Saturday, January 30, 2010

Update on learning math

I wrote about my son's difficulty understand the language of math. I changed his service from a note taker to pull out pre teaching and wow what a difference! Here is a brief update.

I noticed this simple change was facilitated by input from Deaf adults, my sister and the staff. It took dialogue with his with his interpreter and teacher . It really helped to get comments on the original post and input from Deaf teacher friends. The problem was we were trying to fix things by adding more ineffective support and not really addressing the problem. My sister is a college professor and shares the same learning style as my son so she was big help offering ideas on how to teach concepts in a way that would work for him.

Before the change the teacher was stopping class to ask if he understood and asking other students to tap him when he needed to look up. They didn't ask him first if he wanted this so of course he was offended. He hated the note taking because it was just pages of numbers.

So he had his first real pull out last week. He was so excited! He told me everything in class was so clear for the first time. He loves taking his own notes. Here is what it looks like,

Twice a week he is pulled for 15 minutes at the start of the day. A teacher shows him the broad concepts of what he will be learning in math and science. Vocabulary is isolated that is new and he comes up with the signs for the words or concepts with the help of his interpreter. So by the end of the day when he enters class he has a foundation to work with. He can connect the written and signed language. The teacher is slowing down class to allow time for him to take his own notes so he internalizes the information and practices concepts. So far it is working great. There may be some glitches to iron out but it is a 100% improvement from the traditional model of note taker and tutoring after the class. It took his math IEP minutes down from 100 a week to 30.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

It took 72 minutes to drive five blocks


I was running late to pick up my son from rehearsal Saturday so I drove. The sun was out so I preferred to walk but nothing I could do. When we walk home we have such great conversations and bonding time. We only live about five long blocks away but it takes 15 minutes to walk it and I didn't want him to worry so I drove.


I had some papers for the director so I went up to the theater. I walked in and saw an interpreter I have known for about 8 years. He is good, really good. We started talking and I told him about the lousy interpreter my son had at school as a sub and how mad I was. His regular interpreters were awesome. He told me district interpreters are not the best

He was surprised to see my son there just because we only see each other at the deaf school meetings or functions. He asked if Haddy was full time. Yep I responded this is his new school. He was really happy. It is cool to see a Deaf kid go beyond what people expect.

In regular Deaf culture fashion (he and the other interpreter are not Deaf but still part of the community in this small town) we all talked until everyone had already left. Alone we stood in the parking lot. I told him I had tried to convince other parents to apply to this school but with no luck. There are several Deaf kids I know that would do great here but are not doing so great where they are at. He promised to spread the word. Both interpreters wanted to come see the show after watching the rehearsal. The bummer is it costs $30-$40 a ticket. It includes a gourmet Cuban dinner but still a lot of folks we know can't afford to pay that for a play. I really wish some Deaf folks would come.
It is now dark out.

So my son and I jump in my car and the long drive home commences. First he turns on the overhead light.
"Mom tonight was awesome!!!!"
We talked about his play. The light goes off. I can't drive with the light on but all of my Deaf friends can.


I start the car and drive. He is starting to sign. So we pull over in the parking lot. He has a funny story about the night to tell me.

I tell him I love how much fun he is having and start to drive. Out on the street he starts to sign again. Wait for the red light ahead I tell him. Recently he decided to sit in front since he can now. The problem for me, a hearing mom, is I spent the last 11 years watching my son sign from the back seat though my rear view mirror. I don't have the eye muscles to watch from the side of my head like my deaf friends. In fact I also need new glasses


We chat at the light. Oops green.


He asked me to pull over. I do. We sit and chat.


I drive on. Soon we will be home. "Wait mom!" He wants to tell me about his theater informace which is different from the play. Next Tuesday. Pull over and chat.


We made it home

Friday, January 22, 2010

Let me spell it out for you

Right now...............

Please read the following line once and don't look at it again

mahtsy ckosstene fodsopenfy

We will refer to it in ASL as "mcf" for the rest of this post

It is the term used to describe the process of making toasters from tofu.

Last week...............

I realized an area that my son has a problem is math in a mainstream class. So the topic that holds me tonight is English working side by side with ASL. My son has had direct instruction in sign language for his entire life for the most part until this year. Now he is head fist into a hearing environment.

He has always been way above grade level in math. This was a problem at the deaf school because the other kids in class were below for the most part. He could have gotten much further there if he was challenged at his level. In his new mainstream school he was placed in an advanced class. I was so excited for him. Then I noticed he wasn't doing homework. He complained the teacher talked really fast and he needed to take notes. If he did he couldn't see the interpreter so within the first ten minutes he was lost.

I set up a meeting and we got him a note taker. I thought the problem was solved but still he wasn't learning and he hated the notes.

Sometimes when he is stuck he goes to the teachers office without the interpreter and in minutes he has it all figured out and flies through the work. Something just doesn't match up.

Then it all became clear. One night he was staring at his homework. It was a sheet of paper full of equations. Across the top was " Find the least common denominator". He pointed to that an asked what it means. I was shocked he had been sitting in class hours before and he didn't have a clue what was taught.

