Sunday, January 9, 2011

Deaf and reading

I'm struggling with this and not knowing what to do.  We never thought we'd have a deaf son but we do.  We love him more than you can ever imagine & would NEVER want him to be any where else.  However, at times I feel he belongs at a deaf school.  Let me explain and then maybe some of you out there may have answers or suggestions.  We adopted Nik at 4yo(just turned 4 that same month).  He had no interventions though supposedly had speech therapy.  But, since they didn't know he was deaf, really did no good.

I won't go through all the past few years.  Long story short, he is now bilaterally implanted w/ CI's.  They are working great.  He is hearing everything for the most part.  He can recognize a lot of what we say.  Nik is a total communicator.  Or tries.  We all try too so verbal and sign.  Nik relates best when you do both.  He does not talk in voice nor does he sign to you much.  I'm not sure if he's afraid we won't understand him or what.  Though he is getting much much better about signing to us.  I told him he can teach mommy how to sign more and he said "yes."  Fine.

He is very comfortable in his environment though. He's in a regular setting at school w/ pull out help.  He has a full time interpreter.  I like her but at times think Nik is too close to her.  He kept wanting to wrap up and give her Christmas gifts but nothing to his other teachers or friends.  That has me concerned.  Orphanage kids I feel are at risk some times w/ attachment issues and just forming attachments to anyone and going to anyone.  Nik does not go to just anyone and is shy at first.  He also tells me he loves me and is still our cuddle bug.  Yet, the mom in me is some times fearful that he'll connect to her more for language than me.  I want to be the one he communicates with.  Not a teacher.  I ask him everyday what he did in school each day but he answers me the same way every time.  Maybe that's just the first grader in him, I don't know.  Of course, better than the beginning of the year when he didn't answer me at all.  I'll try to ask him questions all the time.  I guess part of me wants more communication from him than I'm getting.  Don't know.

I like his school, I like his teachers and I like his interpreter.  But, as he gets older, I think it will be harder for him to form friends.  Just this past week I had to write a note to the entire class b/c Nik was begging for a friend to come over & play.  Literally, in tears.  He kept forgetting to give his #'s to friends (part of an FAS thing) & teachers are not allowed to help him w/ that.  Nor are teachers allowed to get phone #'s from other kids for him.  Kind of a stuck in the middle where he was type of thing.  So, I wrote a note to the entire class asking their parents to call if they'd like to come play.  ONE person called.  Just one.  Thankfully, it was his best friend from last year.  They had so,so much fun together on Saturday.  His friend has learned sign right along w/ Nik.  But, he too won't use it either.  Yet, they  played together just fine. This is great for a 1st grader but what happens when he's older & needs more in depth conversation?  Some are thinking he'll talk.  He's 8.  Can say a few words...puppy, people, mom, dad, all our names(well, we can understand them), bye, bad, good, boy, girl, etc.  Just a few words.  Imo, not enough to say he'll eventually speak.  I'm not trying to be pessimistic but realistic.  Would a deaf school be better for him?  I know it would destroy this family if he were sent away.  Where we live,he'd have to be residential.  We refuse to have that happen.  Wonderful school but we'd be heartbroken and I truly believe Nik would too.  He is closer than close w/ his family. 

I need him to have every opportunity in life.  That includes communication.  The place we go to for his audiological care are now pushing us to learn sign as well.  It's on his eval report.  Keep in mind, a few years ago this place was vehemently against using sign.  So, deep down I think they are aware as well or at least have a feeling he may never talk.  Don't know.  I know now though that we need to find more places to speak sign.  I tried to connect w/  a group locally but it was mostly adults.  I need kids for him to interact w/.  I'm going to look for more options.  There is one church that does a signing service.  We may go to that one once a month & our church the rest of the time.  Who knows.  Just know we need to expose Nik to more sign.

Now, the reading part.  I need suggestions on how to teach Nik to read.  The school is just doing word bank stuff.  I'm not sure this is the right approach or the only approach.  There has to be more out there.  I just need to find it.  I posted on one of the forums and do have some responses.  JUst would love to hear from others on here if there is something you use to help your deaf children learn to read.  They told me last year there would be no doubt he'd be reading this year.  Well, half the year is gone & I see nothing.  I inquired the other day & they say he's doing excellent, forming sentences, etc.  I do not see that at all out of him.  Call me cautious or skeptical but after dealing w/ JCPS system for over 10 years now, I know when to question things.  Now is one of those times.  He is not near where he should be.  I don't want them to use his deafness as an excuse either.  I really don't.  He's a smart kid.  Can do anything he puts his mind to.  I know he'll be able to learn to read but trying to figure out how is the best way to teach him.  I'm open to suggestions. 

