Kat Reading

Kat Reading

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

The problem at ISD (and USD and all bi-bi schools)

Here's the thing...if you want students, you have to attract hearing parents. If parents don't want their kids at your school, your school will close.

So, how do we balance ASL bi-bi philosophy with the need for fluent spoken language services? By default a bi-bi school is voice off. It HAS to be. So, how do we give the kids the intensive, immersive spoken language services that they need to develop open set, fluent listening and spoken language? How do we immerse a child is two totally different languages, languages that by definition can not be used together? How do we value spoken English and ASL equally? How do we give them equal time? How do we ensure that our kids are fluent and age appropriate in both?

I hear a lot of people talking about how people are trying to turn ISD into an oral school....I doubt it. But, if it is true that they don't allow spoken language in the classroom (which, in my experience is very likely), they are NOT meeting the needs of a HUGE segment of the deaf children.

I hear a lot of accusations, but absolutely no solutions...


J.J. said...

I agree that you are correct about the need to convince hearing parents of the bi/bi method in order to ensure continued enrollment. I also agree that the future is changing. I have no idea what the future will bring, but all signs point to deafness being extinct. It's just a matter of time.

However, I disagree that the listen/speaking method can be combined with the bi/bi method in a single class room. ASL is really a separate and vibrant language on it's own. That isn't to say that there's no place for listen/speaking in a bi/bi school. I am of the opinion that both methods shouldn't be "mixed" in a single class room. I grew up in the "Total Communication" era, it worked fine for me...but I saw that it did not work for many others. In addition, listen/speaking uses the English language (in the U.S.) which doesn't mesh with ASL very well. Yes, I do mix both very well, but I do CONSIDER the audience. Whereas you wouldn't see a teacher switch back and forth between Spanish and English in a class filled with people who speak one language or the other more fluently.

In addition, ISD is considered a "model" bi/bi school and in my opinion one of the top five programs in the United States (for bi/bi). This is like putting an ASL advocate on the board of the Central Institute f/t Deaf or the Clarke School. It doesn't make sense.

Candy said...

Where are the statisics that showed TC didn't work for many?

I always thought it worked fine.

As someone who is from a deaf family, I can tell you that sign language is just that = sign language. ASL is sign language in non English order and PSE is sign language in English order. No matter how you put it, it's all sign language.

Many who say they use ASL are really using PSE.

Still scratching my head.

Miss Kat's Parents said...

I don't think it is just about convincing parents that bi-bi works, (though that is one huge step and we aren't doing it because bi-bi schools are still churning out kids who can't read). But the second part is that we MUST provide fluent spoken language services. Most parents will NOT accept that all the kids at the oral school can learn to listen and speak, but that they should enroll their child at a school where they won't even be allowed to speak if, by some divine intervention, they are able to learn spoken language.

As for an ASL advocate on the board of an oral school. I would be honored if my any of daughter's schools asked me to serve and I consider myself an advocate for ASL AND CIs.

Alicia said...

A bilingual school does not necessarily have to be voice off all of the time. You can establish a two way bilingual class for deaf kids with CIs (or hard of hearing with hearing aids) who have enough auditory access to use bilingual strategies that involve both ASL, spoken English, and reading/writing.

I know MSD-Frederick has attempted a spoken English class (I was in that classroom this past year) but it's not perfect and not exactly bilingual. If I get hired there permanently, I plan to push for having an actual bilingual spoken English class (and would not mind teaching it).

Of course, you also have to have hard of hearing or hearing teachers who are fluent in ASL and spoken English to teach the class.

If you can't create separate classes, you could create groups and do it that way, as long as you have hard of hearing or hearing teachers who can use spoken English.

I don't think it's impossible, but it would involve a lot of planning.

Anonymous said...

As a mainstreamed deaf student, I know what feels to be out of the loop because people around you use their voice (and I could not understand them at all unless they are speaking directly at me in the right environment)

So I can see why they have an ASL only policy in some areas. Preferably in ASL classes. I don't see how this is hard to do. They make Spanish speaker use English. In public schools , they have NO problem telling kids NO TALKING-in class, in hallways, etc.because it is an distraction.

But I do think the child should use what method they want during their free time or in their oral program or classes. Kids in deaf school should take ASL classes to communicate with other deaf kids. Especially for safety.

Anonymous said...