So here is the problem from my point of view. English is the teachers second language. The interpreter has to remix her lesson into English then ASL. Sometimes she is hard to understand and speaks very fast. Hayden got confused and just gave up. The other problem is when the teacher introduces a new concept the interpreter finger spells first then gives it a sign." Least common denominator" becomes LCD. My son sees the fingrspelling but only sees the shape of the phrase and remembers maybe the first part of the spelling. He is not taking notes so he has no idea later that LCD is the work he needs to do because he doesn't recognize the written English term. So the math terms are like learning a new language. He is not taking notes so he doesn't internalize the information or practice the concepts. The notes have very little English language and are just the equations so useless.

So to solve the problem the teacher slowed down. She has 1 page lessons she gives to him before class so he already can see the equations and written English. The notes are clear and can be read in minutes. He needs to understand the print version before he sees the ASL. So far great!

Right now.....................

So please spell "mcf" from memory please

Friday, January 15, 2010

Music To My Eyes

We always wanted our son to try anything he wanted to. We never wanted to assume he couldn't do something because he was deaf. Music is something we never thought he would enjoy. We are hearing and our relationship to music as far as we knew was strictly auditory so we couldn't really understand why he would have any interest. Music is a part of our daily lives so we wanted to make sure he knew it was there and if he wanted he could experience it somehow. When he was very little we set the speaker on the hard wood floor and let him sit on it. It was fun for a short while then he became bored.

In our pursuit to make sure he got the most of an event that featured music we allowed him to get right next to the source. This often caused a stir. While other parents were very careful to avoid loud noise with their young children to protect their fragile hearing we chased after it with gusto. We might lift him right up to a giant speaker so he could feel it. Horrified other parents would glare at us. This always made me giggle.

I remember when I was visiting the charter school in Los Angeles a teacher walked me up to the school dance. The music was really loud and the kids were dancing. I was startled because it didn't occur to me deaf kids would enjoy that.

About a year ago we went to a concert with some friends who also have kids. We asked my son if he wanted us to bring a balloon to better feel the music. He was too embarrassed. I brought the balloons and handed them out to every child and told them they could feel the music with it. Soon the small crowd was full of kids holding balloons and my son could just blend in. That night he danced with us.

Since he has been going to the Arts school he has discovered music and rhythm. On the way to school today he found a CD in the car and put it in. He turned up the volume and searched for the speaker with his hand. I showed him where it was. He asked what kind of music it was. Reggae I reply. He sat for a brief time and told me he liked it. All the rest of the way he listened with his hand. He told me dad didn't think he would like the way it feels but he did. They have been sharing music at home. Later they would talk about it.

Tonight at 7pm my family, minus my deaf son, sat down in the theater at school and waited for him to dance. It was his first formal performance at school. The kids are required to perform or exhibit for every art form. I sat there and saw my Deaf son dance with the hearing kids. He danced without any challenge. Not a soul new he was deaf. I applauded with hands high waving.

As we left tonight the advanced dance kids were collecting money for a trip to a dance event in Florida. Every time someone tossed money in the bucket they cheered really loud. My son took up some money and they waved their hands high in the air with huge smiles. I love this school.

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.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Blog Salad

I like to have a point or idea for each post but today all I have is a bit of random stuff that seems important to me.

First I was so pleased to see the new Superintendent for WSD, Jane Mulholland, contributed a New Years Resolution to the World Around You. WSD is making changes for the better and I am so happy to see this happen. Cheers Jane and Bill!

About that, last night was the PAC meeting regarding these changes. I was suppose to go and looked forward to it. My daughter got really sick with a high fever so I had to cancel. My son is now mainstreamed but that school is in a position to help deaf children. Our family fully supports that and wants to help in any way we can. One thing I notice is often parents only think about the success of their own child. Of course this is natural but I feel it is important to think of all deaf children. I believe my son is not growing up in a bubble and the interests of all Deaf kids effect him. Maybe if everyone worked together all these kids could get the most out of their education. These are his peers and community so I believe it is my responsibility to be involved. That is why I was so upset I couldn't go.

On to another topic that I am not sure if I should laugh or cry. It is the reason for my last post.

My son is not the most organized kid in town. He also loves to check out books from the library. I found a paper today listing the books he had out. To date he has checked out 84 books since September. Of those 3 are current, 21 are overdue. The cost of the 21 books would be $175. Uh, not OK. So I grab a bag and dig. I filled the bag and took it to him at school before ASL club. On rehearsal nights he is there until at least 8pm so I bring dinner around 4pm when he has a break. Today he got dinner and a bag of books.

He really wanted to go to club because rehearsal started soon and he would only be there a short time. Too bad kiddo I am not paying for the books. So we go to the library. He puts the books in the return box and dashes out the door to get to club. The librarian was watching and I cracked a joke about his book issues. Here is what followed,

"Thank you so much"

" Oh no thank you for being patient. I had no idea he had so many out"

" Well I didn't know if he knew he had to return them"

* I felt like I was on a hidden camera show. This sweet woman had no idea how stupid she sounded*

So how do I react? My son has had a library card since he was 4 1/2. Of course he knows how to return books. I had a couple of choices.

