February 28, 2011

She is Just Like Everyone Else

I was talking with someone about a student. She commented about how great it is that this student is like everyone else, fully integrated. She spoke about how you could hardly tell that she has a disability or a hearing loss.

I smiled and thought to myself, "Yes, it is nice, but she is also not like everyone else in a lot of ways. She will always be deaf. Instead of only focusing on assimilation, it would be better if we could also encourage her to accept herself for who she really is and take pride in it."


I Was Mainstreamed

I was mainstreamed in a general public school from kindergarten to seventh grade. I loved it.

Classes were very small at the time and socializing with everyone was not much of a problem for me. I had really good friends there.

Even though we lived out of district, the school provided a school bus to pick me up and take me there everyday.

They had a deaf and hard of hearing program with self-contained classes and resource rooms. I had a resource room teacher who I saw every now and then. Because I was doing so well in academics, I hardly attended the classes for deaf and hard of hearing students for academic instruction. But, I regularly visited for social reasons. Various deaf and hard of hearing visitors frequently visited the classroom. The visitors that stick out in my mind were the deaf tennis players who came and played a few games for us. I really liked how they communicated to each other across the court in sign language. The teachers talked to us about Gallaudet University and RIT. They showed movies and television shows that included deaf and hard of hearing people. They taught us some sign language. It was fun.

However, I would have liked to have learned more about how to advocate for myself in terms of my hearing needs, learned what my hearing loss is, learned more about how we hear, learned how to take care of my hearing aids, and such.

Because of the deaf and hard of hearing program at this school, I was surrounded by others like me. I knew many students of all ages, who were like me, in that they wore hearing aids or use FM systems.We understood each other. I knew that I was not alone.

I was very lucky that I attended a great mainstreamed program from kindergarten to seventh grade.


February 27, 2011

Deaf & HOH Students: To Mainstream Or Not

Is it better to mainstream a deaf or hard of hearing child in general education classes or to send him or her to a specialty school for deaf and hard of hearing students, whether they have oral/aural programs, predominately use sign language, use the bilingual (ASL/English) approach, or use total communication?

In my opinion, it really depends on the types of schools that are available, the area you live in, what type of family the child comes from, communication and education preferences, and the child's personality, abilities, and skills.

But, let's say the ideal schools for deaf and hard of hearing students are located near the family's home and are known to produce excellent students. And let's say there are several ideal public schools (general education) nearby that are also known to be excellent. You are not sure if your child would fare better in general education or a school for deaf and hard of hearing students. What would you do? Which schools should you send your child to?
Let's look at what an ideal school for deaf and hard of hearing students may look like and what the advantages and disadvantages could be. 
  • The school for deaf and hard of hearing children will most likely have more resources and information about hearing loss and educating deaf and hard of hearing students on site than the typical public school (parent sign language classes, technology, deaf and hoh adult role models, technology, first hand knowledge, etc.). 
  • At a school for the deaf, all the teachers would ideally hold a degree and be certified both in general education and deaf and hard of hearing education. 
  • For students who use sign language, there would be no need for interpreters, because ideally the teachers would be fluent signers themselves. 
  • Class size would most likely be small, providing more opportunities for one-on-one instruction. 
  • Without much effort, the students will have full access to the information taught in academic settings.
  • The students will also be surrounded by others like them, which could help with their social skills, self esteem, and developing a healthier sense of self. 
  • They won't have to be pulled from class for special services as much as they would in a general education setting. Most likely they will not have to be pulled for language instruction (depending on their background and whether or not they get the support they need at home). Instead, they may be pulled for other services such as OT, PT, and speech services.
There are many advantages found in a good school for deaf and hard of hearing students. Otherwise, if a school for deaf and hard of hearing students does not have all of these ideal things, it could be a bad choice, unfortunately. But, so would an ill-equipped mainstreamed program for a deaf or hard of hearing student not ready or properly prepared to be thrown in general education classes without much support.
There are only a few disadvantages of attending a really good school for the deaf that I could think of.
  • There would be lack of exposure to a large diverse group of students (hearing or not) and I suppose a lack of exposure to the general population while in school. 
  • There will not be as many opportunities for students to advocate for themselves in regard to their hearing needs in a school for deaf and hard of hearing students, because there would not really be a need for them to. Developing self advocacy skills that we often have to use with the general population is very important.
Let's look at the advantages of mainstreaming deaf or hard of hearing students in an ideal public school.
  • They will be more exposed to the "hearing world" where spoken language is used predominately. Students will learn how to adapt to certain challenges and to advocate for themselves within environments that are tailored more for the hearing population. 
  • There will be specialists at the school to work with the classroom teachers and set up the classroom environment and help provide accommodations that will work best for the d/hh student.   
  • The general education students will be exposed to deaf and hard of hearing people, who they may not meet or come across often outside of school. 
I can think of some disadvantages of mainstreaming a deaf or hard of hearing child in even an excellent public school that would be able to provide appropriate accommodations and services needed.
  • Many public schools have large classes, often 20 students or greater.  
  • The deaf or hard of hearing student could be pulled often from academic classes for special services such as small group instruction and speech. 
  • They will not be surrounded by other peers like themselves, especially those who are of similar age. Often, they will be the only deaf or hard of hearing student in a classroom. Sometimes they may be the only deaf or hard of hearing student in the entire school. Also, there will most likely be no hard of hearing or deaf adults to serve as role models and mentors. 
  • Even if the student has a sign language interpreter, a highly qualified one, they may miss out on what is being said sometimes. It would be impossible for the interpreter to sign every single word that is being said especially in side conversations and group discussions.
Which learning environment would be more beneficial depends on the child and a number of factors.
With the recent news that some schools of the deaf and hard of hearing may be closing, parents will have less choices in how they would like to educate their child, other than to mainstream them or send them to a private school. What are families to do when there are hardly any resources or good schools for the deaf and hard of hearing located nearby? Some families do not have the luxury to relocate or put in more time and money to provide their child the best kind of life that they would be happy or fortunate enough to give them.

