Monday, May 31, 2010

So We Read

My son sat and read this blog tonight. For the first time he really read it. From the start. He smiled and laughed. He told me he loved me. He laughed again.

It is of sound purpose.

It serves the purpose.

He is not alone. Thank you for your comments.

We are all different. We all want life to go our way. We can still respect the difference.

He is still Deaf. We still live with hamsters who have noisy wheels.


Sunday, May 30, 2010

Hearing Deaf Son

I posted earlier about hiring a deaf teacher at my school. She was raised oral and began to learn ASL when she was nineteen. I have had so many interesting conversations with her. She struggles to find a place in the deaf world. She takes ASL classes and wants to meet more deaf people. Her ASL teacher is one of my son's acting teachers and a I have worked with him at theater camp. It strikes me that I am hearing yet have more connections to her culture.

One conversation we had when she first started comes to mind today. When she applied for the job she told us she was hard of hearing. She later tells me she is profoundly deaf and relies on speech reading to communicate. She can't hear our voices at all.

I don't know anyone who uses the term hard of hearing. In my world you are Deaf or hearing. When people ask me if I am deaf I reply, "hearing Deaf son". ASL is the way we communicate so it doesn't really matter how much someone can hear. I was surprised last year when the interpreter that show up for my sons mainstream intake meeting was a Deaf teacher from the state school! I had no idea he could hear. In my world deaf is just like hair color or gender.

So I was talking with the new teacher and I asked her if she preferred deaf or hard of hearing. She asked me what I thought. I told her I respect what she wants. I told her my friends are just deaf. Turns out she likes to be called Deaf. She was raised to hide this. She now wants to learn to embrace it. She tells me for the first time she has a job where she can be Deaf.

My boss loves our new teacher and asked me what I thought. I told her it is hard for hearing people to understand but I have a comfort, a relaxed feeling with her that I never had with the other teachers. We share a connection that allows for an easy working relationship. Outside of work I sign. Now I don't have to leave that at home. The kids are learning to face people when they talk and their signing skills have improved quickly. She also happens to be a really fantastic teacher.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Teaching Animal Signs

I teach preschool age children and find some of the most effective lessons come to me when the kids need to be redirected.

Last week I found a great way to teach and review animal signs. Two children were about to melt down over the use of our rocking chairs. We have two adult size and one child size. A teacher suggested they take turns and one boy on the verge of tears proclaimed," I need the tiniest chair!".

From across the room in a very low tone I said, " Oh my gosh their is something in my pocket!"

Of course all eyes are now on me because anything in my pocket always tuns out to be magic. I reach in and pull my hand out seemingly cupping a treasure. I peek into my cupped hands and announce, "Friends look! " carefully opening my hands, " The world's tiniest rocking chair!"

By now all of the children are standing around me staring at my empty hands with reverence. I ask the boy if he felt gentle enough to take care of the chair. He nods yes and I slowly put it in his hand and tell him to keep it safe in his pocket. Well now they all want something from my pocket so I begin to pull out animals. As I do this I sign with my voice off. Soon their pockets are full of the world's tiniest animals and we have had a lesson about animal signs.

The children carry this game through the day building homes for their animals and trading them with friends. When their parents arrive I tell them to be very careful to check their pockets before doing the laundry.

Monday, May 17, 2010

How we teach and Zelda the hamster keeps me up

I was reading a post on (e's blog about learning colors. It got me thinking how much it helps to share ideas. In my class we play several games that could be played at home. My children range in age from 3-5. Here are a couple of ideas off the top of my head.

I came up with one when my kids were starting to run in class during free time. I don't like to constantly be telling children not to do something instead I like to redirect their attention. On the fly I blurted out, "Who wants to play Chutes and Ladders?" Of course they all did. I had to quickly come up with a game. We have a large basket of solid colored play silks. I started covering the floor with them. Laying them out in perfect squares next to each other. The children helped me grabbing the colors I was signing. When the floor was covered I told them to stand at one end and I was on the other end. I would sign a child's name and a color. The child then would jump to the color I signed. This continues until they have jumped to my end. They love this new game.

Another thing I do is add sign lessons to our regular lesson plan. If we are using modeling beeswax I hold up each color first and show them the sign for that color. Then I call on a child and sign "which color you want?" . They then sign the response and get the wax to play with. New students often ask with a single sign and the others with, "I want red please". I usually voice off during projects like this. The older students help the new and younger students. I find adults are more stressed about voice off than kids. The kids adapt so quickly to any language.

On another topic, my son got a hamster. She is so cute! The only problem is hamsters are nocturnal and Zelda loves to workout on her wheel all night. So well, my son soundly sleeps the rest of the family strains to ignore Zeldas squeaky wheel. Good thing she is so cute.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

When I grow up

I have a student

He wants to be an" Impact Craterologist'

He is studying all things that apply to impact craters. Things I know nothing about. When he is with me we study all things social, we learn to play and tease. When I am with my young friend impact craters are in his cubbie.