Oh yeah, I remember a blog about a mainstreamed deaf and everyone was whispering , including the teachers, about something going on. The deaf person can't understand whispering and tried to get them to tell her. She she finally asked aloud whats going on and one student said aloud there have been a shooting threat.

Thats one of the example of being out of the loop so I can understand the ASL only policy.

Anonymous said...

I think there's been a misunderstanding about what an ASL and spoken English program would look at. Thanks to Miss Kat's Mom for making the distinction clear. What she's talking about is a bi-MODAL program. As she and many others have pointed out, it's not possible to use spoken English and ASL simultaneously. They are two separate languages. It IS possible to sign in English word order, with or without voice. That's what's usually referred to as Total Communication but what it really is, is simultaneous communication.

The problem with sim-com is that some cannot do it very well. Especially hearing people: they tend to listen to their speaking voice for feedback and drop their signs. Other people may focus on their signs but drop their spoken words.

The best thing, in my opinion, is to have separate classes taught in spoken English only (with sign support as needed), and other classes taught in ASL only. I agree with what another commentor said about people being left out of the communication because they did not hear or see something being spoken. That's a big problem with a bimodal program that has to be addressed somehow.

Probably at some point in the not too distant future, deafness will be a thing of the past due to stem cell therapy, hair cell regrowth, and other medical advances. meanwhile, we have the cochlear implant and digital hearing aids, which work quite well for some, but are not 100% effective for 100% of deaf children. It's not possible to predict which children will benefit and how much.

Miss Kat is a perfect example of a Deaf child who has it all - ASL AND spoken English. She is so, so lucky! I want for all deaf kids to come to my state school for the deaf so they can learn spoken English if they're able, and ASL too.

Li-Li's mom said...

I know I tend to beat the drum for this program, but I really do think that TLC's bi-bi program has come close to achieving full communication access for deaf kids (whether aided or not) AND an equal amount of academic instruction and peer interaction in spoken English for kids with adequate access to sound via HAs or CIs.

Roughly half the school day is voice off, yes. That's necessary, because they find that otherwise these kids with access to sound tend to default to using spoken language. This insures that kids are receiving ASL instruction and interacting via ASL at a full and immersive level. Roughly half the day the kids interact with one another and learn from teachers using spoken language, with sign support if necessary. Simcom comes into play in the gaps: in hallways, when bimodal groups transition and first begin interacting, when visitors enter the rooms -- ensuring everyone always has full access. Even Marschark has debunked the 20-year old myth that sse and simcom are harmful. I'm simplifying it far too much to do it justice, but this bilingual/bimodal model in place is producing excellent results under study by Gallaudet and Boston University right now, and appears to be highly replicable.

Miss Kat's Parents said...

I think it would be wonderful if we could find a balance in all bi-bi programs like TLC has. I fear that the Deaf community will not accept the change.

J.J. said...


I don't have any stats to back up my comment that TC (or SimCom) was harmful to deaf children. I am only going by what I saw growing up. Often, I would pick up things just fine by lip-reading and reading signs. As for the students in my school, they were not getting the same information I was for sure and as a result their reading/writing levels were poor. However, when I saw them in math, science, history, and other non-language classes they participated just fine and understood everything the same. The truth is that there are simply not many teachers who can sign/speak at the same time.

As for PSE, SEE, and etc..being sign language...I used to think that way until I really looked into the structure of ASL. The word order is different as you say and ASL is really closely aligned with how the Spanish language is structured (I only know elementary Spanish, but the similarities are striking). I switch back and forth between PSE/ASL effortlessly, but it doesn't work for everyone and does confuse people.

Last but not least, my biggest beef is that no other methods other than ASL work for every deaf child. ASL works for everyone no matter who you are as long as you have at least an arm to sign. It can be learned by anyone in a relatively short period of time. It is my opinion that every deaf child should learn ASL no matter what. It's OK if they stop using it when they are 5 or something and completely immerse themselves in the hearing community. The only downfall to ASL is that hearing parents and family members need to learn it as well whereas the other methods have a greater downfall if they don't work.

That's just my two cents.

Miss Kat's Parents said...


Yes, ASL will give language and the ability to communicate to every child, HOWEVER (and this is a large however) it has will teach Deaf children to read or write. There is plenty of examples of ASL users who struggle with English. In fact, I have yet to see ANY research that shows that native ASL using students acheive reading levels equal to hearing peers.