Shutting down more schools for the deaf will only exacerbate the problem.

February 25, 2011

Possible Future Deaf & HOH Advocate :)

Apparently, my consultative visits with a ten year old student have made a strong impact on him and his family.

I met with his family recently for an IEP meeting and they told me about how he has been doing a lot of research about deaf and hard of hearing issues and sign language on his own at home. He has told them that he wants to be like me. "You mean he wants to be a teacher?" I asked. "No, he wants to be a deaf and hard of hearing advocate like you," his father responded. This student is always telling me that he "wants to be like me" when he grows up. I thought he was just being nice. They told me how he had never shown any interest in deaf and hard of hearing related issues before. But, then again, they had never thought about having him learn more about these issues, before I started working with him.

I see him a few times a month and when I do, we sit and drink juice or tea and discuss various deaf and hard of hearing issues. I have taught him how to read audiograms. The term "speech banana" makes him laugh. He knows about the different degrees of hearing loss and what they each mean. He also has knowledge about the anatomy of the ear. He likes to discuss how we hear and how his hearing loss is severe-profound. He loves his hearing aids and wants to learn how they work. He knows about the various ways some deaf or hard of hearing people communicate. He shows great interest in learning sign language and is currently trying to learn sign language with his family. Most of the time, he talks about how he wants to meet more people like us and learn more about how we can advocate for them.

He is the most interesting student I have had so far. 


February 24, 2011

February 21, 2011

Don't Believe Everything You Hear

I often see ridiculous claims made by people online making them sound uneducated and irrational. It concerns me when other people, who are most likely not educated or fully informed on the issue, believe these claims to be the truth without taking the time to research or find evidence backing up these claims. It concerns me when a group of people blindly follow what they think is the truth without stopping to think or learn more about what the person is claiming to be the truth.

For example, one writer wrote an article about ASL being offered as a foreign language class and how he thought that it really is not a language at all and that students who take them are taking the easy way out. This person offered no evidence or facts to back up his ideas or thoughts on this. He was merely stating his opinions about something he clearly had little knowledge of. He came off sounding uneducated and ridiculous. It was obvious that he did not know what he was talking about and that he never took an ASL class. Had he took the time to educate himself about ASL and deaf/hoh issues, he probably would not have written that article. I worry that other people reading the article will take it as the truth or factual without bothering to investigate the topic some more.

I often see ridiculous claims about cochlear implants. I have heard some people state that cochlear implant recipients will permanently have holes in their heads and that they will have to drain fluid from these holes every now and then. When I asked if they have actually seen this in a person who is implanted, none of them could say that they have.

Please, when you hear something or if someone tells you something that they claim is a fact, unless you have first hand experience or knowledge of it, don't just restate it as the absolute truth without first finding out whether it is really true or if it is something you actually believe in or agree with.

It is OK to ask questions, to form opinions of your own, or to be skeptical of everything told to you.

What if I listened to someone who told me that hearing aids, even digital ones, will cause me to lose more of my hearing and that I should never wear them? I looked into it, did my research, and I am still doing it. I have yet to find any concrete or reliable evidence convincing me that digital hearing aids will definitely cause hearing loss in those who wear them. I have been getting my hearing tested every year, and so far, my hearing has been exactly the same since I was first tested for my hearing (over twenty five years ago) and I have decided that I will continue to wear my hearing aid for the moment. I might also add that I wore analog hearing aids for over ten years.

