Saturday, July 31, 2010

Read my face

When we were at Deaf Expo we really didn't have a list of must dos. We just went with the flow. There were two things though we wanted to do. The first was to have my son get the chance to meet Bernard Bragg.

On the first day we didn't see him. We had to fly out the second day so this was a disappointment. A friend texted me that night and wanted to know if we had met. She had told him we would be looking for him and was confused about why I didn't text her to help find him. Then it hit me. We had to at least try. The story of how we met him will follow. Right now I am thinking of something else.

I have been watching Bernard's DVD "Bragg on Bragg". Of course I ordered it as soon as we got home.

He talks about how some folks don't feel comfortable signing. How it takes a long time to learn. I agree and remember how we struggled at first. Then I discovered the gift of my face. He talks about this in his DVD. I would hope every hearing parent would buy it. I will respect him by not saying to much (BUY the DVD). I was so startled to see him talking about how just the facial expression can encourage a child. I hit pause and looked for my family.

I walked out to my family. I watched my son and husband. They took turns "talking". My husband would sign. My son was nodding and smiling. My son would sign, husband was making facial gestures, nodding, smiling. Bernard makes such an important point. My son's face is always moving. So is every member of my family's.

I remember how much we would make our language physical because we didn't know if our ASL was OK. Looking back I am so happy we were nervous. Now we can be comfortable with our facial grammar.

He talks about how we all sign different. We all learn based on how we are raised. He also sends the message that we are all "right".

So read my face,
I want to talk to you.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

I want to be fair

My last post caused a bit of a stir.

Well it should have. The one thing I really want to stress is my former boss really was shocked we were mad. This is really important. In my school's mind they thought they were doing this poor deaf girl (uh, she is past the age of forty) a big favor by hiring her. They were excited this person would work so hard and appreciate the opportunity. This is where they just didn't get it. To be fair, they don't get it. They really thought they were doing something good. BUT to be clear,

"this poor deaf girl"
Has traveled the world.
Is getting a college degree
Is smart
An artist
A gifted writer
Has been the the victim of paternalistic behavior for many years

"this poor deaf girl"

Has a vivid social life
Is great with kids
Works really hard
Makes me laugh with her great sense of humour
Doesn't speech read with 100% clarity and is very open about this

"this poor deaf girl"

Is not OK when you talk if front of her because you can and you love the privacy

Is very clear about how she communicates and has many ways to make it easy if listen

Has never worked for such low wages but took the job because there was ASL at the job site.

"this poor deaf girl "

Is not a poor deaf girl.

She is a strong, interesting and intelligent woman

She happens to be Deaf

Monday, July 26, 2010

I remember

When Obama was campaigning, I wanted my son to see a speech. I assumed my candidate would have captions. He didn't . Maybe today is a better day.

It bothers me when you sign......

I debated about this post. It is very recent and personnel but since today is an important day for all people who have benefited from the ADA I just felt it was something I should post. I have edited out some details to protect people.

My son over the years has enjoyed the right to interpreters, a free and appropriate education and I hate to admit it cutting to the front of the line at Disneyland. About the cutting in line, please note I do not support that because he is deaf and perfectly able to wait like everyone else but he thinks it is grand.

Over the last twelve years I have also had to fight for his rights. Some fights I win and some I loose. My most recent stand was indirectly for my son and the jury is out on whether or not I won.

I posted earlier about my private preschool hiring a deaf teacher. It was a shock and I was so excited. The school seemed to support me interpreting for her at meetings and the parents loved how much their kids took off with the ASL. She was raised oral but only took the job because someone on staff could sign. It was my work place nirvana.

This is a long story so I will cut to the chase. We ended the year all very happy. I had a couple of weeks vacation and was scheduled to return full time for the summer program. The deaf teacher was to work during the break helping out around the school.

Somehow between the time I left for break and the time I was suppose to start things went wrong.

I was called to a meeting. I was told not to interpret for our deaf teacher. I was told she needed to learn to communicate with the rest of the staff using her oral skills. I was confused. I stated that she got exhausted after hours of speech reading. I was told she had been doing it all her life and it was good fo her. I stated that it was easy for me to interpret. I was told she needed to learn.

I was then told not to voice off sign with the children or the teacher. They were concerned people would think we are a "special needs" school. I stated that the parents loved the dual language environment. I was told the children would be confused when the went off to kindergarten and their teacher didn't use or care about ASL. I was told the children would most likely never meet or see a deaf person in their life. I stated the benefits of second language learning at a young age and the benefits of ASL for hearing children. I stated it was not a point if they met deaf people later in life.

