Kat Reading

Kat Reading

Thursday, June 28, 2012


So, I still have lots more to share about our weekend at ASL camp!

Miss Kat had a great time hanging out with the other kids, but....ummm....she wouldn't really sign! She enjoyed the classes and the ASL skits and games, but in her moment to moment communication, she still insisted on speaking. Before we left we had discussed where we were going, and why. She was nervous (as I explained before) but she seemed excited. When we arrived she was a little overwhelmed and would check with me for clarification or explanation when people would sign to her. (I would just sign back what they said to her and she was fine. I just think it was a case of the nerves.) But as she started to get comfortable, you could see her facial expressions and body language sort of "return" to her. (She has always been a super expressive kiddo!)

So, when we first arrived, we went to our dorm room and Miss Kat was chatting at me. I told her that when we were alone, it was fine, but that when were with others, I would be signing and I would expect her to do the same. She said she understood. Yeah, that didn't happen!

Most people were very nice about Miss Kat not signing, or very poorly signing. They were patient and encouraging. That helped her a lot. But, when she felt like it was "down time", like at lunch time or just hanging out, she reverted back to speaking. When we were in classes, or doing an activity (or when we did our presentation of "Goldilocks and the Three Bears" and "The Three Billy Goats Gruff") she signed. Her face and body are so expressive, I just love it! There is one more snafu though...she would often try to sign exactly what she was thinking in English...including "am", "the", "is", etc....yikes!

There was one incident at lunch was was a little crazy. Miss Kat was sitting next to me and she kept talking. There was a Deaf adult at the table. The Deaf woman finally turned to Miss Kat and said "Why won't you sign? Your mom is such a fluent signer. You are so lucky! When I was little, none of my family could sign at all. And now, I'm Deaf, and I can't understand when you talk. We need sign. I see that you say "What?" a lot (which actually wasn't true, she asked me to voice other people's ASL WAY more than she struggles with understanding people speak, but that is neither here nor there), you need to sign because you are deaf." At which point Miss Kat said, "No, I'm hearing.".....oh crap!!! That is the first and only time she has EVER said that! She knows she's deaf, she is around d/Deaf adults and children and has never once expressed that she wishes that she wasn't deaf or that she wants to be hearing, and then all of a sudden she decides (at Deaf camp none the less!) that she IS hearing?! I wanted to hide under a rock!

So, we had a great time. I feel like Miss Kat gained some confidence in her ASL, we were able meet some families, and hopefully encourage them. Our next great adventure begins tonight...AG Bell here we come! (Oh, and you KNOW that Miss Kat is going to decide to do nothing but sign this weekend!)

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

ASL Camp

Miss Kat and I are back from the State school for the Deaf, and we had a great time! Miss Kat was pretty nervous (she said she didn't know enough sign) but by the time we were packing up, she said she wanted to stay forever! What really made the difference was when we sat down in our first ASL lesson, and Miss Kat looked through the handout and said "I know ALL of these! Is this the easy or hard class?" I replied "Hard." Her face lit up and she said "I know A LOT of sign!"

There were about 9 families there, with kids ranging from 2 to 16. I was far and away the best (non-staff!) signer. It was a strange experience. I reached this level of fluency by the time Miss Kat was 5. I saw parents with kids who were 16 and couldn't sign a sentence. And these aren't oral kids. These are families who have a child who uses ASL a their sole means of communication. I just don't understand how that happens. The saddest moment during a break, when some of the moms were sharing our "stories" (which always happens when you get families together) and some of the older girls were sitting nearby. (Whenever there were Deaf people around, I would make sure that I was at least SIM-COMing,  even if they weren't involved in the conversation, I just think it's polite.) So, a mom was telling me about when they found out their daughter was deaf, and the daughter turns to me and asks, "What is she talking about? Is she talking about me?" I said yes, and gave her a quick run down of what had been said. She said "I can't understand her. She talks too fast. I am DEAF, and can't talk. I sign! I don't know what she says." Her mom sees her frustration (through her rate of signing and body language, I assume) and says "I'm trying!", to which her daughter says "I'm 16!"

