Kat Reading

Kat Reading

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Bilingualism?

Last week I attended an AV training for our School for the Deaf employees. They was some great discussion and I learned a lot. While we are in no way an "AV family" we do use some AV-style techniques to help Miss Kat learn to use her hearing. We use that approach because I believe it is the most effective way to teach a deaf child to learn to listen and speak.

All that is really beside the point of this blog tonight. I am writing about a conversation that happen after our meeting. The new superintendent of the School for the Deaf (a big oral advocate, he used to run a private oral school in another state) was having a discussion (read: argument) with a SLP that was trained at Gallaudet. (A little background for those who don't follow Utah Deaf education- the new superintendent is changing the focus to early intervention with an emphasis on Spoken Language OR ASL-English. Parents must decide and then they will get the services for that particular path) So, I asked, "What about parents who want both?" I was told "Too bad" (AGAIN!!)

So, that day I was presented with two paths. One, fluent spoken language, the other ASL-written English with "oral skills". I was told by both professionals that the ASL bi-bi school would never be able to provide the kind of environment and services needed to help a child become a fluent spoken language user, BUT that the oral program will also never be able to provide the opportunity to use and learn age appropriate ASL skills.......So, where does that leave families like ours, and our intended bilingualism??

They said that each bilingual person has a primary language and we must decide what Miss Kat's primary language is going to be and proceed with our choices from there. We were given two scenarios for how Miss Kat would turn out as an adult, given our desires and path:

1. She would be functionally hard of hearing using her CI. Spoken language would be the language of her life. She would listen and speak and live in the hearing world, but use ASL and the Deaf world as a support.
OR
2. She would be Deaf. She would interact with the hearing world everyday, and use her oral skills to do that. She may even talk on the phone and things like that, but ASL would be her language of comfort and at the end of the day, she would always return to her Deaf world.

We are fine with either choice, but are those really our choices? Is there no one who feels equally comfortable in both languages and worlds? And is it possible for us to make that choice?? Isn't that her choice regardless of what we do in her schooling?

27 comments:

RLM said...

Hi Miss Kat's parent,

Why you write vaguely about the particular school for the deaf?

That is not a good journalism. Is yours more like a personal journal for us to read yours?

Robert L. Mason (RLM)

Miss Kat's Parents said...

Yes, it is just a journal of our experiences. Why would it need to be "good journalism"?

A Deaf Pundit said...

Hi Miss Kat's Parents,

My suggestion is to go with the ASL method - I only say this because they then will be required to provide speech therapy and such to your daughter. So she will have good speaking and listening skills. She has to be provided that if you guys request it in the IEP.

I don't know what else to tell you ... it is really an unfortunate situation for you guys. :(

Miss Kat's Parents said...

And in an ASL class she would get "oral skills" NOT fluent spoken language. Speech can be taught 20 minutes, once a week, but LANGUAGE requires immersion and constant use.

Candy said...

It's unfortunate, yes. Here's my thinking: Since she's implanted and already knows ASL. Put her in the AV group and continue to use ASL at home. She will grow up to have the best of both. I find it interesting that you had to chose one or the other. My parents are deaf. I was send to an oral program but used ASL everyday at home. To this day, I feel that I can fit in easily in both environment. I don't have a CI but wear an HA.

This is just my two cent.

Don't tell me that the school will check up to see what you use at home? ;)

RLM, are you for real? Geesh. Blogs are not professional journalism.

Anne Marie said...

Hi there after a long time, it is good seeing your blog again : )

I recall reading a research work that surveyed and studied many bilingual programs how students receive both languages in various setting: total immersion in each language or mixed at the same time etc. Outcomes of students' proficiency in each language appear better when using each language at separate time with balanced amount of daily input. I am not saying that each languages ought to be totally separated. It would be silly to do that during lunch time but does make sense when it comes to language arts time.

I just searched for that paper in the library..duh cannot find it. I will try later (my 3 yr old is begging me to put him to bed : )

Anonymous said...

We're struggling with the same "either-or" choice for our HOH son, when what we really want is "both". We're currently doing AVT Early Intervention and some sign at home, while trying to figure out how to get more exposure to sign in informal ways. We may switch that; since we're hearing parents, the kid will get the "immersion" in spoken language easily, but we're going to have to really put some effort into giving him access to sign. The ASL program that's available to us will give us only very limited help with developing spoken language, though, and that doesn't seem right. The kid is only 7 months old, so we have no idea how any of this will work yet.

