Friday, March 18, 2011

In Defense Of The Arts

I love this picture. It was taken while my son was goofing off before curtain a little over a year ago. I love how comfortable he is in his skin.

He was the only deaf kid in the play which had a lot of improv. He was a principal and the only middle school kid cast as such. This experience was natural for him, like a second skin. He was completely joyful. For him it is about the work or the moment. He becomes a character. Once he is finished he becomes a bit shy of the attention he receives, his hands go into his pockets, head slightly down and he issues a nod a thank you to praise.  He is modest about his work. This picture shows his passion for just being himself with freedom. He doesn't need the praise.

The reason I bring this up is every time my son learns from theater he gains more self confidence. He learns the trick of managing the nerves of public speaking or assertive self advocating. By studying character he learns how others think and uses that information to develop empathy and strategies to negotiate this world which could potentially judge him at every turn. He can memorize his lines after two readings of a script.... hmm ..... literacy....

I guess my point is every deaf kid (or hearing in my opinion) benefits from the arts on many levels. I notice in our area we focus on raising test scores and art is left behind sometimes in general education. Art is a valuable resource. I have never met a deaf kid who didn't benefit from it.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

No Words From Me

I have very few words to describe this.

This is so crazy.... Haddy wants to learn Spanish. He has been studying the written form independently. He just does this kind of thing. 

He wants to help Stelly with her homework and realizes some of it is spoken. They are so close but do not share this one language. She is in Spanish immersion. He finds an app on his phone that translates his text to spoken Spanish..I am sitting here resisting the urge to go down and help them. I don't need to....

I really don't need to....

Friday, March 11, 2011

A Walk Down Memory Lane

Today was weird. Just plain weird.

I need to dissect it and compartmentalize it for this blog but imagine the past tumbling down with great force on your nice poached egg and toast breakfast.

The first thing I will broach is some papers I found. I may choose to post about the rest of my day later or choose to let it float out into the world.

12 years ago.....

My husband was a writer and I was a costumer in Los Angeles. I had a steady gig on a TV show so he was the stay at home dad until my show would die. He was able to take ASL classes at the college level. I studied from a text book on stage. Somehow we managed to voice off in 13 months at home. This is Deaf culture paper he wrote as a requirement for his class. *excuse typos I scanned it and it came up a bit off*

My husband's first ASL Class Culture Paper

Cultural Awareness Assignment #1
Date of Event: January 22, 2000
Type of Event: Deaf Mentor Date
Location of Event: My home and Kokomo's Restaurant
Due Date: 2/2/00

Once a week myself, my wife and my son meet with our Deaf Mentor, Maxie.

She comes to our home for a couple of hours and each week we try to do something a little different. One week we'll go to a bookstore, another shopping or sometimes we just sit and play in the yard. The main purpose of her visit is to be a positive role model and a sort of Big Sister to my son, Hayden, who is profoundly Deaf. For my wife and I, she is someone that will answer any questions we have about things like Deaf culture, ASL, and what Our son can expect to encounter in the hearing and Deaf worlds. Because she too is profoundly Deaf and uses sign only, we are able to turn off our voices and practice our sign, while also getting a glimpse of how our  son might navigate the world.

One thing we notice a lot when we are out is that people stop and stare when we are signing. Other times total strangers will interrupt our conversations to ask questions about our son. My wife and I aren't used to the staring yet and are sometimes distracted by having our every word watched. But we noticed right away how Maxie simply blocks out or ignores the people around her. Other times, people have seen us signing and assumed we are all Deaf. Sometimes it's funny When people realize I've heard every word they were saying about us, but other times it's hurtful and I find it very hard let it go when people say offensive or insensitive things. On this trip, to Kokomo's restaurant at the Farmer's Market, most people were watching us out  of curiosity and commenting on how great it was that a two year old was signing so much.

