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. .................so 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.


  1. Classic. Teachers are overwhelmed, to be sympathetic, and can barely cover all needs of their diverse students. But this one could have done more to promote ASL among the students; perhaps in including a simple ASL song that is done every week. Students take guidance from their teacher and this is why they don't use signs that they have learned.

    As for "chasing" interpreters and "special needs" labelers, here's another word: Clueless. They need to be told, in plain English, how to do their jobs. In front of people, so their embarrassing behavior is not emulated by observers.

  2. Actually, there is a solution to the latter issue. It is the job of the regular interpreters to INFORM the sub interpreters what the day looks like, what the consumer's (in this case, your son) needs and preferences are, etc. When in doubt, the sub should not do anything unless asked by your son (i.e. to move to a specific location) OR the sub can ask your son where he prefers the terp to stand. Please be sure to let his regular terps know that it would be helpful if they explained to subs what the interpreting situation/scenario looks like. It's their job as terps to do so anyway.

  3. You guys are great!
    Keri good idea. The terp was sick so my idea is to have a printed out sheet that the terp can read when the arrive. Good idea?

  4. A cheat sheet for subs, good idea! ;)

    PS: Happy Holidays to you and your family! =D

  5. Happy Holidays! Yipee!!!!! I love Christmas!