Kat Reading

Kat Reading

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Thanksgiving Grace

Our wonderful 6 year old chose herself to say grace before Thanksgiving today. Her prayer went as follows:

"I am thankful that Mommy, Daddy and I can come here to Grammy's house to eat turkey. Tomorrow I will come and sleep at Grammy's. Then, it will be Christmas! We will open presents. I will get a music box. Surprise! And then, I will go to see The Princess and the Frog. AMEN!"

*Note: This is an ASL to written English translation. You are missing out on all the enthusiasm and "matter of factness" than comes from a 6 year old laying out her plan.

*Second note: My kid is an idiot.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

1 year ago today

There is more to come on this post. I'm working on spliting the video and add subtitles.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Miss Kat's first report card!!!

Today was parent-teacher conferences and we got Miss Kat's first official report card.

She did amazing!!!

Her strongest subject is math, she is grade level appropriate and will pass her goals (which are just the 1st grade curriculum requirements) with no problem. The only problem she is having in math is that she says "three one" for 31 (and so on).

Her weakest subject was reading, but that was to be expected. She is completely changing modalities of reading (from sight words only to phonics) and that is taking some adjustment. When we started the year Miss Kat knew the sounds of 4 letters. She now can name and produce all but: Z (very tough sound, very high frequency), Y and Q (are you kidding me??) WAY TO GO MISS KAT!!! She has also gained 32 sight words.

Miss Kat also got very high marks in "Respects self and others" and "Works cooperatively with others". That's because she is the sweetest girl ever, and a really good friend. (And she got a "perfect" in turning in homework, but that is really mine and Daddy's grade!)

Not bad for a first quarter!

Miss Kat's teacher also showed me a piece of work that she did in class around Halloween. The teacher asked the kids the draw a picture of their favorite candy and write "I like____" The kids all knew how to write "I" and "like" but they were supposed to try to figure out the spelling for their last word. Miss Kat wrote "I like apl" and she drew some caramel apples. She sounded out APPLE!!!!

When I started researching literacy and the deaf child, one of my biggest concerns was phonics and this very stage. Kids, when they are learning to read and write, need to go through a stage when they sound out the words and invent a spelling. I really, never thought in a million years that Miss Kat would be able to do that! And, here, after less than a year post-CI, she can do it. And developmentally, right on time! And it wasn't a bad guess, if I do say so myself!

Monday, November 16, 2009

Town Hall

So, I don't know how many people who are reading this follow Deaf education politics in Utah, so I will summarize....

Utah Schools for the Deaf and Blind recently appointed a new superintendent. He worked for USD in the past, but his most recent job was running Tucker Maxon Oral school. He is an oral advocate. The Deaf community, here, is up in arms about it! They think that he is too biased to provide appropriate services to those who do not choose and oral path for their children. So, he appointed an assistant superintendent. She is also hearing, but she is a strong advocate for ASL and she is a fluent signer.

So, we had a "Town Hall" meeting to discuss the "future of Deaf education in Utah".

The superintendent gave his presentation. It was focused on parental choice, and technological advances. But we did get the good news that the bi-bi school will soon have a high school option. That is AMAZING news. It is wonderful that ASL kids will now have the option of direct communication with their teachers in high school. I could not be happier about that!

He also emphasised that they will be putting a lot of time and energy into the Parent Infant Program. He believes that the birth to three age range is the most important for language growth. He says that too many of our kids are showing up to preschool with no language. I agree with this as well. I think Miss Kat did OK during PIP, but that, if given the right professionals and access to quality interactions (therapy, etc) she could have done much better. He said that he wants all his PIP advisers to be highly qualified (AV or ASL certified).

That was all very good.......and then we opened the floor for questions.......

I asked the second question. My question was:

"We have these two really great paths for education (oral and bi-bi) BUT what do we do about the kids in the middle? The bi-bi school can't provide access to fluent spoken language on a daily basis but there are kids who can't, or don't want to, be oral only. What can we do for these kids?"
They didn't really answer my question. I didn't hear any new thoughts or strategies on how to educate a child who uses ASL but also has access to spoken language. Oh well, I guess we will keep blazing a new path for Miss Kat....

Some of my favorite highlights of the night:

(The superintendent said he was tired of the infighting between the people who choose an oral route and those use ASL) So a Deaf adult said "I'm sure you are sick of the fighting after (the few years of his career), we Deaf people are sick of it after 300 years!"