Most of our lunch,was great, but I was very curious about how we would order at the restaurant. I've been with some Deaf friends that write their order, while others point at the menu. Other friends of ours don't mind if a hearing friend, Interprets, but I wasn't sure how Maxie felt about that. When the time came Maxie started fingerspelling her order to the waiter, who we knew didn't sign. My wife interpreted for her, which she didn't seem to mind. The only compromise that comes to mind is that of language. Maxie waits patiently while my wife and I struggle to sign something or when we can't read her fingerspelling, she slows down for us. On our end it's hard to forgot everything we know about English and try to think in terms of pictures and concepts, instead of words and phrases.

Overall our mentor dates are a great opportunity for all of us. My only confusion is about when to interpret for a Deaf friend. During conversations with hearing people that don't sign, it seems to be okay, but in others instances, I'm not so sure.

My lasting impression is that these dates are by far the most valuable thing in my son's parent infant program. In an education system where most teachers of the Deaf are hearing or hard of-hearing, it's refreshing to find someone that my son can relate to and learn from. Maxie teaches Hayden and us, things that a hearing teacher would never know. And each week my wife and I relax a little bit more and realize that our son's world can be whatever he wants it to be.

The Invisible IEP

So recently I have been thinking about the challenges my son faces mainstreaming at an arts magnet school. The good thing is everyone wants to make sure he gets the accommodation he needs but the outcomes of their efforts sometimes fall short. The constant seems to be that they don't trust my opinion. My perspective is he would not be doing so well if I hadn't spent countless hours researching and implementing practices to ensure he would have the tools to be successful in school. I am not saying everything I have done worked but I learned from mistakes I have made.

I have found an IEP is sometimes just a piece of paper that is tossed aside after a long and sometimes difficult meetings. I have found often the experts wait for problems instead of taking my advice and in advance in order to avoid them. I have found my son sometimes doesn't self advocate because at the end of the day things take to long to change, it isn't that big of a deal and he can get the information in other ways or he doesn't care.

My son meets with his case worker before school every couple of weeks. He used to have pull out for English and math during class time. We found it wasn't helping and it took away from class time. That model may work for some kids but not mine. The idea I had was to have him use teacher office hours after school if he needed help. The district brought up the idea of having the interpreter help him during class. She would be acting as an support for instruction. I very strongly disagree and made a strong objection.

They pointed out that research suggests this type of model works. I pointed out the interpreter is not hired as an aid and needed to focus on the difficult task of interpreting class that last 1 hour and forty minutes. I did mention two interpreters would be appropriate because the classes are so long and there are three a day. Nope, not going to happen this year but it doesn't hurt to ask.

So after that meeting I find out they didn't drop the pull out services. My son tells me they call it English help but all they do is test his math skills, over and over. His teacher gets frustrated because they pull him during lecture. I am not positive but I think  they pull him from English class. Meanwhile the classroom teacher has done research about deaf education and has found a way to specialize his instruction so he is learning faster than I could of hoped for. He is happy with this arrangement but hates the pull out. So I shot off an email to the case worker.

A couple of days pass. I get a quick response saying she will think on it. I think that is code for "stall crazy helicopter mom while we think of a way to make it more useless and complicated".  OK, thats not fair of me but I feel that way sometimes. I do know they are all busy but all I am asking for is they trust me and drop this one service or explain to me how it is effective.

Last night my son tells me he had a meeting with the case worker. I actually like and respect her. The only thing about the meeting that got me a little ticked was the fact she told him they were going to have the interpreter act as his aid. " We know your mom is strongly against it but we're going to try." *nudge, nudge*
I asked him how he felt about it. "dumb idea"
I asked him how he responded. "OK"
"because it will never happen. They don't do what they say they will"

So in order to get what he needs he is side stepping the plan. He will find a way to get the service he wants without confrontation. If he accepts the idea on the surface perhaps the pull out will go away.

The awesome thing is all of the people involved are doing their best to give him what he needs. I don't really know their side of things so I am left to guess. We are really lucky. Sometimes though it feels like it could be much easier.