Thursday, August 26, 2010

"DUDE, please become an interpreter"

I got a really great comment on this post

This person has some very good points and I was wondering what the best solution might be. The issue is that I have found myself stepping in to interpret.

The first point I want to explore is why I don't get certified. Well there are many reason but the most important is I don't want to complicate my role as advocate and parent. I think if I did get certified people would assume I could interpret for him. I also don't want to go back to school and get certified just to send the right message. I just don't have time and it would take time away from other topics we deal with. To be honest I don't like interpreting for him and only do it when it is absolutely necessary from my perspective. I agree it is not good for a parent to interpret for their child.

So here comes the question and my second point I want to explore. What should I do? If my son wants to join a class that has 10 students taught by a private instructor who interprets? By law the teacher doesn't have to pay. I can't afford someone qualified. So do I tell him to wing it? Just copy the other kids? Or do I just tell him he doesn't get to go? My solution for this was to just go and do it myself. The quality of the experience was more important to us than the politics. The law is not a magic wand and I want my son to enjoy his interests like every other kid.

On the other hand once he needed a dentist. I was new to the city and did some research on who had enough income and employees to be bound by law to provide an interpreter. I had to fight for three months to get this. I called the DOJ and the dental association to get it resolved. Not one person I knew at the time thought to ask for this. After we won the battle several deaf children now have access. So for me this was a battle worth fighting.

Here is another problem. What if his rights are not in his best interest? Yesterday at the last minute he signed up for an audition for a musical at school. He had to report this morning at 10:30 Am. This means he needs time prior to the audition to rehearse with the interpreter. When he signed up the office was closing so they couldn't get the request in until morning. This means he would have to settle for who they could find at the last minute. Many of the district interpreters are not qualified to work an audition and even if by chance he did get a good one that person would have to memorize the timing and lyrics of a song and work through a monologue with him.He didn't have time to count out the song and memorize the timing so he needed someone who could cue this. So the bottom line is even though we both would of preferred an interpreter it was more likely he would preform better if I did it. If he gets a part they will hire a team of qualified interpreters for the run of the show. So hire one for the audition and blow it or maybe get the part and employ several people for three months?

I remember an evaluation meeting for my son at the deaf school. Everyone could sign and there was one deaf staff. They didn't get an interpreter. We all agreed to this since the meeting would be conducted in ASL. Well during a meeting a hearing woman from the school district walks in and sits down. I stop the meeting and ask who she was. I ask if she signs. No she tells us. I tell her she will not understand the meeting. The deaf teacher offers to leave so we can talk. I refuse to let that happen. We finished the meeting with people filling her in on the main points. I refused to allow anyone to simcom. To me this was important and this woman learned she needed to make sure she had accommodation at the deaf school.

So I am not perfect. I don't have all the answers and I make mistakes. If you have the answer please share it with me. Sorry for any typos my eyes are tired from learning the lyrics for the audition.


  1. I LOVE what you did with the Hearing woman from the district! That kind of "fill in/summarize" stuff is EXACTLY what we Deaf get all the time without interpreters there, and you made the meeting Deaf-centric! KUDOS!

  2. When my deaf daughter was younger, she would sign up for classes like ballet, Girl Scouts, and league soccer. I would contact the local college ASL interpreting program and ask for students who needed practicum hours. It was a win-win situation. My daughter got access; the student got feedback from a deaf adult/mother. When she started playing for her high school lacrosse team, the school paid for her interpreting services.

    (on a side note, I love your blog...your blog brings me memories of my children and decisions we have had to make. My son is in his second year at college, and my daughter is a high school senior.)

  3. Hey thanks Don.

    Great point Maria. We have done that and it works great in some environments.

    The complicated issue for Haddy is when he is involved in the art forms. Often the interpreters have no theater, dance or art background. In some cases it just makes it worse. If the interpreter doesn't understand the language of theater they can make Haddy look stupid.

    This is the best example. Just thinking about it made me laugh so hard I spit coffee on my keyboard.

    Haddy came running up to me freaked out one rehearsal night. I was volunteering in another area of the school.
    "mom! The interpreter told me to get a CONDOM!!!"
    Turns out he was wanted in wardrobe and the interpreter made a very big mistake with the sign. I felt sorry for her because she was in way over her head in this environment. She would of been great in a class room.

    Hey thanks for the kind words about my blog!

  4. You are correct. There did come a day when my daughter started to notice the fluency levels of the student-interpreters and would start asking for replacements. We attempted that and it did not always work. Unfortunately, both of my kids have their "war stories" of interpreters' errors, sigh...story of our lives, I suppose...keep up the blog.