Another Deaf adult claimed he worked at the Oregon School for the Deaf, and had encountered "all the students that Tucker Maxon had failed". The superintendent was livid about that statement. He said that Tucker Maxon followed ALL of their graduates and that over 95% went on to graduate college. YIKES!

One last Deaf adult asked how he can allow parents to choose AVT when "There is so much research out there that shows that learning ASL improves literacy." The superintendent said that he was no going to "Get into a war of research, but that we need to respect parental choice. If the Deaf community wants parents to feel comfortable with them, and have their children interact with the community, they need to welcome families with open arms, regardless of their communication choices."

So, it wasn't a terribly productive night, but it was interesting. I continue to reserve judgement on the superintendent, until I see what changes he makes, and what direction the School for the Deaf is headed.

Conference, part 3

Miss Kat's audiologist also gave a lecture. It was called "I'm lost, I need a MAP". Cute, isn't it! He went over exactly what happens when you MAP a cochlear implant, and how each of those things help the child hear better.

I didn't go to his lecture. He told me it would be too boring. He said that he tells me what he is doing, when he is doing it, when he MAPs Miss Kat. He said I was already too well informed, that I should go listen to something else!

So, I went to the lecture aimed at professionals. It was about using an auditory skills curriculum (in her practice, the AuSpLan) to measure and facilitate growth.

In aural/oral education, there are three areas of skill that must be developed. They are auditory skills, speech, and language. (See, Au Sp Lan....clever) All three areas need focus, and they are all important. Without auditory skills, a child will be unable to understand the things that are being said to them. Without the speech, they can not make their thoughts understood by others. And without language, well, we all know the issues of not having language....

So, back to the Ausplan. The idea of the curriculum is that it is a very, step by step, progression of skills. A child needs to master one before they can move on to the next. It goes piece by piece, in all three areas, showing goals and the steps toward spoken language fluency. I like that it gives very real, measurable things to work from, and a sort of timeline to help gauge the progress.

I ordered my AuSpLan today!

So, I learned a lot at the conference. I feel like it was a good use of my time, and I can apply the things I learned toward Miss Kat's language skills.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Conference Continued

Our speaker also discussed the 10 factors that determine success with a cochlear implant. Some of them are under a parent's control, others are completely within the child.

1. Age of implantation (the earlier the better)

2. Commitment (auditory vigilance)

3. Use of the device

4. Gap between onset of hearing loss and activation

5. Attitude (the child's behavior and feelings about the CI)

6. Home support

7. Attitude toward overcoming challenges (the child's personality)

8. Presence of other handicaps

9. Expectations (setting the bar high enough)

10. Other (MAPs, anatomy, device issues)

These things are the keys to setting our expectations. If we know all these factors, we can figure out where the bar should be placed for our children. None of these are reasons a person should NOT get a CI, but they are the mitigating factors that will determine how much benefit the child will get. That in turn will influence where on the "Communication Continuum" the child will be.

Our second class was about how to get our kids to the best possible place. How to help them achieve and reach their full potential.

First we talked about the thought/language connection. Without one, you can not have the other. A child needs language to organize their thoughts. If a child is language deprived for more than a few years (I believe that JTC said age 5) it starts to affect their permanent cognitive development. So, if a child is without language, it can actually start to make them less smart!

Language is the foundation for thought, communication, learning, behavior, emotional expression, personal control, social interaction...FOR LIVING!

She was also very adamant about the fact that words do NOT equal language. She said that there is a whole group of children who will never get past the word level of spoken language. These kids will need another language, a visual language, so that they can fully use higher level thinking. These kids get out 3 years post activation and they are still at the word level. They are unable to use language to infer information, they do not have higher level thinking skills. The problem is that when they then switch to a signed language, most of them still never reach that highest level of language, even in sign.


Well, it is too late. These kids were not given a fully accessible, fluent language from the start. They do not have full immersion in the language either. Their cognitive abilities are compromised because they were without language for too long. They never become able to fluently use a language, understand grammar and syntax, and become completely literate.

So...what do we do?

Well, I would advocate ASL from the start for ALL children with a hearing loss. ESPECIALLY, those who are older identified, older implanted, or have other issues (see the above list!) If given this fluent, accessibly language, no matter what the outcome with their CI, they will be able to achieve literacy and future success.