There is much more to this story. Things that are so shocking to me but I will not share. I am just amazed when I realize people I spend a great deal of time with really want people like my son to take the role of disabled.

Again long story short. I texted the deaf teacher. We compared notes. She was told she was lucky to have parents who forced her to speak even though it caused her great pain which she had expressed to them. "You need to be grateful to your parents". She was told it bothered them when we signed. They thought she was grateful to get a job even though we both told them she was grateful to have someone at work who could sign. Again there is more....

We both quit.

I was later blamed for this. How could I do this to them. Not once was it mentioned what they did to us. A a parent of a Deaf child I had no choice.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Do you UbiDuo?

So we found this communication device at DeafNation.

I was wondering if anyone can give me some feedback. I was thinking it would be good for my son to use at school. Sometimes he wants a last minute meeting with a teacher or study time with friends. He often uses his text screen on his phone for this but the teachers are not good at texting and resort to paper. This would allow for real time conversation. One feature I like is he can later download the conversations to his computer. One drawback is it weighs six pounds. Any thoughts?

Friday, July 23, 2010

I am sorry I can't help you sell your technology

I sometimes get emails from people wanting to advertise on my blog. I got another yesterday. The funny thing is it is always for hearing aids. I understand many people use them but my son threw his away at age nine! So my blog is not a good place for that.

So I feel it would be weird to make money advertising something that we don't use or have any connection to. It would feel like I was taking advantage of my son or sending a mixed message. I feel my blog should only advertise things I understand and use. There are things I would advertise.

For years I have always turned to them for awesome products. They are always friendly and quick to ship. I often order "100 Signs For Parents". I keep them in my purse to hand out and give them to my student's families. You can get an order of 50 for $20.

This school was my son's only bi/bi program. He was three when he started and we moved a year and a half later. They don't advertise but they could use support through donations. They have two really awesome teachers you could contact to help. Stephanie Johnson and Richard Kendall are in my opinion people who made a huge impact on our lives and two of the best educators I know. The school demographic is poor but the families are invested.

We were lucky to live close by and see some amazing productions. I would advertise them in a heartbeat.

Those are just a sample of what I would advertise on my blog but hearing technology just doesn't work. My son was walking though Deaf Expo and he said,
"Mom all these people are trying to make money selling me something to make my life easier. I don't need anything to do that"

To clarify, he does use a cell phone, VP and computer. We did find a cool tool at the Expo, UbiDuo, that we are checking out. What he was talking about is all of the company's set up to "support" deaf people baffles him. He loves all of the technology that makes his life easier but technology that makes folks more hearing is not on his radar.

So I will not be advertising hearing aids but I know there are a lot of folks with great blogs who can.

Wave your hands in the air

I have been posting about our trip to DeafNation in Los Vegas. This story is helps illustrate how many people were there.

We were looking at a shopping mall in a fancy hotel and became very hungry. Food in Vegas is expensive so we were pleased to see a food court. It was packed but we managed to find a table. As we were eating my daughter looked around and noticed how many people were signing. She was so excited. She is used to being the only people signing in public. She started to count them. Then she made up a game. We were to wave are hands in the air every time we saw a deaf person. The same way deaf people applaud.

I am sure my seven year old looked funny applauding at our table. My son got up to get a bag for our leftover food and the man next to him turned to see my daughter with a big smile waving her hands. He waved back and questioned about what she was doing. I told him and he looked a bit confused. He was signing something I didn't understand. He then signs that he is from Argentina. He and a friend flew from Argentina for the Expo. Of course we struggled a bit to communicate because we were signing in two different languages but we managed pretty well.

As we were walking out we noticed this packed area was full of deaf people from all over the world. It is hard to explain how that felt. This public place was a sea of flying hands.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

I will open comments but please....

So it has come to my attention some folks want to post anonymous on my blog. In the past I have had a bit of trouble with this because the content of some of the comments were not appropriate for my son to read or just crazy enough to distract from the topic. I do want to hear from everyone who has an opinion.

I have changed my settings to allow this, please respect my son and our family by only using language that your mother would approve of. Remember this is public and if you make a fool of yourself by posting something crazy I will find a way to let your entire family know you are so prolific at low register thinking. This may include portrait tee shirts with text distributed to your local visitor information office.

Warmest regards


How We got Our Pink Wrist Bands

So Last Sunday we ventured out to Treasure Island hotel in Vegas to register for DeafNation Expo. We left our hotel and quickly realized 110 degrees was a bit taxing. Our plan was to take a bus down the strip to our destination.

