he came home and with his pants low showing his boxers. I was startled he wanted to follow the crowd on this one. I told him that the origin of that fashion was gang related. When a gang member goes to prison they take the belt so the pants fall down. The outside gang members do it out of solidarity. Or at least that is what I had been told. We talked about what is a gang. I explained there have always been gangs from pirates, terrorists and organized crime. We went and got books, we studied what a gang is. I told him he could wear his pants low if he did his research and still wanted to have people see him that way. Books give him power to be in control of his choices. He doesn't have to follow his peers if he has more information and he can always win the debate.

Reading is not homework, it is not a task. It is something we all do to expand and entertain ourselves. It is important that the child is following his interests. If he wants to read comic books and you want him to read classic literature it can cause conflict and steer him away from the joy of reading.

I think of other homes I have visited and it often strikes me that there are often no books. We show them the importance of their learning to read yet the home sends them another message. Even if a child attends a school where ASL is the language of direct instruction they still come home. a parent is a child's first teacher. Have you noticed how if a dad is really into sports the child often follows? If a home is full of music the child usually absorbs the same interest? If you don't read the message is not natural that they should.

My son reads so much that at times in the past I have had to restrict it. He reads while eating, often while walking and I suspect sometimes while sleeping. He is so busy at school now there is much more balance. He still reads a lot but has more activities with his peers to keep him busy. I still think it is funny that I am one of the few moms of a deaf kid who has to deal with all of the books.

So my advice would be if you want your child to read, read yourself. Don't focus on the outcome of your child's literacy, enjoy the process. Expect him to read, deaf does not equal illiterate. Most important find ways to tell him you love him everyday.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

The ups and downs

About two years ago.....

My son was mainstreamed half days at the public school across the street. For the most part it was fine. I would go to his class once a week and teach ASL when he wasn't there. The kids were so excited to learn and it gave me a way to observe what was going on. What struck me as odd is the teacher never learned more than maybe 3 signs. The kids after awhile could voice off with me. When he would arrive later in the day they never signed with him. He had friends but they would just pass notes. There were other things that didn't work here is one example,

My son was working on something and a woman walked in

"Your special needs right?"

(interpreter has to interpret)

My son stares at her shocked because she has made a mistake. We don't think of him that way. He is just a typical kid who doesn't hear.

"No wrong kid"

"You are Hayden right? Well I need you to give the flyer to your mom. It is about a meeting for parents of special needs kids. It is a support group and she will want to join"

(interpreter again must give him this information while she is very upset)

" I am not special needs" He signs to his interpreter that this woman is crazy and rude.


I still get a rush of excitement when I pick my son up from school. Tonight I picked him up around 6:30 after a Comedia mask workshop. He won't let me leave the parking lot. I must turn on the overhead light so he can tell me what he did tonight. He has such passion for all this and often I have no idea what it is but revel in his joy. I am learning with him because he wants to share everything.

We come home and I cook dinner. I play with his sister while he reads. When dinner is ready he asks me to sit and chat for a minute before the family joins us. He had a good day he tells me but he was grouchy in dance class. Why I ask? Well his dance interpreter wasn't there so he had a sub. His regular interpreters know if he looks away they can just stop and wait for him to look again. In dance he knows the moves and needs to concentrate after the teacher tells them what to do. The teacher is so aware of how he works and will come to him for coaching if he needs it.

Today the sub made sure he saw everything. If he looked away she would run over and stand in his eye line and keep signing. At one point they had to sit in a crunch position and spread their legs in the air. nervous he wouldn't get the info the sub stood in front of him a foot away looking down at him.......if you are deaf you know how weird this feels.

"Mom how weird!!!!!! I know it is for a short time so I try and be nice but that was not comfortable. "

So the point I want to make is that if you are an interpreter fo my son at school and he looks away in class don't physically follow his eye line! He knows where the teacher is. If you are close to the teacher he will look when he needs to. Also sometimes after long hours of mainstream his eyes need a short break. He may look away for a moment to rest his eyes and if you leap over chairs to get in front of him you are doing no good. He looks away when he knows what to do or has enough information. I imagine other deaf folks do the same. He is not a kid who is "special needs" and can't find the teacher. I understand why you may do this but rest assured if you just interpret and leave the rest to him you have done your job.

OK hope that wasn't too harsh, just it is so funny on our end.

Friday, December 11, 2009

The Road Less Traveled

Here is a brief description of how my son ended up fully mainstreamed and loving it even though we are strong bi/bi advocates.

