Thursday, January 14, 2010

Lost In Translation

This morning shortly after school started I get a text from my son.

"Crap mom got a sub terp she is lousy"

So my 12 year old is stuck at school with an interpreter who signs English and not very clearly, signs information he doesn't need but forgets to give him what he does need. He has found a way to communicate with his teachers not using the interpreter so that is how he gathered information today. He tells me she was lazy and just kind of sat around. During theater class instead of standing next to him so he could rehearse with his partner she stood far away and left him to figure it out on his own. She chatted with his friends but didn't interpret what was said. She followed him all day in between classes like a stalker . At one point between classes he tried to loose her so she wouldn't show up at the next class. I don't think he knew she had a copy of the schedule and there she was waiting at the dance studio. I could go on and on. He was angry.

I was stuck at work in charge of 15 preschool children and couldn't break away. I texted that he need to tell her to clarify if he didn't understand. The frantic texts got worse. I texted asking if he needed help. Yep he had enough. As soon as I got home I called the school. His last class is dance and he was freaked out to have her there. After that he had rehearsal for his theater company until 8pm. I told them the problem. The principal called the district and they sent out another interpreter (qualified and someone my son loves) within the hour. She walked into class and told the lousy interpreter to take a break and relax.

The principal called me back to tell me the lousy interpreter had been sent home but was booked for the evening rehearsal, several more for the run of the show until March and the next school day. He didn't know if they could find a qualified replacement for tonight. My son needs 2 interpreters for rehearsal. We agreed I could fill in if it was not resolved. This is really bad for many reasons. I am not a certified interpreter let alone an interpreter. There is an ethical conflict since I am his mother he would have zero privacy. There is the issue of not paying for the service and the idea that someone may come to assume I could do this. All around just a bad idea but I didn't know what to do.

Well it all worked out. The lousy interpreter was fired. One of his regular interpreters was awesome and came in for rehearsal even though she had the day off. A qualified replacement was found to fill the other slots.

I have met many families that don't worry or know about the quality of the services they get. Maybe they don't know that all interpreters are not qualified. Parents may not know what the district considers qualified. I was talking to one parent with an elementary child. The interpreter she used was "OK" for the early grades I was told but she wasn't really that fluent. Well in my opinion that is not OK. If the interpreter can't clearly act as an accurate conduit for information it just adds an obstacle the child has no control over.

I also know of kids who will just accept what they get and parents who assume the isn't anything they can do to change it. Again, that is not OK.

If my son didn't tell me or I didn't act he would have been stuck. His teachers would have thought he wasn't paying attention, he wouldn't know how to do his work. He would be commenting off topic which would perhaps lead the teachers to think he wasn't very bright. He would be misquoted. He would maybe just tune out and give up.

My son had this person before but didn't get her name so now he has learned that he must get a name up front so if there is a problem we can make sure he doesn't have to have that person again.

Once when he was in third grade I was teaching a workshop that involved both the hearing school and deaf school. They all got together to do an art project. The deaf school brought a highly qualified interpreter for their students and my son had his from the mainstream school. She sat on her sidekick played around with the art project and let the other interpreter work. When she did work I noticed she edited information. The next day I requested a new interpreter and assurance of qualification. He got a qualified interpreter after that.

My son's school is very supportive and wants him to have what he needs. The thing is unless he tells them or me they won't know where changes need to be made. He needs to know his rights and what the interpeter needs to be doing. A deaf child is a client. That means the service is for the client. If a deaf child is not recieving the appropriate service changes need to be made.

So one day lost in translation.

1 comment:

  1. You've written on an important topic.

    Too often we deaf tolerate poor interpreters for fear of offending them, or losing interpreters entirely, or of getting a bad client reputation among the professional community.

    Often it is because we do not know there are better interpreters, are unwaware that they are reverse interpreting poorly, or are cutting out material that might be useful.

    Some answers might be: a second interpreter to back up and monitor each other, a knowledgeable teacher to monitor the interpreter, and education of the deaf client on how to do this himself.