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.


  1. This deserves a congratulations for hitting a happy balance and for following the child's desires. And a thanksgiving for the right opportunities coming along! Kudos for making it happen, too.

  2. Wonderful that he finally found the place where he belongs. Hooray!

    Loved the library story.