What is the Best Educational Placement for a Deaf Child? Our Story
Ok… time to spill my guts.
I asked an important question today: what is the best educational placement for my child?
For those of you with children who have IEPs, you will know what I mean. Many of you other parents have children who may not “fit in” in the regular public education classroom. They are active kids who are kinesthetic learners; they are bright, dyslexic, just delayed, day dreamers . . . The list goes on and on, doesn’t it.
I think most parents ponder the question: Is my child getting what he or she should out of school? Is there somewhere better? Should I do home school? A charter school? An online school?
Yes… these were the thoughts of my day. Should my child continue to attend a specialized school for the deaf? How would he do in the mainstream with an interpreter? What about a Montessori school or other charter school? The other Deaf/ Hard of Hearing program in town?
In effort to answer these questions, it was suggested that I visualize my child the way I want him to be. I thought, “I want him to be competent and to love learning. I want him to have a strong bilingual foundation in ASL and English. I want him to not just be able to read on grade level, but to turn to reading as a source of information and entertainment (even if it is mostly on the TV screen in the form of captions.) I want him to come home from school and recount fun experiences and facts, not just the sports he has played. I want him to be engaged in critical thinking and making decisions. I want him to be involved in fun science experiments that stretch his imagination and make him think. I also want him to have good friends that push him to do better. I want him to be challenged and pulled up to a higher level of thinking and learning every day.”
Well… you might be thinking, maybe he’s just a sports guy who doesn’t care much for school. That’s not really my boy. He does LOVE sports, but he also is interested in so many things and wants to learn. He loves anything about science, any story signed aloud in ASL. He loves non-fiction books and learning about history. When you present a variety of topics, he’s there and he wants to learn more.
So… if he is a motivated learner, has the language ability to improve and is really doing his best to pay attention and move forward, wherein lies the problem?
- Does he need medication because the screening says he might have ADD?
- Is it a lack of planning on the part of the teacher? A tendency to give ‘busy’ work instead of engage students in their learning through thematic units that include learning in social studies, science and math?
- Is it a difference in philosophy?
- A lack of use of ASL, read alouds and a balanced literacy program?
- Is it a lack of support from the administration in what is expected?
- Is it the overall mindset of, “Well, deafness is a disability and we need to focus on reading and writing so he will get that down,” while leaving out the enriching and important content areas?
I have worked for 3 years in research and development for deaf children. I taught at a school for the deaf for 6 years. I saw the low expectations, the busy work, the lack of on level challenging curriculum. I also saw teachers that put in all of their effort to make sure the kids were engaged, loving learning, and learning new things every day.
I know that what happens in any classroom is in the hands of the teacher. My child can do his best, but if the teacher and the staff are not interested in him and in teaching a way that will appeal to and engage him, how much can you expect? If after meeting after meeting, you still see him bored and frustrated with minimal changes in instruction and curriculum, what more can you do?
When I asked him how he liked school he signed, “I PATIENT” Being interpreted that means: “I put up with it.”
And so… I face this question. Do I dare face that world of solitary isolation that so many deaf and hard of hearing adults have been through and would never go back? Do I dare put his education in the hands of an interpreter and a teacher who has probably never worked with a deaf child before? All in the hopes of engaging and challenging my son and immersing him in on-grade curriculum in all content areas.
And yet, if I don’t… will I regret it? Will I look back in 5 years when the curriculum is still not challenging, and wish I had? We can always go back to the deaf school. Right?
And then I realize the most important thing: “No matter what, he will have us.”
Update on the School Situation…. Jan 21, 2015
After a year and a half of struggling in school, I did it, I brought him home.
Here’s what happened. Christmas break ended and he went back to school. Everyday was a fight to get homework done. He started missing privileges, then started acting out more at home. Martin Luther King day – no school. Then Tuesday he came home a wreck. He was out of control and I knew something was wrong. I just looked at him and asked, “What happened?” He actually let me hug him and replied, “It’s been an awful day.”
When I finally got the chance to sit down with him, after all the hustle and bustle of the afternoon, I simply asked him to tell me how he was feeling. He answered, “panicked.” We had recently discussed different emotions and the idea of “panic” and “paranoia.” It was an emotion we had recently identified and that he knew he had felt before. He was telling me, “I’m stressed out. I don’t feel safe.” Other emotions we identified as we talked: frustration, boredom, feeling restricted (creatively).
SO…. I finally said enough, is enough. Today started day 1 of home-school and it’s going to be an adjustment. However, he is excited and I guess that’s saying something. At the moment he is leading a language arts activity with my pre-schooler. The classic activity labeling items in the house. You might hear from other sources that this isn’t the best activity to do, however I have found it extremely useful in my house. It’s a fabulous literacy activity. He is spelling words and learning some root words, while my pre-schooler is doing letter recognition as well as object identification and pre-literacy.
What else do we have in store today?
A Science project that I found in my fridge this morning: we will be investigating mold. Since he’s never been involved with a Science Fair, we are going to do the whole big bang project and take it to other home-schooled students in our neighborhood.
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I LOVE this post! I found myself nodding with every one of your concerns. I face these questions with my deaf child almost daily; “am I doing enough to support her education?”, “is she being challenged enough?”, “what environment is the best placement for her?” I am eager to hear how things progress for you both, especially from HIS perspective too. Being a parent is tough enough; then adding on language model, communication facilitator, advocate, teacher…there are many hats we wear as parents of the deaf; but how joyful it is to see it is all worth it if it gives my child access to all the world has to offer!
And we seem to face them again and again, year after year! It’s not just a one time decision, is it? I need to do an update as it has been a long time since this original post! He’s doing well. It’s been a journey. It will continue to be a journey!