I was so sad for her. She has no way to connect with her family. Later, I asked her about where she goes to school. She told me that when she was younger, she attended a local day school for the Deaf, but that her father had moved the family for a job and now she was mainstreamed (with an interpreter) but that she was dying to attend the residential school, but that her family wouldn't allow it. So, she can't communicate with anyone at home or school...so sad.

Another interesting experience was with another teen. This young lady is oral, but now that she is in middle school is starting to learn some sign. We were in the cafeteria for a presentation on Deaf culture. They had interpreters for the families. So, after just a few minutes the young lady's mother raised her hand, she was very upset. She said that her daughter didn't know enough sign to follow the presentation, but also couldn't understand the interpreter because of the acoustics of the room. They asked her what they could do to help her have access to the presentation...but mom just said "She needs to understand the language!" I suggested that the other interpreter sit right next to her and interpret the ASL for her. That seemed to work for her. Then the next day we were having another presentation, this time it was about reading to/with your Deaf child. We, again, had interpreters, but there were fans going and it was pretty noisy. This time the young lady burst into tears and ran out of the room. The family didn't return to camp....

This situation was even stranger to me! The mother had been asking some questions at the parent panel we had about socialization and how to help her daughter make friends (and the only advice that was given was "send her to the Deaf school", and she did NOT like it!) and then she was struggling so much to understand what was going on...it was so sad. 

Ok, so here is my opinion on the situation. If you want your child to be oral, great, so make it happen. There are ways to ensure that a child can hear well in all situations (believe me, next weekend I will be seeing it with my own eyes!), so if you have an oral child, MAKE SURE THEY HAVE ACCESS!! But, on the other hand, if you want your child to learn and use ASL, you have to make that happen too! This poor young lady was stuck in "no man's land" unable to use either language to gain access to information! Something needed to change, so I hope that this was a wake up call for this family and that they will make the changes needed to help her be successful.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Graduation and Honors Day

No, Miss Kat was not graduating! Her best friend did though...and last year her two closest friends....so, I will let her new friend's parents know the good news, she will surely graduate next year!

The kiddos sang a cute little song (one we had been hearing pieces of for a week or more.) And Mommy cried...also not a surprise.

Miss Kat also got two awards this year! She received a computer award for "most improvement in technology skills". Even better though, Miss Kat got a "High Academic Achievement Award". She was awarded this award for "superior achievement in word study". What that means is that on her Stanford Achievement Test (the school does yearly standardized testing) she made GREATER than one year's progress in one year! For the record, Miss Kat made one year's growth in all areas of testing, but in "Word Study" (one of the reading sub-tests) she made 1 year 7 months growth! That is nearly two years!! Go Miss Kat!!

A Guest Post

Not long ago, I began talking with a mother of a deaf child with bilateral cochlear implants. Miss Kat is a little older than this mother's child, and she was asking me some questions about our local services for kids with CIs. I recently asked her if she would share her story, because I think her perspective is very unique. She was kind enough to write something up for me, and here is my first "guest post" in it's entirety.

