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.
"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!