Don't believe everything you hear. Ask questions, do some research, try to find reliable and concrete evidence backing up these claims.


February 16, 2011

Do You Hear How She Sounds Monotone?

I visited a junior high class to see a teacher, because I wanted to drop off some forms for her to sign. But, she was not in. Instead, there was this substitute teacher.

I was going to leave because the person I wanted to see was not there and I did not want to interrupt instruction time any further. Instead, the substitute teacher started talking to me. I guess she saw my hearing aid, because she asked me if I knew sign language. She then told me about how she learned some sign language a while ago because she knew someone who had a deaf child. I said, "Oh, that's cool."
Then the other students in the class started asking me questions about deaf and hard of hearing people. I assumed that it was okay for me to answer some of their questions, while I was there. The substitute teacher seemed fine with it. However, I never really had a chance to answer their questions, because she kept butting in with answers of her own. One student asked me, "Were you born that way? How did they find out that you can't hear?" I started to explain, "Well----" but, the sub interrupted me saying, "Some deaf people are born that way. But, some lose their hearing when they are older, if something happened to them to cause their hearing loss."
She went on and on about how we can hear and how me being partially deaf has affected my speech. Then another student asked me, "Well why do deaf people sound the way they do? Can some of them talk?" I started to respond, but the sub interrupted again! She gave her thoughts on the matter as if she was some sort of expert. I got the impression that she was just really excited and did not realize what she was doing.
But, then she said something that really irked me and made me feel uncomfortable. As she talked about how deaf people cannot hear the speech sounds, making it harder for them to learn how to say them, she pointed to me and said, "We can hear the intonation in speech, right? Hear how she sounds monotone? Because she will have a harder time hearing the speech sounds, she has that type of speech."


The other students looked at me. Some of them looked uncomfortable. I must have made a face, because one of them started laughing.

So, I curtly told everyone that I have to go, and I left.
I made a note to myself to return to this classroom when the teacher comes back to give the class a chance to ask questions and let ME answer the questions.

February 15, 2011

Sometimes it is Wise to Admit That You Don't Know

Someone recently talked to me about a mainstreamed high school student who is moderately-severely deaf, knows sign language, but refuses to sign while at school. The student uses an interpreter, but she will only use her voice when she expresses herself while interacting with others at school. According to this person, her speech is understandable to everyone. This person seemed concerned about the fact that she does not want to sign. She asked me, "Why does this student refuse to sign? What do you think?"

I told her that it was impossible for me to say, because I do not personally know the student and the situation.

But, this person kept asking me to give some ideas as to why she does not sign.

So, I told her some possible reasons, based on what she told me:

a) Most likely no one else, other than the interpreter, is signing in the classroom, let alone the entire school, so why would she feel compelled to sign while at school?

b) Maybe she is uncomfortable with the idea of using her interpreter to voice for her. Perhaps, she wants to represent herself using her own voice without having to worry about whether or not the interpreter voiced what she signed correctly.

c) The student probably prefers to talk when interacting with others who talk. Perhaps she is more comfortable with talking than signing in these types of situations.

Who knows?

I suggested to the person to ask the student herself. If she really wanted to know, why not ask her?

What do I know?

I think it is funny how some people think I will immediately know the answers to all questions about deaf and hard of hearing students, even those I don't work with or have personally met.

I do not think it is wise to claim that you know the answers, when really you don't. I hope that I would never immediately say, without knowing the student or the situation he or she is in, "Oh, yes. I know why. It is because of this and that."

Sometimes, it is perfectly fine to say, "I don't know." It is never a good idea to pretend to be an expert in something you know little to nothing about.


February 14, 2011

He Needs an Interpreter? But, He Speaks Really Well!

Someone said, "You would not think that this person needed an interpreter, because he speaks really well! I was surprised when he requested a sign language interpreter."

I asked, "Did he have a mild or moderate hearing loss?" 

This person responded, "No, he was profoundly deaf. In both ears."

OK, I will only say this once. Just because someone who happens to be deaf is able to speak really well, does not mean that this person will hear well enough to not require an interpreter or other services. Even if the person does not use sign language, other accommodations will be required to help this person understand everything that is being said to him or her.

Yes, it can be beneficial when a deaf person can speak really well, but it does not magically make the deaf person have typical hearing. 


February 12, 2011

Being Tired and Stressed Makes it More Difficult to Hear

Man, I have been exhausted lately. The meetings, the drama, the tests, the paperwork. . .aack.

The other day, I felt so run down. I was having trouble focusing and doing my job. It did not help that everyone else was on edge; snappy and exhausted themselves. 