This is a Deaf mother's story of her Deaf son who has bilateral cochlear implants (CIs) and uses both ASL and spoken English as his communication modes. His first language is ASL and English is his second language.
 I was once wary of CIs due to the early technology which was not reliable enough to me, myths, and seeing some of failure cases both personally and as a teacher.  Also the attitude (in certain people) of deaf people being needed to be "fixed" that was attached to oralism and CIs turned me off.  However a few years ago, my perceptive changed when I was searching the web for something. My attention was caught by a posting by a Deaf mother of 2 Deaf children with CIs and use both ASL and spoken English. I was surprised and curious how something like this was possible - a case where CIs actually being used by children of a Deaf household that uses ASL.  This led to my research on CIs and Deaf parents of children with CIs and who use both ASL and spoken English.  I began to realize that I was used to seeing children that didn't benefit from CIs since some public school districts usually send those children to the schools for the deaf.  Successful users are not walking around with a sign, "Look at me!" unless they are willing to share their story.  I also searched for a CI clinic/surgeon that is open to Deaf parents and signing which is very few.
My son has had his CIs for 3 years. He actually prefers them over his old hearing aids. We also started auditory-verbal therapy (AVT) when he was one. The therapist taught us some methods that can be used in a Deaf household to help develop a child's listening and speaking skills during the beginning stage.  We enrolled him in a private preschool for listening and speaking exposure.  We are fortunate because the staff is wonderful and willing to work with his services from the local public school district.  The school also runs all round.  Since I am a teacher of the deaf, I am familiar with how to work with the school system for deaf students and find resources which helped a lot.
Our son will begin kindergarten as an oral student this coming school year. He will be receiving services of weekly speech language therapy, AVT, oral language facilitator for more spoken English exposure - as in talking more with him about whatever is going on in the classroom, and a teacher of the deaf to check on his progress.
The journey has NOT been easy for us as Deaf parents.  We have faced objections and doubts from the Deaf community which we expected due to our decisions with our son.  I know that we will always face this so I am more choosy of who our friends are.  I do appreciate it when a person who is curious asks questions, that he/she wants to know even if he/she may disagree. Despite of what others think, we don't regret our decision. I sometimes wish I could communicate with hearing people with ease (without using pen & paper, etc) as my son is able to do so at his age level.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Cochlear implants and race???

Miss Kat is attending a literacy camp for deaf elementary school students this week. She is loving it! It is fantasy themed and they are talking about dragons and knights and all that cool stuff. She is having a blast.

Well, the camp is being held at a local university that has a Teacher of the Deaf program, and we had never been to the campus before. While I was dropping Miss Kat off the other day, I saw this poster on the wall. It was a poster presentation that had been at the most recent EHDI conference. It was about minority children and their access to cochlear implants and early intervention. What I read was shocking to me!

First, it said that 35% of US kids are on Medicaid. Ok, that isn't particularly news to me. But then it said that only 13% of the kids on Medicaid get audiological services WHEN THEY ARE NEEDED! So, we aren't talking about the entire group, just the kids who have been referred for some reason. Of the reffered kids, only 13% are seen by an audiologist! WHAT?! Why?? I happen to know that audiological services are covered by Medicaid, so what is preventing the follow up?

The study said that 49% of children diagnosised with a hearing loss are "non-white", with the Hispanic children being 24.5% and African American children being 15.4% (uh, but how many are undiagnosed since they are being seen by audiologists?)

It also said that (presumely becaue of the language barrier) the majority of Hispanic familes are given information about only one mode of communication and are rarely given information about cochlear implants.

Next was the most information that was most shocking to me. It said that European American children receive cochlear implants at a rate of three times more often than Hispanic American children and 10 times the rate of African American kids! It also said that African American children, on average, wear their devices "far fewer" hours than white children....WOW...so this begs the question....WHY???

Friday, June 1, 2012

Miss Kat's first swimcap

Summer has been great so far! Miss Kat and I have been having some great mom and daughter time. The weather has been amazing! So yesterday we packed up the whole family and headed to the waterpark!

Miss Kat does not yet have the Neptune. Insurance says they will cover it when her Harmony is 5 years old. That means we have about 18 months. (Big BUT though...her primary right side processor is dead. It is also no longer under warranty. Insurance is going to have to replace it. They can choose to buy another Harmony, which would only have a 6 month warranty, OR do the Neptune, which would be covered for 3 years. We are trying to convince them that the Neptune is the right choice!) But, lately, Miss Kat has not been wanting to play in the water without her devices. A year ago, she just whipped them off and headed for the water. Now she asks if she can leave them on for sprinklers and light water play. We tell her that is fine. But the waterpark is different. She will be in moving water, swimming, submerging herself...the Harmony just can't handle that! So, what do we do??

Enter youtube! As most parents of CI users know, there is a way to "waterproof" a typical BTE processor. It involves a baggie and a swimcap. We had mentioned it to Miss Kat the last couple of summers, but she wasn't interested. This year though, she said she wanted to be able to hear at the waterpark. So...we dove in!

It worked great! She was able to understand the lifeguards and the instructions on the slides. She could hear the warning whistles and announcements. Plus, she looked super cute with her zebra stripped swimcap on! (Plus, we could find her in the crowd easily!)