Monday, November 9, 2009

A (AG Bell) Conference Week-end

So, last Saturday, I went to the Utah AG Bell conference. I will say now that, as anyone who has ever spoken to me knows, I am not a big fan of Bell himself (though, in his defense, many great minds of that time were interested in eugenics, but he targeted deaf people, and that affects me!) or of the organization (why is a organization for deaf people nearly completely comprised of, and controlled by, hearing people?) But, I figured they had a lot of good information for me to help Miss Kat on her journey with spoken language. This is a new area for me, and I have a lot left to learn. (When Miss Kat was ASL only, we spent all our time looking for resources to help her, and our, ASL grow and working on her pre-literacy skills.) So, I figured we can use their expertise in the area, even if we do not agree with their "dogma".

I have to say that it was a really great experience. I learned a ton, and got to talk to some other parents (always a pleasure!)

Our keynote speaker was Adeline McClatchie. She is a great audiologist, certified AVT and the creator of Ausplan. One of her key points throughout the day was that we need to focus on "Is this what this child NEEDS?" not "This is what I want for my child".

I thought that was a very important point. As parents, we are continually making decisions for our children. Technology decisions, school placements, language choices, these are things we don't just decide once. We must constantly be monitoring our child's progress to make sure they are thriving and that are still on the path that is right for them, not just the one that we want.

The speaker was very adamant that the key is LANGUAGE. You need to immerse a child in a language so that they can learn. The whole point of language is to give a child the ability to express their thoughts. She didn't care what language it was, just make sure they are getting it.

She talked about the "communication continuum". She emphasised that functional communication is what is needed. We need to find what works for the child and gives them the freedom to communicate their thoughts and needs. (NOT what we want for the child to become)

A-Auditory only- This is the Auditory verbal philosophy. A child uses audition only. There is no visual information provided. (No sign, no cuing, not even lipreading)
Av-Auditory with visual assist- This is an auditory oral approach. The child primarily uses audition for communication, but is also given visual information to help support the auditory. This could be through lipreading, cued speech, or even key word signing. (This is where Miss Kat is right now.)
AV- Auditory and Visual- This piece of the continuum emphasises both audition AND a visual language equally. A TC program would fall into this category. (IF it is done right! Some programs are clearly just remedial oral programs, for those who "couldn't cut it" in an oral only environment and they are trying to "catch them up" so they can go oral. Or sometimes TC is "dumping ground" for multiple handicapped children.)
Va- Visual with auditory assist- This is a mode in which the visual language is primary, but amplifacation is worn to assist in life. Audition would be used to hear enviromental sounds, get attention, assist with lipreading, or even to learn common phrases. (This is where Miss Kat was pre-CI.)
V- Visual only- This is a visual only choice. Amplification or audition is not used.
So, as parents, these are our choices. We need to figure out where our child will most comfortably fit, and where they will THRIVE.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Halloween (better late than never!)

This year's halloween was a world away from last year.

Last year, we were two days pre-surgery. We were worried about Miss Kat, worried about complications and recovery, just, really, worried about everything.

Last year Miss Kat was wearing hearing aids that weren't very effective anymore. She couldn't hear us call her from very far away, so we made sure to stick very close to her.

Last year was our first year trick or treating in this neighborhood, so when people would ask Miss Kat a question they were always surprised when we would interpret it back to her, and then would come the questions...."Is she deaf?", "How long have you been signing?", "Was it hard to learn sign?", and on and on...

This year was totally different!

Miss Kat was actually knocking on doors and saying "Trick or Treat!" Ok, so it sounded like "twitwee", but who cares! We definitely never thought she would learn that phrase. Before her CI, it was way too much work for her to learn words to spend that time on something as trivial as "Trick or Treat". Plus, it would have never been intelligible enough for anyone to understand, so we just signed it.

This year, Miss Kat told everyone that she was "Ariel" and that Daddy was "Daddy, prince mermaid" and I was "Octopus witch RRRAARRR".

Miss Kat is still, maybe, 30% intelligible (we understand 99.99%) but the fact that she is communicating through spoken language is amazing and sometimes even dumbfounding.

What a difference a year makes!

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

One year ago

One year ago, we had to wake up very early.