Anonymous said...

In actuality, J.J., I've known quite a number of deaf students who never became truly fluent in ASL or any other language for that matter. there are deaf individuals with language learning disabilities, and that includes ASL. they communicated in gesture or home signs or a very small repertoire of signs. I've also known a number of deaf individuals who had an impairment in their motor skills so that they could not make the hand movements of signing or plan sequences of signs with ease. just because someone is deaf doesn't mean they will always, unfailingly take to ASL like a duck to the water. and then there's the deaf child's parents to consider. for a child to become a native signer, their parents have to learn to sign, and very quickly. after a lifetime of oral and auditory communication, it's not always easy for adults to make the transition to a visual-manual system.

MKM, the research about the ability of Deaf of Deaf children to perform at or near grade level is out there. Just be aware that some of those studies were old and not all variables were controlled, such as parent education. Once again, I've seen a number of Deaf of Deaf who were not working anywhere near grade level. ASL isn't a miracle cure or a guarantee of academic success.

I think the way to go is a program like TLC as Li-Li's mom described. For every child who benefited from a CI and AVT, there's another child who benefited from exposure to ASL from birth. By "benefit" I mostly mean literacy skills. There isn't one thing that will work for every child every time.

Alicia said...

On the research issue - there have been some studies which show a correlation between ASL fluency and reading/writing ability. Of course, fluency in a first language (no matter what it is) is a requirement for developing literacy skills.

There are deaf adults and kids who still struggle with English. Often this is the result of late diagnosis, lack of early language and/or intervention, lack of skilled teachers, school placement, etc. I do know a lot (and I mean a lot) of Deaf adults and kids who are skilled readers and writers, but I also know those who are not.

I also have seen many of the kids from mainstream schools and oral programs who weren't able to keep their heads above water and are language delayed and academically delayed. Those kids are often sent to schools for the deaf to learn ASL and go to school there as a "fix" - but once a child is delayed it is very difficult to overcome it, especially if they are 8, 10, 12, or 16 years old.

To JJ's comment - having a bilingual classroom that uses ASL and spoken English does not mean it would be a total communication or sim-com environment. It means bilingual strategies involving both languages would be used.

For example when I taught this past year I had a 3D language modality sign with 3 sides. One side said "ASL", one side said "English" and one side said "choice". That helped dictate which language I was going to use and which language the students were expected to use. Some lessons were in ASL, some lessons were in spoken English. Some lessons used both - I would use ASL, switch to English, then back to ASL again (often known as PVR - preview, view, review).

This allows students to use and develop and bridge both languages. It's still involving ASL, and it's still bilingual, and it also involves spoken English.

I stayed away from Sim-Com, and the language modality sign helped prevent it's use.

I know Sim-Com is a "hot topic" - I don't think it's beneficial and I do think that language mixing/unstable codeswitching is not beneficial. I also feel that when someone uses Sim-Com they often will drop signs or spoken words which does not provide a fluent language model in either language (especially important for the younger grades). I also felt that when students kept using Sim-Com, it was preventing them from developing skills in each language individually.

The class I was in had 8 kids. 5 were from Deaf families and had ASL as a first language. When you have a bilingual classroom that is a two way bilingual program what you do and how you language plan really depends on the students. ie: language use in a classroom with students who's first language was spoken English would look different then a classroom with students who's first language was ASL. The goal is to use and develop both languages, but the approach and the times devoted to each language would vary.

Miss Kat's Parents said...

You can not extrapolate Deaf of Deaf families to hearing of Deaf using ASL. That is NOT a fair comparison. Even if hearing families work hard and immediately begin to sign, it will take at least 5 years to develop enough fluency to discuss matters above a preschool level, and children need access to FLUENT, COMPLEX language from birth, and that is impossible for a hearing family to provide in ASL.

ALL the research says that the language level of the mother is a definitive indicator of the success of a deaf child, and unfortunately, a hearing mother of a newborn deaf child does NOT have the ability to give her child ASL.

marla said...

I don't know where people get the idea that parents need five years to become ASL fluent. Presently, students take four semesters of ASL and they can become fluent in that time frame (two years at least) and become an interpreter.

My son is speaking Chinese and considers himself a fluent Chinese speaker; he took four semesters of Chinese.

