Saturday, October 9, 2010

From Deaf School To Mainstream

I thought about the transition my son is going through moving from a deaf school to a mainstream school. He was in a voice off program from age 3 until he entered 6th grade at age 11. I have to admit I was nervous for him. I am a mom and I worried he would be lonely or his interpreter would suck. I worried he would fall behind because he didn't have direct instruction. I worried the teachers wouldn't be on board. I worried that because he was the only deaf kid he would be treated differently. Some of this happened but for the most part it was an amazing transition. Here are some things that I noticed.

Somehow the kids all knew he was coming. The first few weeks were funny because random kids would swarm him all day in the halls and at lunch. They were eager to try and sign with him. He was exotic like a foreign exchange student. This was a shock to me. I thought like a lot hearing people the kids would be frightened to try and communicate with him I had heard so many stories of bullies. It was also a bit overwhelming for him. He was trying to get oriented and the attention was a little overwhelming. None of this was a big deal. He decided a couple of weeks in to face this head on. He made a sign that said "Free Hugs" and walked the halls with it to everyone delight.

There was the issue of music. The school is an arts magnet so there is music everywhere even in core academic classes. One teacher forget about Haddy being deaf and didn't plan for a music based lesson.
Teacher, " Listen to the song and create.."
Haddy, " I am still deaf"
The teacher scrambles around looking for a solution. She is determined to involve him. She finds a small speaker and hands it to Haddy. He leans in as if to listen and says,
"Still deaf"
The tension is broken and the class erupts in laughter.

One thing that he needed to learn is how to socialize with hearing kids. The deaf school culture was different. They tease in a different way and have different slang. I love watching him develop this skill. The kids at the art school are his tribe and his has a lot of friends who get him up to speed.

Getting the interpreter worked out is a pain and I know we are not alone on this. He is really active after school so last minute arrangements are sometimes sticky.

Some of the movies they watch are too old for captions, that sucks. His interpreter had to interpret an 1 1/2 hour movie on stage alone. The school is trying to learn though , it just takes time to iron out the wrinkles.

So the is just a wee bit of the transition issues. I can't believe I was so worried. He is in heaven in the mainstream school. I still would send him to the deaf school first. I really think it helped him academically and emotionally. If I could go back a change something I think I wouldn't worry so much.


  1. Well stated (HUGS from another worry-mom)!


  2. Awesome.
    Bullying happens, but it's not necessarily the norm. I got bullied by one or two people throughout my school years, but generally most people were good to me.
    My biggest challenge was making friends I could really communicate with, since most didn't make the effort to become fluent in sign language.
    I like Haddy's "still deaf" response. :)

  3. Hey thanks! The social stuff is surprising to me. I let him sign up for facebook and gave him a phone to use the text screen.
    That helps. The ASL classes have a waiting list and kids are motivated to learn. The hard thing is they can't take ASL until the 8th grade so it is harder to make friends his own age but he seems to be making it work.

    Thanks for the comment!