Saturday, December 18, 2010

Mom, I Miss Deaf Culture

My son is thirteen and mainstreamed full time. A few years back I would have never imagined that. I am a big advocate for bi/bi education and allowing deaf kids to be involved in deaf culture. I wanted my son to learn language in a natural visual way. I thought I was doing everything right. Same old story.

As he grew he out paced his peers which brought on the dilemma of what to do with him. He didn't fit in with his own culture. The other kids didn't go home to a family that signed. The other families didn't do what we do. We are a needle in a hay stack.

He is now at a charter art school. It is a huge deal that he got in. He scored 90% on his state reading test last year...... whoopee. By the way I hate those tests. The thing that kills me is he is Deaf.

So every day he goes to school. He puts up with so much crap just to get information. I get so frustrated but he just moves on. Yes, he has friends but they use a text screen and home signs to communicate. Maybe some folks think that is character building but I know as a child I was able to have open free conversations.. one third of his new education involves music. Did I mention he is really deaf?

Tonight he tells me he misses deaf culture. I have two reactions. One is relief. One is sadness. I am relieved he still has roots with the deaf community. He will always find it. Maybe I am relieved because we invested everything in that. I am sad because he doesn't have the access he once did.

My kid is much smarter than me. He tells me he just needs a week. He just needs to see his old friends. He tells me he loves his new school because he is an artist. His plan is to make a documentary. He will tell the world what it is like to be deaf. He wants to make a film about the world of being a deaf kid from all angles. He is planning this so he can go to WSD and see his friends. He is also planning this to teach hearing people that deaf people have a different way of socializing, communicating and being..

So he tells me he will ask for the support of his two favorite teachers. He tells me that a friend in college already volunteered to direct.

So it is 4 am and I am done writing this post. If you are a mom you understand why I am awake.


  1. This is so sad and frustrating. I'm glad he has such a caring mom like you


  2. Wow! I totally understand, my son is the only Hard of hearing student at his school. At times, he is sad because he knows he is not communicating with others as fluently as he could. he is so smart and doing so well academically, although I know I could place him at CSD I know he is above and beyond what they are teaching his grade level, it would be purely to get his social fill. its a tough situation, and eats at me sometimes :(

    perhaps an extra active social deaf life is the answer !

  3. I totally get why you're awake. And, I'm so glad you share these stories. They show what it takes to live an authentic life and to encourage your kids to do so, too. They show, too, that your children are -- what an amazing gift.

    HUGS and peace, my friend!

  4. It's a little early to be looking forward to college where he can get the social stimulation he craves...but if he's outpacing his fellows, it could happen earlier than expected. I attended Gallaudet at age 16 after running through all the courses at my state school for the deaf...not the best age to be mixing with much older students, by the way.

    Seeking extra stimulation programs like taking a class or two at a community college while in high school might be possible. In New York high achieving juniors and seniors are permitted to take courses at RIT or Monroe Community College at no extra cost and earn credit. The advantage is to keep them close by home and in high school until the mellow old age of 18.

    Another possibility is obtaining part time work when he is 14, and stretch out his required courses in school till 18.

    Still another is to add vocational training courses (even if he is on an academic track) on the premise that knowing a trade is always useful in some way. Either as a backup in case of employment shortage or as a moneysaving skill when he is an adult.

    Being out of phase with one's fellows is always a tough situation to be in, and it only gets better in the mid-20's when everybody catches up to one another.

  5. Hmmm.... he's getting to be an age where socialization becomes an IMPORTANT part of the educational experience. He seems to be happy where he is now, and definitely, an arts school is a great fit for him, but you may want to watch him closely (I know you already are) and see if there are signs he might not be as happy being among primarily Hearing students all day. It might be time to start considering a school for the Deaf.

  6. Yes I understand! Being a mom is constant worry.

  7. I'm 37. I make lots of vlogs. And unfortunately, I get MANY emails from deaf teenagers who asked me for my videophone. Their reasons? They wanted to talk about anything else. They wanted to sign back and forth. I give them my VP and listen to their stories ... after I read your article about your kid missing Deaf Culture. I quickly thought of these deaf teenagers who contacted me -- they are all mainstreamed kids.

    What can I do? I just listen and allow them to talk what is on their minds. That's the best thing I can do for these young kids.


  8. Tami here....Mel, Thanks for sharing this. Socialization is a great part of the educational process. So much indirect learning happens through social interaction with peers who are fluently communicating with each other. Support systems are built. There are pros and cons to all educational environments. Some may have better academics...some may cater to the arts...some may have greater accessibility to the curriculum...some may provide for a better social environment. How do we as parents give our children it all? Probably not possible..but we can listen to them and be ready to make adjustments.
    You are a lucky mom that you have a son who confides in you. Your son is lucky to have a family willing to do anything for his happiness. I know you will get it figured out.

    One thing I always say to parents....What do you remember most about your school years? Is it sitting in class or is it all the activities, proms, sports, and friends that you had during your school years?
    Academics are important but so is socialization and finding educational environments and later work environments where you fit in and are happy.

  9. Ridor's comment gave me an idea. Instead of these deaf kids talking to him on their VP's, why can't they talk to each other after school on their VP's? Of course a phone conversation isn't the same as real face to face socialization but it could be a start?

  10. Oh yeah, I get why you're awake-- I've had my nights of pondering what to do, too. My oldest two are in high school and they drive 80 miles round trip three times a week to do a deaf play and get their social time in. They go to a high school with 70 other deaf kids in the mainstream. My youngest is in the mainstream alone-- so we do sleep overs with other deaf kids. I ponder a lot with my youngest one but I'm thankful that in a year, he'll be in high school with his sister.

    Never easy on this parenting journey!

  11. Your comments are awesome, thanks!

    So my son tells me he doesn't want to go back to the state school. He just wants to be around deaf people. We went to a party last week that was Deaf, felt like home.

    Here is the plan. He is working with some teachers from both schools to have a blended theater company after school. I am impressed because in my crazy mind it would be best if there was one world where we all enjoy the diverse offerings of every culture.

    He is also thinking of a documentary film he wants to produce to show hearing people what his life is like. He also wants to invite other mainstream kids to be followed. Again his plan includes a blended crew.

    Parenting is not easy and I often wonder why I was the one picked to parent my particular kids...... I can't even parent myself sometimes but the journey has such rewards.

  12. mel
    thanks for sharing - i hard read this blog entry a few days ago but no time to comment. i immediately thought - oh Haddy should do something with film too.

    i have always dreamed that a Zoom (old PBS show) would be made using Deaf and Hearing tweens and teens - doing those problem solving puzzles, those science projects, those interviews with a VIP person, and abudabe talk (that would be very cool in sign smile)

    so when i read ur blog entry - i thought well maybe this kid can pull something off at his arts school with support of course

    if ya need a donation let me know! i aint got much but i like to invest it in potential and the good stuff

    re: parenting oh dear - our daughter is big teen now and has decided SHE is better suited to be mom - what a drag smile. I much preferred when i was the mom of the house ; ) and i think her little brother does too

    but more often than naught - i get to sit back and see - aw she is turning out mighty nice and does do plenty of things better than me

    i trust u and i will both survive this ride