In the last few months, I happened to meet more than a few deaf adults whom I thought had deaf parents! When I asked them about their ASL articulation (so beautiful I had to ask them about it). All of them smiled at me and said, "oh, my parents learned to sign as soon as they found I was deaf." This is a new cohort of signers I haven't really noticed before.

I only wished we could become less naysaying about ASL, and give it a fair shake.

Lucky Day said...

My friend who attended a Bi-Bi school in Miami said that they had signing and spoken instruction alternately. So they forced the children to communicate in both.

Misty said...

First of All ASL does not take a short time to learn. It is a language in the full sense. It may take a short time to learn some signs, say as to learn a small vocabulary in Spanish. As far as only seeing PSE signers, you have never been around a group of Deaf Adults who are chatting amongst themselves. Most Deaf Adults will change their signing style to meet who they are around and/or who they are addressing. Most hearing people tend to use more PSE, English is our first language, hence that most people you have met use PSE. When in regard to interpreting programs where they take a few semesters and become interpreters, have you seen them interpret right out of school? They are not very good, unless they have a previous background in it. It takes more time to develop, and interpreting and real conversing is completely different.

As far as, deafness dying out, that may only be due to Americans and their want for everyone to be the same. It really hurts my soul when someone is amazingly beautiful and intelligent, then the American society says you can’t be that way; you have to be the same as the whole. I am not only referring to Deaf, but Spanish, African, Haitian, Chinese, Japanese, Jewish, Mormon, Muslim, etc. The land of the free? When? People have been persecuting, forcing their ideals on other people since the beginning of this Country. This is a whole another soap box in itself. Just remember deafness is not just a hearing loss, it is a whole beautiful culture, people, including a language.

Misty said...

Bi-lingual/ Bi-cultural schools, who says it is ASL only? If there is a Deaf teacher yes, there is mostly ASL in the classroom, but who is keeping the child from talking to another peer that can use speech and hearing? Is the teacher going to tape their mouth shut? It is not like in one oral school where I have seen them cover a deaf child’s hands to force them to speak. (Don’t get me wrong, this was ONE Oral classroom.)

I did an internship at JMS, I used spoken English in the classroom. (First Grade) Instruction was in ASL, but if a child talked to me I would talk back or respond in ASL. I would not ignore the child. If I was working one-on-one with a student and they preferred talking, fine, I talked, if they signed, I signed.

I currently work at a Deaf School, Bi-Lingual/Bi-cultural. We have a spoken language class. If the child can benefit from spoken language and the parents want it, they can go to the class. It is currently about a little over an hour long. The teacher is skilled in ASL and spoken English. The educational assistant is Deaf, she identifies being Deaf but is more hard of hearing and she speaks well. In my class (Preschool) I use both. I am hearing my educational assistant is Deaf. Not all of my students can benefit from spoken language, so I mostly teach in ASL. In a small group setting or one-on-one, I may use my voice. I also use sandwiching: ASL, Spoken, ASL or Spoken, ASL, Spoken. I have students who have CIs and some with Hearing Aids, some with both, some benefit more than others with them. I use whatever benefits the child the most, my goal is to give them language! When I am focusing on ASL, if needed I give spoken support. I don’t focus on spoken language, since we have a spoken language class, but if a child is struggling with saying a word or phrase, I will “correct” them as appropriate for a preschool class. Mostly this means, I repeat what they say correctly, modeling spoken English for them.

I could go on and on, on my soap box… I don’t think we need to “convince” parents. I think that the child should be presented with the options, associating with both languages, GOOD Language models in a language rich environment. Making sure they have FULL access to language. Eventually you will see which language THEY choose. It is THEY who will be using it, it is THEIR life. We can not make them fit into our mold. If they want to speak, fine, as long as it is language, and not just speech. If they want to use ASL, fine again make sure it is language and not just a few signs. They can choose both, that is fine as well. LANGAUGE is the key. They can not learn to read or write if they do not have a language foundation, no matter which it is.

Anonymous said...

Is it just in the US that the idea of bilingual education seems so difficult and adventurous? It's hardly a new or strange idea in most of the world. Most of the questions asked here have been answered decades or even centuries ago. Part of the day in one language, part in the other, or math in english and history in french, etc. It's odd to see bilingual education discussed as if it's difficult or new.