We had the "important meeting" about USDB a few days ago. They were discussing all the changes they intend to make, starting next year. There were good points, and bad, some affect Miss Kat, some don't, but I have opinions about every single one!
The followers of this blog know that USD's program has two paths. There is an "Auditory-Oral" program and an "ASL-English" choice. Beginning in Early Intervention , USD will be providing services that are "language based". That means that a parent must choose one of these languages and USD will provide the services that will help the child learn that language. My concern is for children like Miss Kat (and Cal, whose parents were also at the meeting and seemed as frustrated as I was!) We want our daughter to have fluency in BOTH spoken English AND ASL. We are having trouble figuring out HOW to get the services Miss Kat needs to meet that goal.
We were told that if we want (any) ASL our only choice is to go to the voice-off ASL bi-bi school. I do not believe that this environment is appropriate for a spoken language learner, especially a new cochlear implant recipient.
The only way to learn a language is through exposure and immersion. The only way to learn ASL is to be around people who use ASL, be exposed to it, and to USE it! The same is true, but to an even greater extent, for spoken language with deaf children. A child who is learning to use a CI needs constant auditory input. They need to hear the language, internalize it, and then use it themselves. They NEED sound and spoken language for their brains to organize the input they get from their CI's.
So, how do we balance the two? How do we give our kids the opportunity to be the most successful they can with spoken language and their CI's but also give them a visual language, and make sure they have 100% access through that language?
I had a very long conversation with one of the top USD professionals (who will remain anonymous!) and asked for real advice for *our* situation. They said that there is really no good solution at USD right now. They admitted that the bi-bi school can not support spoken language in the way that we want it, and that the auditory-oral program can't support ASL either. That person agreed that our plan was really the only way to go (at least here and now).
Our plan is one language at a time. Miss Kat has a strong base in her first language, ASL, and now she is learning spoken English. For the next two years, we will be focusing on speech and listening. A CI user gets the majority of their benefit in the first three years, so, for three years, we are going to work and focus on spoken language. Later, we will return our focus to ASL. We will return Miss Kat to an ASL environment and as she ages, we will allow her the control over her language preferences.
I hope that other parents are choosing ASL and CI's in spite of the hardships. I hope that we are making the path easier for those who will be traveling behind Miss Kat!