When I grow up I want to know him. I want to learn about impact craters.

I have a friend,

Her son loves impact craters, they saw this in a science magazine. Her son is my student. When she is with me we work on helping him find friends and learn how to play.

She is studying all things about impact craters........

I tell her, " Your son has made some friends"

I tell her he taught them about impact craters.....

I tell myself never listen to labels

Labels keep us from meeting the next" Impact Craterologist".

New Deaf Teacher, First Staff Meeting

Last week the school I work at hired a deaf teacher. I am so excited because now I have another adult to model ASL with. She is a perfect fit for us and we couldn't be happier. We have a very open attitude with each other since my son is deaf.

What is interesting is she is the first deaf adult that the other teachers have met.

We had our first staff meeting yesterday. We meet every month at a restaurant to pig out and get work done. This meeting was at a really great place in north Portland. Gravy is very busy and can get noisy. When we first sat down I noticed that our new teacher was talking very quietly. I asked her about that and she explained when she was married to a hearing man he taught her to talk softly in restaurants. He would drill her again and again until she got it right. I told her that sounds like a lot of work! She had that oh my god you get it expression on her face. "yes!" she replied. The other teachers are learning a lot.

When it was time to order the server asked if she wanted hash browns or potatoes with rosemary. She looked to me for clarification. I signed it to her. She then told the others that all her life growing up she never got the food she thought she ordered. During the meeting we talked a lot about being deaf. She was raised oral and mainstreamed without an interpreter. She tells us she never had any idea what was going on in class. As an adult she had to start from scratch and learn from the first grade up to get her GED so she could go to college.

I tell her I have never really had many oral friends and that most of our friends are Deaf. She tells me how sometimes Deaf people treat her like she is not good enough. This bothers me. She tells me I am the only parent she has met that signs with their deaf child.

While we all talk I fill in with ASL when someone turns away from her or her voice is to quiet to be heard in the noisy restaurant. The other teachers are learning. The great thing is her being deaf is just a side note. She was hired because of her personality and talent. We have had a high turn over with this position always settling. She is the first person whole just fit in so seamless from the moment she started.

We laughed about how the two of us hadn't even touched our food and the others were finished. You need your hands to eat and we were busy signing. We also talked about how I start a conversation talking and signing then stop talking while I eat and continue in sign forgetting the hearing staff hasn't learned enough ASL to follow.

What I love is how comfortable we all are. We can talk about deafness without politics, judgement or agenda. My hearing friends are learning a lot. They never really understood Haddy's life and now they are starting to get a glance into how we live. Best of all we finally have a complete team and we couldn't be happier.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Part Three- a conclusion?

This is a follow up on my previous posts about a student of mine who came to my school nonverbal.

So the young student I posted about went to the audiologist. They told the parents the test was not conclusive. There are many variables one being the ear infections. Yes they could do an ABR but not until the fluid is gone. They were also told that my student was not responsive to testing and maybe when she was older they could get an accurate read. Please note she is not yet three.

A week ago the ENT put tubes in her ears. He said in thirty years of doing that surgery he has never seen so much fluid come out. At school during circle time she suddenly will cover her ears. It is as if she is hearing for the first time. She heavily relies on ASL to communicate and we predict she will need SLP services for at least a year to catch up. Her speech has improved since her surgery.

She has a follow up appointment with the ENT and audiologist next week.

She came to my school in October. We hope next week we will have the answers we need to help her. It took eight months.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

To heck with the sign name someone hand me an advil

This is a post about how Deaf culture and mainstreaming has been a bit of a learning curve.

Topic- Sign Names and English Etiquette

At home when referring to his teachers my son will offer up a sign name and then fingerspell the last name of a teacher. I learn the sign name and move on.

At the deaf school the teachers had sign names often derived from their first name. One of his favorite teachers was named Alfred. His sign name was an A on the chest. His wife who was also a favorite was Lisa an L on the chest. A family sign name. I would use those signs as would my son when talking too or referring too them. This is polite in Deaf culture.

He had a teacher with long beautiful hair, her sign name was a P cascading down the hair. One teacher long ago had the sign name of turtle.

If we meet a deaf person we learn their whole name first and if we are friendly we learn the sign name.

Welcome to mainstream hearing teachers. Miss Tresvan, Mrs. Sacks, Mrs Mcmackin, Mr ...............

Well poo, we don't use that in our everyday conversations.

One day my son wanted to talk to a teacher after school about something cool in dance. We ran into the other dance teacher in the hall and he ran up excited asking,

"Do you know where Sacks is?"

"Sacks" (fingerspelled) is Mrs. Jackie Sacks' sign name. I made the mistake of literally interpreting "Sacks". The other teacher looked offended just a wee bit and replied,

"You are looking for MRS. Sacks?"

Me: " Yikes sorry that is a deaf thing"

Her not really getting my awkward response and still looking at Haddy, " She has a show tonight so she left and will be back one hour before curtain"

She was nice enough but I could tell she took my son's question as a bit rude. It was my fault because "Sacks" is a sign name in ASL if I were really a good interpreter I would have said, "Mrs. Sacks".

