Kat Reading

Kat Reading

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.


David said...

This is very strange to me also, yet I see this pattern repeated. One issue seems to be that far too many parents believe that they can trust their local school system to fully educate their children and the only thing the parents need do is get the children to school. AFAIK, this has *never* been true, but I see evidence of this attitude from parents of hearing kids, too. I do not think it would ever occur to most families to actually move so their children could have a better school to attend.

Your family has clearly been much more involved in Miss Kat’s whole education process. I have had several teachers tell me that the best indicator of how well a child (talking about any child) will do in school is how involved the parents are in the whole process. It looks like you are doing well.


Dianrez said...

Echo David's comment. It's a worthwhile consideration for all oral and mainstreamed kids to have intensive exposure to ASL well before high school in order to be able to use interpreters.

This is because the higher levels of education teach concepts that just cannot be effectively conveyed in lipreading and partial hearing even with the best of circumstances. All the colleges that serve Deaf students use ASL/PSE, not SEE, not Cued Spech, not oral communication.

ASL is essential in peer to peer communication both in the classroom and outside of school. This is where world wisdom comes in. I wish parents were more forward looking and anticipate this. Just because the chosen communication style works at age 5 or 10 doesn't mean it will be up to the task at 15.

You're doing fine in embracing all systems and exposing your child to a wide range of experiences. Try to teach those other parents that approach, too.

Anonymous said...

I really feel for those kids who are in no-man's land, language-wise. they were raised oral and maybe it worked for a while, but often by middle school, communication gets a lot more challenging for many reasons, and that's when families start to consider a deaf school. Yet here their son or daughter is, not knowing any sign language at all, and they have to learn. It's so frustrating to not understand, whether one is an ASL signer or an oral communicator.

maybe at the presentation, there could have been a CART for this young lady? that would have been the best solution. or maybe an oral interpreter, or at least someone taking notes for her.

At the school where I work, I was at several IEPs where it was brought up that the new student was also a new signer, and not doing well in classes because s/he simply did not understand the teachers. how sad is that? Teachers, parents, and students need to be allied and figure out ways to meet the student's needs.

Anonymous the First

TO said...

Reading your blog, your daughter is so lucky to be learning both English and ASL from a young age, and even more importantly so lucky to be able to share both with her family.

It's scary some of the stories you hear about how isolated some families let themselves become from each other.