We arrived at the bus stop with two deaf families. The ticket machine was designed to cause chaos and I suspect there was a hidden camera involved. We all tried to figure out the system as the machine randomly stole our money. everyone was hot and confused. Finally everyone had a ticket, the transit system had $27 extra and we were ready to go. The line was long but we all managed to squish on the bus. Once we got going I noticed hands flying everywhere. Nice. We managed to meet people from Florida, Canada, Washington and Kentucky in this short ride.

So the idea was people were to arrive the day before the Expo to get the pink wrist band. We entered the hotel and got directions at every turn with a simple "Expo where go?".

We got a bit confused but noticed the casino was full of deaf folks. I asked a group sitting in a large circle for directions. Turns out they were from our area and really friendly! We exchanged information for later and went up to register.

The elevator opened to a mass of people waiting in line. I knew we shouldn't have to wait because I registered online and was going to go ask for help but my son said," Mom let me do it, I sign better". This is his world and I love it.

They opened at 12:00 we arrived at 12:45. We were told they were already out of wrist bands! This seemed so awesome to me because it felt it was going to be huge. While we waited we met more people. It was crowded but there was a sense of excitement and the wait allowed for people to mingle. They took our forms and sent us away with key chains. We were to present them on Monday to get out coveted pink wrist bands.

We walked away and ran into a counselor from a family retreat we attended years ago. She was in charge of my daughter's group at the camp. We all loved her. She has since moved. We told her we don't go to the retreat anymore because it is CI focused now and that isn't our thing. She laughed and agreed.

It was the day before the Expo opened and we already having fun.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

One Thing I Get...

He does not belong to me.

The hardest thing I hear is my kid is special. At the Expo I am told he is different and needs to that high the that place.. far from me.

I get that my son is special

I get that he signs with beautiful ASL

I get that he is different

but so I am I

Trust me with him

He is Deaf

I know he needs to move away fom us

Give us time

Party Time

So Sunday we braved the hot weather and crowded bus to go to the opening party for DeafNation on Freemont street in Los Vegas. When we got to the bus tons of people were pushing to get on. I spotted someone signing on the top level and asked her if there were seats open up there. Without skipping a beat she looked around and told us that there were four seats left. Membership has it's privileges.

It was so different for us to be surrounded by deaf people. The hearing portion of the crowd was the minority and they all looked a bit confused. Haddy said he felt like he was on the "Truman Show". If you have seen the movie you will understand.

When we registered they gave us a pink wrist band. So if we saw someone with this we knew they were part of the expo. People were so friendly and it was easy to share information and meet people.

When the event started the lights above us showed a film made for the expo. Look above Haddy's head in the photo. We met folks from all over and most told Haddy he was lucky his mom signed. We would hear this over and over the next couple of days.

So it was an awesome start. It felt like a deaf city.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

What Happens in Vegas Stays in Vegas...NOT

So we just got back from DeafNation World Expo. Guess was AWESOME! If you can still jump on a plane and go, do it! I plan to share all that happened with us, nothing will stay in Vegas.

We landed in Los Vegas Saturday morning a day before the opening party. We checked in and planned to just play, waiting for things to gear up. Turns out we met deaf folks from all over who had the same idea. A lot of people came early. Some folks would just come up to us and start talking excited about what was to come. My son was over the moon seeing a city become deaf. He took over. Everywhere we went it was like a big family reunion. Hands were flying at every turn. Hearing people were caught off guard. We felt so at home. We felt so free.

I am off to download photos. I will post our visit as soon as I can get the photos organized.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

See you in Vegas!

Saturday we fly out to Vegas. We will be staying until Tues. We are going to Deaf Nation Expo.

We are so excited!

My son has a hearing friend who learned to sign after working in a theater company with him. This kid is amazing. Somehow he just picked up the language and plans to enroll in ASL classes when he enters college in the Fall. Well it turns out he may be in Vegas at the same time we are.

He told my son he would be nervous to be around so many Deaf people with his limited. skills. My son is trying to convince him it will be fine. In fact this friend will have my son to interpret for him. My son tells him there will be all sorts of people with different language skills. It struck me that this really cool strong hearing person is scarred to go.

It reminded me of the first time we went.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

How to order at a restaurant

I was chatting with a deaf friend yesterday. She was raised oral and learned to sign when she was nineteen. She regrets her parents never used ASL and is impressed with how I raise my son. Somehow the conversation came to ordering from a fast food restaurant. I was laughing about how I some parents in the past had told me they wanted their children to be able to order from a fast food restaurant. This was always in reference to speech. My reply is I have never met a deaf person who can't order food but many who have trouble reading "War and Peace".