I know this post was all over the place.  Sorry.  Happens when you are interrupted 50 times while writing it.  Bottom line is I want to make sure we're doing the right thing for Nik.  I know for now his placement is fine.  I just want to make sure it stays fine.  Make sure his education grows as he grows.  Thanks for listening to my babble.  I guess part of me is worried that I may not be doing enough for Nik to reach his fullest potential.  Yes, IEP is in place and all that.  Yes, he gets speech therapy at school and privately at home.  Yes, we read to him.  Yes, we're trying to absorb & learn more sign.  But is all this enough for a deaf child?  Can he thrive?  Again, the deaf school is NOT an option and probably never will be unless we moved closer or they moved the school.  I say move the school b/c the state has actually contemplated moving it & combining it w/ the blind school.  If that were to happen, it would be close enough for him to attend. But, last I heard, that's not happening.  But, who knows.  I guess for now involving him in more deaf activities would help.  I will try to find some more opportunities to do that. 

Got to go.  I'm open to suggestions.  I'm sure I may get some comments for posting certain things but this is truly how I feel.  Oh, and any suggestions on a puppy that keeps peeing in the house, I'm all ears.  Kota just started this back up.  Literally looks at you & then will just stand there and pee.  URGHH!!  Lucky, we have mostly hardwoods floors.  Alaska is fine.  Don't get it.  More to come tomorrow.  Well, if the ice storm doesn't knock out power.  It's supposed to hit later in the day though so guessing if something were to happen, it would be on Tuesday.  Schools are already shutting down.  Not ours yet.  But, if it does what it's supposed to,then the storm will start mid-day tomorrow & schools will most likely early release.  Who knows.  Playing it by ear.  Plenty to eat and plenty of hot cocoa and marshmellows on stand by.  Love it.  Hoping to have a productive week.  # 1 item on my list is immigration. Wish me luck on that one.


  1. Well, here's the deal: ASL is not English, and it doesn't convert to written English either. Lets take the sign for "bird". What part of that sign represents the sound "b". Absolutely nothing of it! How about the sign for "tree"? Anything that represents the sound "t"? Nope! Not only that, but while signing "tree" you can change your movement and palm orientation to say something like, "The tree was bent over in the wind." All by just moving your arm.

    That's because ASL is a conceptual language. It is NOT English. We can INTERPRET it into English, but it is not exact. That same sign for "tree" that I talked about above could be interpreted three different ways by three different interpreters. I would suggest looking at Cued Speech. (Many of the studies done on the use of cued speech with deaf students for reading were done right here in my school district.) He can still use ASL! In fact, he should. He's going to be part of the deaf community and he needs to be able to function within that community. Cued Speech can help him with English and reading.

    It is very common for kids to become dependent on their interpreter, especially if the interpreter doesn't know how to disconnect. There are too many interpreters who cross the boundaries and become the role of the paraprofessional, which is NOT, and should NEVER BE the role of the interpreter.

    What you're seeing as far as relationships go is VERY common at his age when a deaf child is raised in a hearing family. Have you talked to other hearing parents of deaf kids? Have you talked to other deaf adults about their experiences at this age? Does he get much opportunity OUTSIDE of school to do things in the deaf community? Does he have other deaf friends?

    As far as expressive signing, is this new for him, or has this always been an issue? It's VERY common for kids his age to refuse to sign because they don't want to look different or stand out. When I have worked with deaf kids who don't want to sign, I make it clear I can't understand them. "I'm sorry, I know what you want to say is important, but I can't understand you right now." Some kids who are implanted refuse to talk because they don't like their own voice and they know it sounds different.

    The peeing puppy in the house? If it's the female, and this is NEW, bring a urine sample in to check for a UTI. Otherwise go back to ZERO, like you'd just gotten them, and use a crate. They shouldn't be loose in the house without 100% eyes on supervision. Think of a toddler loose without a diaper. Is this the male or the female? If you think they haven't peed in the house where you haven't found it, you're crazy. LOL

  2. Part time lurker and deaf ed major here...

    It really depends - is the deaf school that you would send him to a good bilingual school with high expectations? Some deaf schools are better then others, and some are still stuck in a rut from 20 years ago with teachers who don't always sign well, and a negative deficit view that deaf students can't do as well as hearing students. Of course, this view often exists in public schools as well.

    The two deaf schools near me (MSD-Frederick and Kendall) are good. Not so sure about the one in NC.