To put it as calmly and politely as possible, I feel like kids are really being mis-served by the agencies that are creating these artificial oppositions.

Dianrez said...

This left my jaw hanging open. I can see offering you a choice between a pure oral and a comprehensive program, but to make claims like that about the future outcome? (expletive suppressed.)

Really. No one can predict that, not even the oral program supporters. The child will choose what is best for himself anyway.

How successful the oral method depends on the child's hearing ability more than anything else. No matter what, this is the hard truth. Even hard of hearing children are not automatically guaranteed success, as it is a deliberately restricted method.

How successful the combined method will depend on the child's overall attributes, and that just about covers every way to succeed. I'd go with this choice in order not to risk any educational delays.

Dianrez said...

Almost missed this: they tell you that "Speech can be taught 20 minutes, once a week, but LANGUAGE requires immersion and constant use."

Is this confusing oral/aural training with language training? That mistake was made in the past and resulted in severe language delays and poor development in pure oral programs for thousands of Deaf people.

Language training is accomplished both ways, the more visual, the better. However, I agree with you, 20 minutes of speech once a week isn't enough. It should be about an hour every day.

Anonymous said...

Anne, If you do find that book, please let us know if the study used total communication or sim-comm.

Miss Kat's Parents said...

We can have ASL-written English bilingual education with 20 minutes of speech training, once a week.

OR

A rich spoken language enviroment with emphasis on language learning and phonics based reading.

The oral program is not one long speech therapy session, they use the same state core curriculum as the bi-bi school.

My point is that neither program allows for the learning of the "other" modality.

Anonymous said...

Dianrez, in the old days, some profoundly deaf children in mainstream had to wear hearing aids. They got about 30 minute to one hour speech (depending on how much they needed it) , but wear FM system all day in school. They think these students are fully immerse in language by doing this, but really all student is hearing is full of gibblish (I was one of those students). So yes, ASL and spoken language should both be allowed.

Anonymous said...

I myself was one of those profoundly deaf children using hearing aids and made to wear a FM system which did not help in any way. Only you can make the choice for Miss Kat. I am sorry that you have to make this decision.

Karen Mayes said...

Yeah, you are not alone in this aspect. I had to struggle with this in Indiana... When my kids attended ISD, ISD offered only 20 minutes of speech therapy twice a week, no more than that, and they were not allowed to practice their spoken English for the rest of the day. Now I hear it's more flexible, since ISD having hired the Spoken English Specialist now. It's a bit frustrating for many Deaf children who have the aptitude to speak and listen as well as for parents who'd like to see them to utilize the oracy part.

I believe there's still a lot of ironing out of what to do with Deaf children with the aptitude in the Deaf schools instead of mainstreaming them. Nothing is easy, I know.

Best regards,
Karen

Miss Kat's Parents said...

I do understand that both of the options given were, sort of, "best case scenerio" for each philosophy. But I would hope that as her parents, we would make sure that she is always continuing to do her best and if something isn't working, we change it.

Several people have also remarked about spoken language and hearing. Spoken English was inaccessable to Miss Kat when she had her hearing aids. That is why we did not emphasis it back then. Now with her implant she can understand and discriminate speech as low as 20 db. She hears very well, andd she understands. She is able to discriminate every sound in the English language.

haddy2dogs said...

This is a shot in the dark but for a time my son mainstreamed half day at a public school and the other half at the deaf school.

Would they allow your daughter to do half day at the oral program and the other half at the ASL bilingual program?

Miss Kat's Parents said...

They have also denied us a split placement, saying it would be disruptive to her education.

Again, it is a personal issue, but I also want to discuss the overall idea that we "can't have both" in terms of fluency of language and bilingualism.

haddy2dogs said...

It is strange they denied split placement. Was this at her IEP or a formal meeting? I would challenge it. It seems to be well within your rights to request it and would in no way hinder her education. I don't have all the facts but if it were my child I would ask for core instruction in her native language and the rest of the day in the other program. I would ask for the schedules of both classes and go from their.

It is very common to have deaf students do this. If you want this for your daughter you could find an advocate if you don't already have one and request a meeting with the teachers and administration. Ask for the research to back their claim and bring your own to counter it with. That really helped us get what we wanted. What we wanted didn't exist but it sounds like they have the services you need just not the flexabilty yet to understand how to provide them.

I believe you can have both.

Best of luck

Dianrez said...