Then she tells me when she was young she would order a hamburger and end up with a chicken sandwich. Her speech skills were such that people couldn't understand her. I was startled. I told her how we have had Haddy order from restaurants from the age of three. She thought I should share this on my blog. So here it goes.

When we would go to a restaurant we would read the menu to him. When the waiter took out order he would point to what he wanted. At a fast food restaurant we would write a note for him and hand him the money. We taught him to look at the amount on the register. If we needed a to go box at a pizza place we sent him to get it. He would point to his ear and sign box. He never came back empty handed. This was how we did it until he could write then he was on his own. Often friends or relatives would want to jump in and help him. I stopped them and they were surprised at how well he did.

When we went grocery shopping we made a list for him with words and pictures. We gave him money and he paid himself. At the age of three the list maybe had five items. The hardest thing was explaining tax.

So there you go. He can order from a restaurant and read "War and Peace". He read it last year as a sixth grader. He tells me it was "OK".

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Love Through a Window

Over the last few days I have had some things happen that shocked me. Things that were so surreal I would pinch myself wondering if the world was really a great place.

Tonight I celebrate they world we live in. Tonight I celebrate my family.

Off topic, I am taking care of my sick mom's dog. She is super cute and friendly but a huge diva. I was sitting outside my house with the sweet diva on a leash waiting for her to poop and I heard a soft tap...tap ....tap at the front window. I turn around and see

My son 's head popped up, " Mom OK you?"

Me "yea dog sick waiting poop"

Son, "Sorry mom"

I sit and watch the sun set so slowly


Daughter "You what doing? Come in eat now"

Me "dog she sick maybe wait for poop"

Daughter " Hamster new, so cute touch I can?"

Me "No hamster he environment new need time"

Daughter " Oh I see OK Love you"

Me " laugh love you"

I sit and feel the breeze, stuck taking care of this poor dog. It is a 100 degrees I am busy with other crap. I give up control and realize this dog needs me.


Son and daughter acting out a funny skit to make me laugh. Behind the glass they act out this silly joke.

They sign " Love you mom"

I dare you to edit my English

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Finding Home

About 8 years ago.......

This post is part of a series explaining how we moved to improve my deaf son's services.

We bought a cute house and prepared to move. It was really hard to leave our friends and Deaf community in Los Angeles but this move would improve our quality of life and allow me to spend more time advocating for my son son who was four at the time.

They days leading up to the move were frantic. We had many friends to say farewell to and lots of stuff to purge for the move. We got the bright idea to adopt a large rescue dog on impulse. After all we were moving to a house with a fenced yard of course we needed a dog. We shoved him into the back seat of the car and just as we pulled out of the parking lot he showed his detest for travel by promptly puking all over my son. At home we discovered he would not poop if he was on a leash. We had nowhere for him to roam free and I found myself doing something out of character, begging a dog to poop.

One thing that was a priority was an iron clad IEP. We needed his services to be so specific the new school would have to honor them. I sat with his teachers and went though the pain staking task of wording direct instruction in ASL and ASL instruction. We wanted to be clear he needed English for reading and writing but spoken English was reserved for pull out speech. This document was the holy grail that would insure my son would get what he needs.

We were so nervous about the move but very excited. Since I was pregnant I flew up to Washington with my son and my husband and several friends drove up in a caravan with all of our worldly possessions. The IFSP flew up with me to insure it didn't get lost.

My in laws met me at the airport and we stayed in a hotel one night waiting for the everyone to arrive the next day. On schedule my son and I were dropped off at our new house the next day to wait for the moving caravan. Of course my husband would be delayed by one day because the dog didn't like to travel and he was expressing this at every mile post.

So my son and I discovered the frustrating solitude of being stuck in an empty house with nothing to do. My husband's brother brought us blankets and some food. I told my son we were camping and it was an adventure. He was excited. The excitement wore off as the hours ticked by. That night it was hard to get him to sleep. Unlike a hearing child I could not turn off the lights and sing to him or tell him a story that might make his eyes heavy. No, we were up most of the night but at least we had found home.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Variables and how we made a choice

About 8 years ago......

In my last two posts I began the story of how we chose to move for our son. Our goal was to downsize so we could spend more time together. I was also pregnant with my daughter and wanted to be a normal family that eats dinner together at home not on a television set working crazy hours.

In order to do this and live a comfortable life style we needed to move. The dream we had before my son was born was to move to a small coastal town in northern California. The problem with that is he is Deaf. He needs a good school, Deaf community and a pool of qualified interpreters. We needed a community that was very Deaf. A state school seemed ideal.