    I think it's vital that you are signing with Nik, regardless of how well he's doing with his implants and speech. I also think it's vital that he's exposed to fluent Deaf adults and other Deaf kids so that he continues to develop a fluent language base (this will transfer into being able to learn a second language and learning to read). It also would mean that he'd see plenty of role models and examples of successful Deaf adults so he'd know he doesn't have to be hearing to be successful and that it's ok to sign. Very common for some kids in public schools (not all, again depends on the kid the family and the school) to feel that signing is "low" and that being hearing is better.

    And I don't mean to overstep, but at 8 the window for acquiring a first language is closing and of course there's the added challenge of a late diagnosis of not being diagnosed until 4. Have you been able to have his ASL skills evaluated? That could give a good idea where he stands as far as his language development and ability.

    Also you're right in thinking there is more then learning to read then word banks and sight words. For Deaf kids there are a lot of bilingual methods such as sandwiching/chaining and chunking to help bridge vocabulary between English and ASL as well as other strategies to develop decoding skills and reading fluency. It's important for Deaf kids to not only recognize the words on a page, but be able to comprehend them and use interpretation strategies to interpret them into ASL to show comprehension. Some deaf schools or deaf programs in public schools still use SEE to read where students just recognize words on a page and there isn't much comprehension.

    Of course there's the stereotype based on an old article in the 90s that deaf people read on a 4th grade level. According to the study the median reading score for deaf high schoolers was at the 4th grade level (this has often been misconstrued to saying that's the average or 'all'). But a lot has changed since then and I'm sure that many deaf high schoolers are at or above grade level and I know a lot of Deaf adults who are fluent readers. Those high schoolers that had been studied would have been the generation that just came out of the oral decade and the early years of total communication schools where teachers didn't sign well if at all and many were diagnosed late, entered schools with zero language at 5-8 years old, and were not exposed to fluent language models or bilingual methods.

    That was a bit long winded and I hope it made sense. It's early. It's good that you are thinking about this. And good luck with the dog pee and immigration :)

  3. The best teacher is the parent itself. Take up sign language classes and try to absorb it from deaf folks. There are. You tube videos where you can watch and learn. Videos like geoseek, peter cook,Crom, aslella(check out their friends, they sign too).

  4. I was oral deaf in mainsteamed myself. I didn't have much friends either but life goes on and I'm ok. Maybe there's an magnet school for the nearby you.

    The suggestions I have for puppy is a bell near the door. I use cowbell because I can hear it with my hearing aids/ CI (other bells, I can not). Every time you take him outside to pee, rub his snout against the bell. He'll learn he gotta ring the bell when he gotta go. There are times I don't hear it and my dog somehow learned to rest his snout on my lap.

  5. Ok, so have they evaluated his language? Both receptive and expressive, both ASL and English?

    He can't read until he has enough language to understand the things he's reading. If he looks at a book and it says "The dog is on top of the tree", unless he knows all those words, he can't possibly read it.

    Second, you can't learn language from an interpreter. You have to learn language from experience and exposure. If the interpreter signs "Need go cafeteria, time lunch 1130", the child can not possible understand what to do or what to expect unless they know and understand all those concepts. He has to be shown what a cafeteria is, what lunch is, BEFORE he can use the interpreter to give him the language.

    8 is very very old. The window of opportunity for language is closing. It is incredibly important to get language in, and fast.

    Also, how come he is eight and in first grade? My daughter is 7 and is half way through her 2nd grade year.

    My need to get him language. It doesn't matter what language (though ASL is probably your best bet at this point) and you have to get it in him as fast as possible. This is truely an emergency situation.

  6. This is a challenge many of us face. I have a deaf 13 year old who is above grade level. He can't hear a thing so it was a huge deal for us that we figure out how to help him read. Here is a link to my blog where I talk about how we did it.

    This program seemed to really help us

    He went to the State school to start and mainstreamed half days for awhile. I found the mainstream teachers tended to think he was doing better than he really was.

    I hope that helps in some way.

    You sound like you have a really awesome family.

  7. Yes, your best bet is sign language as I'm sure you tried to get him to use his cochlear implant and get spoken language. I wouldn't use an interpreter for English though, I would ask for a special education teacher/or deaf teacher to work with him for English and use the interpreter for other classes. What type of sign language is he using? PSE, ASL, SEE, cued speech? Going back and forth on sign, spoken, sign, spoken for one sentence would probably give him choppy language.

  8. Have you ever seen the Signing Time videos? I don't know if they would be any help for Nik, but they might be useful to your family to pick up more signs quickly. They are probably too babyish for the older kids, but if the younger ones watch it sometimes the older ones would probably accidently pick some of it up!

    The woman who created it has a daughter who is deaf, and she wanted others to be able to communicate with her daughter. Here is a link to her story: