Tuesday, February 10, 2009
Deaf School Cuts: A Mother Speaks
There has been a very interesting discussion ensuing on the Pediatric Cochlear Implant Circle regarding Deaf School Closings. I have stayed out of the discussion as I have no experience in the matter of Deaf schools. However, one of the comments left by this mother, who will remain anonymous by choice, touched me and I wanted to share it with you...
There are certainly transitions and changes in deaf education that need to happen and that are happening. Cochlear implants (CIs) have certainly had a great impact on deaf education. I even wonder myself how long my own child's deaf school will be able to survive financially, if student numbers dwindle as the number of deaf babies being implanted grows. Currently they appear to be in good shape, with a core group of deaf families who support its existence. My hope is her school is secure and she can at least get through elementary school, if she still needs to be there. But my gut sense is they will still be up and running, even if she needs to graduate from there.
Mainstreaming is not the answer for all children.... equal access to curriculum is. In an ideal world, every single school in this country or world would have all the financial resources and supports needed to be in every local school to meet the needs of every single child with a disability, deaf or otherwise. I don't see it happening any time soon. I work for my own district school. If I thought, for one minute, they were able to educate my own child in a mainstream classroom, don't you think I would send her there ???
How much easier to not have to put her on a bus at 6:30 am so she can arrive for her deaf school's 8:00 start time; and not see her again until almost 4:00. Don't you think I would much prefer to skip the hour and more drive to get to her school functions or for meetings or when I volunteer; and instead take a ten minute ride to my local school? Do I hate the fact all her classmates live an hour away so arranging playdates is a challenge?
Yes, of course I do....
I had to quit my full time position and take part-time so I'd have free time to run back and forth to her school - and was lucky enough to be able to do it. Financially I need to be working full time. My debt keeps piling up; but my daughter is only a first grader once! So, why don't I send her locally anymore, and let her be mainstreamed?
The simplified answer - she would NOT have equal access to the school curriculum. She would be being pulled out constantly to have curriculum retaught in ASL. Hmmmmmm.... that translates into less time in the mainstream class anyway! Not to mention what she would be missing while she was being pulled out. Not just academics, but the social aspect of being a first grader.
And who suggested teaching the rest of the class to sign???? In my greatest fantasies - that would be one! I've been signing for five years and I'm still learning every single day!! That would be like suggesting we teach all the English speaking kids to learn Spanish fluently so they could converse with the one Spanish kid in class. That is assuming all the kids even spoke English....While I'd love to see all kids learn Spanish or any second language, how do you propose teachers fit this in, while still teaching standard academics? I know from experience a handful of kids would love to sign and could learn the basic labeling and other basic signs, like - hi, thank you, toilet, help, more and maybe a few phrases. But what happens when my child wants to have a lengthy conversation about the new waterpark she just went to... what hearing classmate is going to be able to keep up with her??? My child loves school now and has many friends - some with CIs, some with hearing aides, some with no auditory access and yes, even some who are hearing - all kids she meet at her deaf school. (The hearing children have deaf parents; so they are bilingual).
I tried my child in a local school, her first year - she attended one of our local elementary schools. She is so much happier and is learning so much more at her deaf school. The supports and services are incredible. Are they perfect? Absolutely not - what school is??? Do I need to stay in constant contact? Yes. I go in and do observations, volunteer, meet with her staff on a regular basis.
I could go on and on - and already have to some extent - but bottom line is - all kids deserve options and all kids deserve equal access to the curriculum in a supportive environment.