1. Anger at ignorant hearing person,

*serious face*

"My son is Deaf. He is not stupid. If you have an issue with him not returning books tell him. It is your job to communicate with my son. Did you notice he reads at an adult level? Yes? Well why do you think he wouldn't figure out he needed to return the books to the LIBRARY?"

Hmmm.... how would she respond? What was her intent? What does she know about Deaf kids? What would I accomplish?

2. Empathy for uneducated hearing person who means well,

She probably has never met a deaf person. Since she has never "talked" with him she may assume he isn't really able to navigate the world. She is trying to give him extra room because he can't help his "disability". I am empathetic to that. How can I educate her so she will listen to my message?

"Haddy? No he totally understands the concept of library. He is just a bit of a bibliophile and happens to be twelve. If he does this again just cut him off and you will see how fast the books come back. *insert a chuckle for good measure* . Now if I just have to convince him to pick up his laundry. Yikees he is starting to act like a teenager! *big smile* "

The last thing that comes to mind is my son unscrewed the thing we put in his room to flash the light when we want to get his attention. Ugh, he is starting to act like a teenager.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Deaf Power

There are some many moments I can remember that helped my son define a sense of self. Those moments where you realize who you are. The trick for me is helping him process this information. Here is just a snap shot.

About 9 years ago......

When he turned three and not a day later he started preschool. We were really excited to move away from the adversarial relationship with early intervention. This new place was our sanctuary. He was our first child and commanded most of our attention so this transition ,although welcome, was an emotional roller coaster. The idea of leaving him alone terrified me.

We walked up to the door and were greeted by a Deaf teacher. My son looked in and I asked if we should go in or just leave him. He told me either way but usually it is easier to just say good bye and leave. Oh, OK.

My son ' "Come on" gestured for us to go in the room with him.

Me, " No, this is your school. You are a big boy and get to go alone. I am so proud of you"

Then in true Haddy fashion he said bye and walked in. Of course I cried all the way home.

We waited after school counting the minutes. Finally we saw him lining up to come out. He ran to the fence beaming and full of joy. " Mom I am a white person!"

I was standing there in shock. His first day of school and this is what he learned. I hadn't even noticed that he was the only fair skinned blond kid in the class. He was so excited to have discovered a label for himself. It was a matter of fact and it was his.

This new information was easy to process. We had no trouble helping him understand. It is something we share as a family. It is not good or bad just a physical fact. He was passing through the gates all children do. They one day realize girls and boys are different, that they can tie their shoes (or not in my son's case) and that people come in all shapes and sizes.

About 3 years ago......

What was not so easy was helping him find his place as a Deaf person. There came a point where I felt he needed to learn about deaf history and culture in a real way. I think he was about nine and he lived a rather protected life at the state school. He didn't like that I made him attend his IEP meetings and got a little embarrassed that I was always trying to change things. I wasn't like the other moms and he felt self conscience.

So I pulled out all the books I had bought and had him read. Then he became angry. He had no idea how unjust the world can be. Hearing people suck. Deaf Power.

At this point I understood that he should be angry but I wondered if a life filled with anger was what he would really want. I tried to imagine what he felt. I tried to think of things in my life that make me feel that way so I could help him navigate his feelings. There had to be something out of my control of the same magnitude.

Left Handed Power! .............uh nope

Tall Lady That Can't Sing Power! .......seriously?

Can't Spell Power! ......uh still not working

There it is plain as day. We do not share this. I can not try and control his feelings or change them. I don't own him. I can however help him work through whatever he is feeling.

Of course I pointed out that his parents are hearing. That doesn't count he tells me. Oh right. We get a kind of special pass at least until he is the age of independence.

So I decided to check out other historically oppressed groups. Bingo! You don't have to go far to find examples of a group of people who have had their rights violated. The choice he had to make was how he would define himself as a Deaf person. How would he face this world with all of its imperfections? He could lead a protest march to the House Ear institute. This would be a powerful way to vent anger but what would it accomplish? We talked about hearing people just not knowing. The need to educate not aggravate. We talked about the power of diplomacy and unity. We talked about the strength of self acceptance. We talked and talked.


We still talk about this. Last night he decided to catch up on my blog. He recently was asked to advocate for ASL in deaf education. He wasn't sure what to say. His life is not, from his perspective, in need of struggle or advocacy. So he read my blog and we talked. He isn't angry anymore so much but every now and then shocked. He now knows what to say.

With his sense of identity comes a responsibility. With his knowledge of self he must make choices about what he can or should do. I can't control that but I hope the choices he makes are are true to him and aware of the greater picture. I hope the way he decides to enter the world is full of confidence and empathy. I hope that empathy empowers him to help change the world he shares with others.