I trip, I fall, I get back up.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Do you sign in your dreams?

When my son was younger he would sometimes sign in his sleep the same way many of us talk in their sleep. This morning he was telling me in great detail about a weird dream he had and I got to wondering.

"Do you sign in your dreams?"

"Sometimes but in my dreams it is mostly brain talk. The brains just talk to each other."


So we had a great day and the highlight was going to see Cirque Du Soleil. Cirque manages to be not just a fantastic show but for the most part an accessible show for a deaf kid. My mom saw it last week and told me it was too loud but for us the noise allowed for him to feel the music through his body.

It is very visual and doesn't have much to interpret which is good because some of the acts were so scary I needed my hand free to hold his. The talent in that show is unbelievable. I knew when he saw it he would be hooked. He now aspires to be a clown or actor for the company (along with a novelist, graphic comic book author and artist, dancer , stand up comic and actor as a back up). I think that would be a perfect job. A lot of the talent comes from non English speaking countries so why not a Deaf person? He came home and ordered all of the Cirque movies from Netflix.

I like to get out in the world and show both of my kids life outside of the daily grind. Dreaming is so important for children in my opinion. I tell them both we try things first before we decide it doesn't work. If they can see all of the rich potential in life I think it will help them take chances and live a full life. Or at least I hope that will happen.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

My new assistant teacher is Deaf!

Sometimes the world just works out in my favor. I am so excited! I am a teacher in a small private school. We have a Waldorf inspired curriculum and I teach both English and ASL to the children. I love watching them proudly sign to me but it is always less than I want. You see I am the only adult with a staff of five that signs.

I work closely with an assistant teacher. The ideal candidate is punctual, great with children, and takes direction well. If the applicant has a music, arts or language background even better. Since jobs are scarce we get lots of applications. I find most people tend to not be straight forward with their resumes. A lot of people cold call knocking on the door to drop off a resume. We always send them away and tell them to contact us through our website.

One person we hired said she had four years of ASL. I did not interview her and her first day of work she was horrified when I initiated a conversation in sign. She couldn't join in and told me she was "rusty". Others fail to show up on time or get irritated with the children. Often it feels like they are just there for a paycheck. I love teaching and want to work with someone who also enjoys it.

When we hire for this position we always ask if they know a second language. They all say yes and when we get them in class I notice the second language is usually scattered vocabulary and I have to prompt them to use it. My dream has always been to get someone fluent in ASL.

Well that is no longer a dream. Monday I was teaching class and my boss walked in and asked me to meet someone standing outside. This never happens. We never interrupt class. She tells me there is a deaf woman outside looking for work and she wants me to go meet her. I am confused but go out to meet her.

What follows made my day. She was raised oral but learned to sign when she was nineteen. She was very comfortable and presented herself as friendly. I could see she was talking to me like a hearing person who was clueless so I told her my son was Deaf.
Of course that opened the gate and we chatted about schools and her childhood. I didn't ask about being raised oral but she offered up she was frustrated her parents didn't sign. We sat and chatted for a long time I felt like I had known her for years. She was not trying to impress me or show off her skills. I like that.

When I went back to class I was bummed because we didn't have an opening for her. My boss asked me what I thought and before I could respond she told me she loves her and wanted to have her come back for a work interview. We didn't have a job for her though. Did I mention I am excited?

We invited her to come visit class the next day to see if she was interested down the line. We never do that. We just all liked her so much we wanted to check out if she fit in. Well everyone loved her. The children, parents and of course us.

This morning on my way to work I get a call from my boss. Our assistant teacher slept in and was going to be late again. She wanted to know if I would text the woman we all wanted to have her come in instead. I sent her a text at 8:04, she replied at 8:06, I arrived at work at 8:45 and she was already there! Today was awesome. She is perfect and her ASL is beautiful.Her personality is just right for our school. The kids love her and are excited to us their sign. The get to watch us chat so they will learn so much faster.

During circle time I introduced her and told them she was deaf. We showed them how they need to look at her when they talk to her and try and use their ASL. They were very quiet and I asked if they had questions. Nope. So I asked her if she had a dog. No she tells us about her cat. Then they relaxed and the first question was,

"Do you have a basement?"

The other assistant lost her job today because she couldn't show up on time. Third time is three weeks and three sick days in the same time frame. So now we have a new assistant teacher and she is Deaf.

So blissed out preschool is the theme of the day.

Here are some things she did to rise above the other applicants.

1. She researched on the Internet to find us. She read about the program so she was prepared.

2. She brought a resume that was concise and factual. She also had reference letters ready if we needed them.

3. She emailed me to thank me for seeing her. She also emailed to thank us for letting her come do a work interview. Nice touch and we don't see that often if ever.

4. She was not trying to put on a show to get the job. She was friendly and interviewed well.

5. She really wanted this job. It wasn't a feeling of just trying to get any job to pay the rent.

We would have also hired her if she was hearing.