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!


  1. Hi, haddy...
    That is exactly why ASL is the most important thing to start with when the babies, toddlers and children with or without CI. Like you stated in here that a child's CI broke and went three months without communication with family, that is more downright scary and not so great. I have no problem with people with CI but do have a problem with CI itself and the parents' high expectation and hopes.
    That father gave his child his lecture on how expensive CI is, to me that sounds much like he values on hearing and speech skills rather than making sure his child's needs to be met as well as his well being. That's what I believe.
    That is why I strongly urge the parents of deaf babies and children learn ASL along with their children.
    Wishing you and your family a very Merry Christmas....

  2. "Maybe I am doing the wrong thing."

    No, you are doing the exact right thing. I love how you are non-judgemental, but you have to know you are doing the exact right thing.

    "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"

    Horrified is the perfect word. You have these darling little children, and they can't communicate even the most basic concepts to their families because their families weren't encouraged to learn sign by all of the audist professionals out there. I really have to believe these people care about their children, so what is wrong with this picture?

    What prompted you? How can we, the signing community (I am lumping us signing hearies/interpreters/hangers-on into the signing community) encourage families to sign so they can communicate with their awesome kids?

  3. I know. I am a deaf mom to one son who is hard of hearing and one son who is deaf. So few parents sign with their kids. When my deaf son was first diagnosed, I was looking forward to meeting parents who signed with their kids. I thought it would different from when I was growing up as a deaf child. No, it is pretty much the same. One hearing parent who is fluent in sign language was shocked. She once asked a group of hearing parents, why no one signed. I don't know the answer.

    We all sign in our home. My hearing daughter is fluent in sign language. I love it because it is so accessible and we all can communicate.

    My deaf son has the implant now, he loves it. Both my boys go to the school for the deaf in our state and they love their school, it is like a second home for them.

    My hearing daughter is the only hearing person in our family. Her "second family" lives down the street, they all are hearing. It is wonderful for her. I wish the same for all deaf children with hearing parents, that they could have access to a deaf family.

    There's so much that needs to be changed and we have such a long way to go.

  4. By the way, I love your blog! I can see that you really do value the deaf community. It is my wish that more "professionals" would value deaf/hoh adults. At our state school for the deaf, they do acknowledge and honor the deaf community. Unfortunately, not all "professionals" embrace the deaf community.

  5. Being in the minority doesn't make your thoughts and opinions less valid. Please don't hesitate to post anything related to your son's development, because it is so interesting!

    There are dozens of blogs where parents explain the finer points of coordinating the many weekly therapy and mapping appointments their kids attend. They often make comments along the lines of "Thank goodness he doesn't have to rely on signing," or "Of course we would sign if we had to, but..." Hard work on the part of the children and parents in developing basic language skills is often expected; it is seen as normal. It's not. But it's often the only way people hear about.

    You have a unique contribution to make to the world. You have an almost-teenager who is bright, talented, does well academically, and seems to be just generally a good kid. Why wouldn't people be interested in how that happened?

    The percentage of deaf children who sign increases with age. If your blog helps one child communicate more effectively or receive a better education, if life improves for one child, if it happens this year instead of in 10 years, that is priceless.

  6. Thanks for the comments.

    What is kinda funny is when I was talking with that mom and my son had to pee I was frustrated because he was asking me and my husband was standing closer to him doing nothing. It was something he had just started doing. For example maybe my husband would be reading and I was doing the dishes he would ask me for help instead of my husband. I had just become a SHM. So my reality was so different from this other mom. My parenting frustrations were just the normal stuff hers were much bigger.

    So for years I have advocated for change but found unless a professional comes foward with support folks don't listen. At the state school I was on a stratigic planning commitee. I tried to get changes in regards to the cirriculum. The board would not budge even though my son was doing better than the other children. I had proof but they wouldn't listen. Last year they got a new principal. He is now making the changes I have been asking for. It is just interesting how little the parents are valued sometimes.

    Sue, your family sounds awesome! The state school can offer so much and it is such a sense of family. I love hearing that your son loves his CI and he signs.

    So thanks for the words of encouragement. (sorry for any typos hee hee)