The hardest is trying to listen to what is being said verbally. When I am tired or sick, I find myself asking others to repeat themselves more often than usual. My hearing loss makes it much harder for me to hear what is being said while I experience bouts of brain fog, often coming across as an airhead or mentally deficient.

Even when talking with the interpreters, I was having a harder time understanding what they were signing. But, with the interpreters, I can relax a little, as looking is not as stressful as trying to hear. However, they are signing on my level and using more English signs than ASL. With a deaf person who signs strictly ASL, fluently and fast, I may have a harder time and would probably grow even more tired as I try to understand what is being said.

Listening requires some effort to concentrate and my brain would not have it today.

I recognize that everyone has days like this. But when you include a hearing loss, it makes it more difficult to concentrate and interact with others. On a typical day, it can be tiring to put in the effort to listen, especially when you deal with all kinds of people all day long, where all they like to do is talk and talk and talk. If I am trying to listen to those who are difficult to understand or if I am in a meeting, I am straining my neck, leaning in, looking at the person, giving them the appearance that I am "all ears".

It is exhausting.

This is why, when I come home from work, I usually prefer to spend some quiet time by myself. I don't want to talk to anyone or tell anyone about my day. I just want to rest and recuperate. 


February 7, 2011

What Do Deaf People Do With a Cell Phone?

I am sorry, I just had to answer these questions typed in the Google search bar that led those who asked to my blog:

Question #1: "whats do deaf people do with a cell phone?"

My answer: They eat it. What else would they do with a cell phone?

Question #2: "can i teach spanish if i am not fluent?"

My answer:
No, you cannot! The same would apply to any foreign language you are not fluent in, such as ASL. If you needed to ask this question and search Google to help you find the answer, you probably should not be teaching Spanish.


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February 6, 2011

Rhinestones + Hearing Aid = Pretty and Painful

I put some pretty sparkly heart shaped rhinestones on my hearing aid just for fun and in the spirit of upcoming Valentine's Day.

They look pretty, but hurt like a mother trucker!

After about twenty minutes, it started to hurt as the plastic rhinestones rubbed against the top part of my ear.

So, I don't recommend decorating your hearing aids with rhinestones (at least in areas where the rhinestones will come in contact with your ears).

But, they sure are pretty!

Sometimes it hurts to be beautiful.


February 3, 2011

Fluent Language Important When Teaching the Little Ones

When I was a graduate student in a teacher of the deaf and hard of hearing program, with non-fluent signing skills, I thought that if I wanted to teach in a school for the deaf, it would be better for me to teach preschoolers or babies. I assumed that I would not be required to sign as much or use fluent ASL with the real little ones, because it would not hurt to have them exposed to mainly basic signing skills. Because of this, I came to the conclusion that it would be way easier to work with babies and very young children than older children using sign language. I did not have to worry about teaching complex subject matter in sign language or be expected to use "big words" with infants and very young children.

Silly me.

Now it is apparent to me that babies and very young children should have the most exposure to fluent language models; more than older children who may already have a good foundation in language. If babies and very young children are only subjected to basic signing skills or simple and inconsistent language, usually they will have a harder time obtaining good language skills when they are older.  How are they suppose to learn language in a natural way if they are mainly exposed to people signing haltingly or in a simple way? Most hearing babies do not grow up listening to people talk in this way. For example, unless she or he has some sort of language or speech difference, a teacher would not introduce him or her self like this,

"Hello.      My     name   i s      M  s.      B  r o  w  n.      I    will        be         your   teacher."  
It would probably be more like this,

"Hello everyone! My name is Ms. Brown and I am going to be your teacher this year."

While it is not exactly clear how children learn languages, most can agree that the way they are exposed to language in the early years is important. They are like little sponges unaware that they are quickly picking up whatever language they are exposed to, unless they are profoundly deaf and people only speak to them without directly teaching them what those sounds and mouth movements mean.

It is all about having plenty of access to fluent language and how you get access to it.

Because I am not very fluent in sign language I would not be an ideal language model for very young children or babies using sign language, in my opinion.

So, if you are currently a student in a teacher of the deaf and hard of hearing program, learning sign language, and you think that preschool aged or younger would require less signing skills, you are dead wrong! Please be aware that it is crucial that signing deaf and hard of hearing babies and very young children receive plenty of exposure to fluent and consistent signing. They deserve to be exposed to language the same way hearing babies and young children are exposed to language.

*Please note that I am mainly referring to d/hh babies and young children who come from families that chose to go the sign language route and/or d/hh babies and young children who do not benefit from wearing hearing aids or CIs and using oral/aural methods.

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