Friday, August 27, 2010

Recommended Reading For Our Deaf Kids

Today we are cleaning my son's room for the start of the school year. This can be hazardous. I blogged about it in my other blog last year. Here is the link to give you an idea of what a huge task this is.

This year I stumbled across a very special book. When my son was younger it came to my attention he needed to learn to play with language. He also need to understand idioms. Well one book came to the rescue. I found "Scholastic Dictionary of Idioms" and handed it to him. He loved it and the problem was solved. I would encourage all deaf kids who use ASL as a first language to read it.

Well no more excuses to not continue, wish me luck.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

In Defense Of Facebook For Learning English

I know most parents would think I am crazy. My twelve year old has a Facebook page. No, you cannot be his friend. You see I monitor all of his activity. I check before he adds friends and read his wall. I have his password.

I went to him and asked him to "FB" a certain friend to send me a copy of a movie he cast Haddy in. It got me thinking.

The reason it really benefits him is he learns to self edit his English. This is how it works.

Facebook is a form of letter writing or journaling. Anything he sends out is read by his friends. His friends are his peers from school, camp and other activities. Some of his friends are his teachers. Most of his friends are hearing kids from school and have command of written English.

Every-time he posts he has to edit his English. He doesn't want to look like he can't write. He wants people to know he is "smart". So he watches the language of the other kids and mimics it. The kids from his school do use a bit of text talk but for mostly use high register English.

The result is he is learning to better present information in well written English. The down side is it is not a way he has used to connect with deaf kids. The good news is it levels the communication playing field with his hearing friends.

I often read horror stories about social media. In our case it happens to be a benefit right now.

"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.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Audition Frenzy

So today we went to "Register Day" for Haddy's art charter school. He is the only deaf kid so I am sure you can imagine it is a wee bit different for him.

All summer I have been asking for a specific interpreter who is experienced in the arts. We won't find out until right before school starts if he got her. If we don't that means I will have to make sure the interpreter he gets is qualified. The good news is the school is very supportive and the district is responsible. So he will have a certified interpreter but we need a person familiar with the arts.

As we went through the line we came to the table to sign up for the Fall musical auditions. The school has three plays every year, a musical, dinner show and drama. Last year he was the only middle school kid in the dinner show. I asked if he was going to try. He said no. His theater teacher was standing by and asked why. He replied, " I am deaf and this is a musical"

She pointed to the table and said,

"Go sign up"

So he did. I always tell him we don't say can't until we fail. He may not get in but I think he should try if he wants to. He can let the teachers decide if he is a good fit.

Today we had to hurry around and find a song and monologue for the audition. He will audition at 11am . This is what it looks like.

1. He needs a song.

He picks "Fireflies" by Owl City. Fun lyrics. We run to get the music and come home to print the lyrics. My printer is out of ink. Oops, a road block. He does well if he has the printed text for music.

I search youtube for a video with the lyrics on time. I find something close. He plugs in his "sckullcrusher " headphones to help find the beat. We work through the song several times. We plug the headphones into the stereo and work out the timing without the caption and my prompt. He tries to remember the song.

The song is sort of ready.

2. He needs a monologue.

This is more of a problem because we have several plays at our home but finding a monologue would take time. He picks a Deaf bit from a mentor's bag of tricks. His monologue will be a deaf story.

So in the morning with very little time to prepare he will audition for a musical. It doesn't matter if he gets in. Every-time the kids auditions they learn. A kid like mine and your's gains the experience of getting up in front of people and winging it sometimes.

Monday, August 23, 2010

He Always Has An Angle

At lunch today my kids were thinking of jobs they wanted me to do. My daughter wants me to go back to being an artist. Cool.

My son wants me to become an interpreter. He says I should pay his 25% of my earnings because he is the reason I could do this.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Tendue, Saute and Plie..... Say what?

I have the unique opportunity to interpret for my son's modern dance class this summer. Some folks would take offense that I didn't hire a professional interpreter but the bottom line is I can't afford the class and the interpreter. So armed with a vocabulary sheet I dive in. First I need to see the moves and learn the names. We decide on a sign.

Here is an example of what I need to convey,

"and 5 6 7 ready? Demi plie tondue releve parallel breathe 6 7 and 8 and hold "

So my son says if a dancer read that phrase it wouldn't make sense. He demonstrates the moves and giggles. Well that is my point. For two hours a day I try and quickly follow the teacher who is using a language I have no understanding of. Everything is dependent on rhythm and timing. Eight count, four count, two count. My son watches the others , the mirror and me. He manages to keep up sometimes he needs a minute to just watch. What I learned from him is most professional interpreters can't manage this class. I have been signing with him for 12 years and have a personnel investment in our communication so it turns out this was a good way to go.

What is so crazy to me is he can keep up with the timing. I have to keep up as well and after a couple of days I get the rhythm. Sometimes I just count out the rhythm but he doesn't need it. I have learned the teachers meaning with her notes and can convey the message.

The side notes are crazy and the teacher doesn't present well framed concepts because she is thinking about what she is saying as she talks. She is filled with passion and works very free from that. She may change the direction of her thoughts if she works out a problem on the spot. She talks fast. I don't have the time to listen , pause and rework it into ASL. A lot of what she says is self fashioned idiom.

We had a guest teacher and again I need a bit of time to learn her message.

"And we 1 push, yada yada yada , battement, attitude, (" that is good little one" -off to another student)"

So my point. My son could be cut off from this class. He is not. As a community we work together. No big deal. I interpret (yes, interpret, if you are professional please understand the reality of the teachers financial limits, understand this is not a typical job. You need special background for it) , his teacher makes sure to correct his body by walking over and working him through it, his fellow students give him cues, he watches with deaf vision. It doesn't take much time to accommodate him. Not one student is effected in a negative way. He is getting so much from this class.

So yeah, I think he can dance. We never say we can't. We just try and see what happens.

I saw on Facebook a deaf performer was hired by Cirque De Soliel. Cheers to him! That is Haddy's dream. I bet this guy never says he can't. Haddy is begging me to go see him preform. He is such a Cirque addict but this is a double cool thing.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Open The Gate and Let Them IN

I got a facebook message from an old student turned friend yesterday. She wants to become an interpreter. I am so excited because she is awesome! She started my class as a mom wanting to learn some baby sign for her son. That is how it begins. A mom and child come to my class just wanting to get some baby sign. I don't teach "Baby Sign". I teach a second language, Deaf culture and acceptance. My class is so weird to hearing people but not to all.

Off hand I can think of 5 people who have wanted to (in process) or became interpreters after meeting us. This friend wants advice and I was hoping you could help. She is really smart, fast to learn and the perfect candidate for a top notch elementary interpreter. Here is a bit of what she wrote,

"I have decided to go back to school and would like to parlay anything I study into ASL interpreting, perhaps at an elementary level. Can you, when you have time (impossible, right?) give me any thoughts, advice, random weirdness, on classes, marketability, helpful hints, pretty much anything that occurs to you? "

So my thinking is, anything that you offer can help! I love it when the gate opens and hearing and Deaf meet. I am going to email her my advice but please jump in


Friday, August 6, 2010


My mom has never signed with my son. It would be easy to judge her. You may wonder why she never bothered to learn ASL. Well I can't judge her just as I can't control how my son feels about it.

When my son was born we were mourning the recent sudden lose of my father. My father would have been over the moon to meet Haddy. He would have made him handcrafted wooden toys and spent countless hours teaching him how to build wood Calkins Craft boats and the true art of fishing. Language would of never been a problem. The fact was my dad was dead and my son was Deaf.

My mom had a rough time. She was trying to be a fabulous grandma but her lose was so huge. She signed up for ASL classes. She couldn't gather the energy to go. Time passed slowly for her and her breast cancer came back. We lived far away and our journey was just a footnote to hers.

We recently found out she suffers from hydrocephalus. She has water on the brain. This has caused a rapid mental and physical decline. Such is life. She has lost her home, belongings and many friends. Her way of life has been stolen from her. She hasn't lost us however. We manage her daily affairs and look after her. We help her stay connected to those who stand by. We search for a place for her to live and recover.

She had surgery and may improve.

Today I saw a bit of hope.

My son came with me to visit her.

He is not happy to be assigned this task.

For me it is always a moment well spent, for him it is a confusing reminder that those we call family are not obligated to offer unconditional love.

We arrive and my mother, who has lived such a pained life, starts to sign. Her weakened mind and body can't offer perfect handshapes. Somehow over the years she has been trying to learn, trying to connect. She has been to shy to try. Now she has lost her dignity and with that is willing to try a handshape even if it is wrong.

As we leave I ask my kids what they think of her new home. My son tells me he likes it. It is not depressing like the countless other places she has resided in. He tells me he wants to visit her soon.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Random Deaf

Someone told me it didn't matter if a hearing child learns to sign because they may never meet a deaf person in their life time. This seemed so odd to me on so many levels. The reason I am thinking about this is the other day just made this statement come back to me. I am never surprised at how often we meet people who sign, often at random times.

My mother is ill and staying at a skilled nursing facility. I visit often with my daughter but my son doesn't come often. My mother has never learned to sign. There are many reasons for why he doesn't visit a lot but that is one of them. When we found out he was deaf my husbands family all signed up for ASL classes. My mom made attempts but just couldn't get past "hi". The other day he asked to go visit her.

We were walking down the hall on the way to see her, the three of us signing. A woman walked up and in ASL asked if I was related to my mom. She was chatting away with me and it turns out she is deaf and volunteers at the facility. She gave me her contact info so she could help us get Haddy a volunteer opportunity in a local deaf nursing home. I have been meaning to check into this. Random.

We left and stopped by the library. I see someone waving off to my right. It is an interpreter friend. We stand signing even after my son walks off. Random.

So I was thinking this person who thought deaf people are rare doesn't realize how big the community is here. You can't tell if someone is deaf by looking at them but if you happen to be signing in public you will find there are deaf people and people who sign all over the city.

Just a random thought