Schools have a stake in listening to what their students' parents say. Their budgetary allocations depend on how many students they have, and they will listen when there is a possibility that a student may be pulled from their enrollment.

Work within the PTA organization and get together other parents who feel as you do. Ask to have more balanced goals written into the IEP. Get one or more professionals to back you up. (Anne Marie on this blog's respondents is one such professional and she can cite research.)

It may boil down to having Miss Kat mainstreamed part of the day, as Haddy2 does with her son. That might be better done at a later age, however. In order to be successfully mainstreamed, Miss Kat's educational level should paralled that of her hearing classmates. Being able to hear and speak on a partial basis won't do it. Academics will.

It seems shortsighted for any educator to say "you can't have both." Balderdash.

Anonymous said...

Haddy2dogs has a good point-- the key word is "flexibility".

The school is apparently showing an inflexibility, the lack of thinking outside of the black box.

Has the school given you good reasons for why a "split placement" is disruptive to a child's language development? Did they present research to back up THEIR statement? I'll bet they just thinking of the costs of a "split placement" to the school system and not about what's best for your child.

Ann_C

Karen Mayes said...

Ann_C is correct. I had to fight for my son to have dual enrollments (half day at public school and other half day at ISD.) Now I hear that IF any deaf students "fail" the state tests, they are allowed to go to ISD on a part time or full time basis. Hogwash, I know. It's all about $$. :o( I know one family who has a hard time with this, they want their child to go back to deaf school but the school district kept saying no, he was doing fine in mainstreaming, blah blah, ignoring the fact that he was not doing very well academically. This year no students from this school district (Carmel Clay) were allowed to have split enrollments at the deaf school.

Well, politics... ugh, here in Indiana. *shaking my head*

(e said...

Go with you gut, your instincts. And whatever choice you make will be the right one.

It seems to me one of the most difficult things about having a child with a hearing loss is that you will be bombarded with different information and choices coming from different directions. On top of this, you will be constantly told by others what you should do and then once you make a choice you will be criticized.

Good luck,

(e

QB said...

I think it's definitely unfortunate that the schools are so divided. Sounds more political and budgetary than anything else. But I think that one thing to remember is that the critical period for learning a language at a native level is really quite long - it's short for developing language and speech in the first place, but after that the brain remains pretty "plastic" for languages until puberty. What I mean is that if you have a hearing kid who's 8 or 10 and you move to Japan for a year, that kid will pick up Japanese at a near-native, age-appropriate level pretty fast. So I don't think you're endangering her ASL skills that much by having her in an oral school for now, since she already knows a lot of ASL and you use it at home. Maybe she will have a smaller ASL vocabulary than kids at the bi-bi school, but she would be able to catch up later on, and as long as she has opportunities to use ASL outside school she won't lose it. And if her vocabulary is improving in English it will help her learn the ASL words too because she will have the concepts. So maybe instead of thinking in terms of the split-day you can think in terms of years...a few years in AV, and then a year or more in bi-bi if she wants it later on. Just an idea.

dietzfam06 said...

I have felt a lot of the same frustrations as I have been hearing about a lot of the changes that are being made especially with early intervention. We also use both ASL and spoken language with our kids so they don't really fit the mold that everyone else seems to think that they should. The thing that I think is really hard is that I want to do what is best for my children but if I had had to make that choice right away, to choose one method or the other, I am pretty sure that I would have made the wrong choice for Johnny. Having given him access to both we have been able to follow his lead on making some of those choices and as a result we feel like we are really doing what is best for him.

Dianrez said...

"don't really fit the mold that everybody seems to think they should"...makes me wonder what education of the deaf is actually doing nowadays...confusing the families??

In any case, rest assured that as your kids grow up, they will be more like the majority of the Deaf community...functionally bilingual with wide variablity in the mix of speech and sign. Most college programs serving the deaf also use a combination of sign and speech.

Sarah said...

I just happened across your blog from mine :). Knowing virtually nothing about your family or your daughter's history, this sure sounds like it's a big decision!

Your daughter is lucky to have such involved and educated parents who can advocate for her! I wish I had some advice for you but I have very limited experience with bilingualism in deaf ed. Best of luck!

Steve said...

We are in the bi-ligual program too. Our son has a CI, but sign has helped him in his speech development - not hindered him. We have written to the USDB multiple times with no response. We as parents may need to get together to fight this. The last thing my child needs is fewer options.