When he was a baby we chose to focus on language and literacy. That lead us to ASL and written English. We concentrated on learning ASL to gain fluency and seeking the support of the deaf community for appropriate social development.


Not enough support from early intervention services getting access to trained deaf professionals

We had to do all the research ourselves in a topic we knew nothing about

few social peers

Few parent peers (only one family)


A supportive Deaf community made sure we learned the ropes and coached us. Also they helped provide a natural environment.

Socializing with deaf adults helped improve our signing

My son had a typical life free of any stress that might effect his self esteem or cause frustration

We chose the state deaf school to insure social development and academic access. His teachers were specifically trained to educate deaf children in their native language and many were deaf. Our plan was to keep him at grade level and look into mainstreaming around the age of nine if needed and he showed interest. We thought he would benefit from direct instruction in ASL and a deaf peer group.


No academic peer group

small classes- with a class of under 10 he had to choose friends based on availability not similar interests

No ASL curriculum- he was never formally taught his native language

No arts program really


The teachers could individualize his lessons and provide challenge

The opportunity for deaf adult role models

Professional educators with a deaf ed back round

Direct communication

lessons taught in a way that best suits a deaf child

Membership in a strong supportive community

The teachers for the most part were creative and pushed the children to be critical thinkers


In the third grade his teachers told me he was to far ahead of the other children to be challenged so we decided to mainstream a half day to test the water. I was concerned about him socially and academically if he didn't have direct instruction in ASL and a language peer group but wanted to remain flexible. At first he loved it. It was something new. Later he just got bored. I was told when there rarely was a group brainstorm session he would lead his group because the others didn't know how really. I think after seeing the kids and class first hand that maybe it is in part due to the teaching to test that goes on. We did this for two years and then at his request sent him back full time to the deaf school. He wasn't really happy anywhere at this point but at least at the deaf school he didn't have to have an interpreter.


Teachers had no back round in deaf ed

Interpreters acted like aides not professional interpreters. My son was not interested in a one-on-one and this was insulting

He was not allowed to go anywhere without his interpreter

The children were not interested in the same things, he doesn't like wrestling and monster trucks. I feared he would not be able to socialize but I was wrong. He was really popular but the other kids interests were boring for him.

No natural social communication. I volunteered one hour a week to teach the kids ASL. They could voice off with me but never signed to my son.

The kids for the most part were not academically challenging for him


When he was in the fifth grade he auditioned to get into the Vancouver School of Arts and Academics. He was accepted. If he didn't get in we had no other options so we are very grateful. This school is grades 6-12 and the classes are mixed age. All students are required to takes classes in all of the art forms. It is very academic and all of the kids really want to be there.

His schedule doesn't allow for him to participate in any of the activities at the deaf school which worried me at first but he doesn't seem to care. His schedule during the day alternates. One day is world studies/literary arts, math , science the next day is literary arts/world studies, dance and theater. After school is ASL club and rehearsal for a Comedia del arte theater company. The earliest he gets out of school is 4pm the latest is 10pm.

The mode of communication socially is ASL. His friends are all hearing but conversational in ASL. A few have learned to sign after meeting him. For those who want to learn and can't get into the ASL class because it is full he gives them "100 Signs For Parents" published by Dawnsign Press. One of interpreter tells me it is amazing. Some kids are learning basic signs and finger spelling then they learn the signs they need by fingerspelling and don't need to use the interpreter. One example of how cool the kids are,

He was in the library before school with a high school friend. He was making noise (he still doesn't have a handle on that). The librarian asked his friend to teach him library skills. She told her no. If she wanted him to learn she would have to tell him herself. She told her that is was really insulting then offered to interpret.

The staff is very concerned he has access to everything and often go way out of their way to do so. They treat him like all of the other kids and show excitement that he is there. They never treat him like a special needs kids. They had a deaf student two years ago so most teachers understand what is needed. In dance they use a large drum for rhythm. He has a silent amp for music and a note taker in math for a teacher who lectures and requires notes.

He has two very skilled professional interpreters. They only interpret class and don't follow him around. After class he jets out to find his friends for a quick chat. When he arrives at his next class the interpreter is there ready to work. They are both lovely people and understand his need for Independence. They don't take on the role of guardian or aide.

For the first time he has it all, social peers, academic challenge and art but it is not at the deaf school. What is important to understand is it is BECAUSE of the deaf school that he is so happy here.