Of course we wanted to move to Freemont but realized our job skills were so specific work would be hard to come by and money would be an issue. We thought maybe we could move somewhere and learn new trades so we could move to Freemont later. Riverside was an option but not what we wanted. We visited a school in San Diego but again what would we do for money and this program was only through elementary. Another thought we had was we wanted to settle somewhere and grow roots.

We didn't want to get SSI for my son so we needed to have a viable income. We thought if we got SSI he would be taught the mind set of dependence. I knew people who didn't get married or look for better employment because they didn't want to loose SSI. I never want my son to think he needs to depend on the government to survive or improve his life. I wanted him to enter the world as an adult expecting and getting a full life. It also felt like SSI implied disability and my son was full of ability. I fully support people who need this service but didn't feel we should plan on it. So we needed to find new careers.

We have family in Portland and Seattle. If we moved to Salem or Vancouver we could see them often. My father in law offered my husband a job in Vancouver as a salesman in a brokerage. Bingo. Well maybe, my husband is not the salesman type but we decided to take the leap.

We were concerned about the state school but had hope we could influence Haddy's education. We committed to move.

We started flying up every weekend to look at houses. This was a big adventure for my son. He loved hotels and airplanes. It was March and we saw a freak snow storm. He got used to riding around looking at houses. He was four years old and the world was just a big party.

One day we were going to look at a house and we parked the car across the street from the house we were going to see. Usually we parked in front of the house. Sometimes he moves really fast with great confidence. Well that day he jumped out of the car before we could tell him which house and he dashed straight up to the door of the nearest house and......I leaped out of the car in hot pursuit.....he reached for the door...I screamed to my husband.....he turned the knob......I ran followed by my husband....he disappeared in the house which was not for sale!

A second later I was standing in a strangers living room. About four kids and two adults were all sitting watching TV with the most frightened looks on their faces staring at my little blond deaf cherub who had a confused look on his face. Slow motion...I looked son looked at me....the strangers sat frozen .....Of course this scared all of us. I apologized and snatched Haddy. From then on he asked us which house we were going to view. We would make a list and show him pictures talking about the features of each house.

None of the houses we saw were right for us. We wanted a cute old house with wood floors. Wood floors are great for deaf kids. Wood allows vibration to travel clear. If you are deaf you get this. Music, amp, fun. Stomp, turn, conversation. One day we saw the perfect house. It was cute, great for a dog, and had wood floors under the carpet.


So we are going to DeafNation in Las Vegas but can't book our trip because we don't know the schedule yet. Haddy is twelve does anyone know the best time for him to go? We keep waiting for the site to give a conference schedule.
So far we are thinking Sunday-Wednesday.

Gosh the schedule is so DST hee hee

Moving Forward

About 8 years ago......

So My husband and I decided we needed to quit the film business in order to have a more rich family life. The education options in Los Angeles were OK for the very early years but a state school seemed more appealing. If we quit our careers Los Angeles would no longer be affordable.

The school my son was attending was a bi/bi program in a not so safe part of town. The building was in need of repair and the play ground was a focus of my fund raising efforts. My son was the only white kid which never seemed to be an issue for us. We wanted our son to be around all kinds of people and welcomed cultural diversity. The families were awesome and most learned ASL. Every day a group of moms would take the school bus to school with their kids and go to sign class. After that they would wait in a small parents room for school to get out. That always impressed me.

So we decided to check out WSD in Vancouver. We flew up to visit and when we drove up to the campus my son got excited and pointed to a grass divider in front of the school, "Look at the playground!". His school in LA didn't have grass on the play ground so this huge campus with tons of grass looked like a dream to him. We took a tour and the thing that startled me most was the class he would be joining. There where only 6 kids! His class in LA had 18 with 3 lead teachers. The funny thing we noticed was all the kids were white. So we would be giving up diversity and peers. Another thing that startled me was everyone was so amazed at my son's signing. So this would mean the other children were not as fluent? For some reason I had imagined all the kids at a state school would be native signers but this was not the case. I had always had this image in my mind that a state school would be some sort of Deaf nirvana for my son.

The other problem was the school had no language policy but the teacher was deaf so that was a plus. Everyone used sign in the classroom but there was no ASL curriculum for the children which seemed really stupid to me. Kids get English instruction why wouldn't deaf kids get instruction in their native language. We used ASL to teach my son English and he was far ahead of other kids his age. The curriculum was not bi/bi but I am a strong advocate so I felt pretty confident I could guide his education in the right direction.

So we left the school a little disappointed but hopeful. We flew back home to think and look at other options.