One year ago, my mom took the day off work to be with us.

One year ago, we sat in a waiting room.

One year ago, we put her hearing aid on, for the last time.

One year ago, we changed her into a hospital robe.

One year ago, we took her hearing aid out, for the last time.

One year ago, they wheeled her away, drowsy but happy.

One year ago, she woke up in pain and disoriented.

One year ago, she signed "I want Mommy", and I crawled into her hospital bed.

One year ago, she wore a bandage on her right ear.

One year ago, she received a cochlear implant.

One year ago, we began a brand new part of our journey.

Monday, November 2, 2009


I yelled at Miss Kat's teacher today...

We have been working very hard at home, on reading and on language in general. We have been doing Miss Kat's sight words every night, plus her homework, plus we read twenty minutes every night and we are working on phonics through Miss Kat reading a series of books called "Reading For All Learners". Miss Kat reads 3 of those every night as well (they are only 20-30 words long.) Plus, we have speech therapy two nights a week. So, Miss Kat is working her behind off every single day. And it shows!!! In the last 9 months, she has gained 2 full years worth of language!

But, since school has started, Miss Kat's teacher has been calling me, at least once a week, telling me all the things Miss Kat can't do. She sends extra work home. She tells me that Miss Kat doesn't know her letter sounds (she does for us at home!) She says that Miss Kat doesn't understand anything that she doesn't sign (well, duh, this is totally new to her!) She says that Miss Kat doesn't even put two words together (Come on! That isn't even close to true!) So, I feel like she is very negative about Miss Kat and her progress.

On top of all that, I have this HUGE weight on my shoulders all the time about Miss Kat learning to read. I think that learning to read is the single most important thing Miss Kat will ever learn. Deaf children have huge obstacles to overcome in literacy, and the outlook (statistically) is still very grim. Plus, if push comes to shove, it could be possible that reading and writing could be the only way Miss Kat can communicate with hearing people in everyday life.

So, I've been getting these negative reports, what feels like everyday, plus the burden of teaching Miss Kat to read is always weighing me down, and today, I snapped.

The teacher had called me, during dinner, to tell me all the things Miss Kat can't do, AGAIN. She told me that she was worried that Miss Kat wasn't able to give an answer when she asks the class "Can anyone tell me a word that starts with 'T'?" and that she can't "blend sounds" and I was just so sick of it. I told her that I felt like she didn't understand how hard Miss Kat is working. I told her that we work on everything, every single day. I told her that we spend hours, doing work, every night, and that I don't think she gets it. I told her that I felt like she was just waiting for Miss Kat to fail, so that she could send her back to the Bi-Bi school. I told her that I thought she didn't like Miss Kat, and that she wanted rid of her.

Miss Kat has been working so hard! She has gained so much and I felt like they were only looking at the negative. She (and we) is working all the time, and all we ever hear is what she can't do, what she doesn't understand, and how far behind she is. I was just sick of it.

Miss Kat's teacher was dumbfounded. She said she was very sorry that she had been so negative and that she was just trying to keep me informed. She told me that she thought I was the kind of parent who wanted to know exactly what was going on, and how to help Miss Kat reach her full potential. She said that she was really hurt that I believed she wanted Miss Kat to fail.

Ok, I did overreact, but this whole thing has been really hard. Learning to read is such a big deal! I think that I have been really stressed with all the changes, and the new school. I just lost it for a moment.

When we implanted Miss Kat, we had no idea that our path would change so drastically. We were an ASL family, active in the Deaf community, and happy at our wonderful bi-bi school. All we expected was to regain the hearing that Miss Kat lost with her last hearing drop. We NEVER expected her to take off with spoken language, and for her to really become passionate about listening and speaking.

It is really hard for me to see Miss Kat behind (and in her oral environment she is behind). I know that I really don't believe the things I said to her teacher, I was just overly emotional in that moment. Miss Kat isn't frustrated, she loves going to school, she loves her teacher and her new friends. She is learning so much. She is still in the right place.

P.S. So, I don't get nasty comments:

The "work" I am talking about is still fun, age appropriate stuff. We read books, play games, color, and do activites. But just because it is fun, and we are, for example, at the zoo, it is still exhausting to have to explain, and talk, talk, talk, about every single thing. It isn't drills, or anything like that, that we are doing. Just, after a year, we are getting tired.