Deaf and reading and writing English
Ever since I learned that I had 2 daughters that were deaf, I only had one fear: communication. I knew in my gut that ASL would be the best access to language and communication for them, so I jumped in trying to learn all that I could as fast as I could to help stave off as much language deprivation as possible.
For a long time I have had one fear that no matter what I did, how many classes I took, or how much I did m best to sign at all times, I could see my efforts still not measuring up. I could see her thirst for communication and language and my lacking the ability to provide her that language fully for her because of all the needs of the family.
Starting out my journey as a hearing parent of deaf children and getting CRAZY advice and little information unfortunately has been the norm. Now that we are in a more ASL friendly environment, and better schooling, I still can’t shake my fear that no matter even with all these efforts; they still will struggle with reading and writing in English. To clarify, what I mean what if they also have a reading disorder and a language processing disorder like so many of my hearing children have.
So the summer of 2017, I have jumped into the depths of research of trying to find programs, curriculum, and other supports to best help my 7 year old because just as my gut told me, we now have a reading issue. Many people have been kind and have reached out offering their story about themselves being late bloomers and so forth, but that still doesn’t calm my worry because I am programed to think “the earlier the intervention the better.”
I have been trying to figure out what would be the best way to teach my deaf children how to read English. What I have found during this past year was if I pushed anything like drills or skills, I was shutting everyone down. Nice. That is NOT GREAT! I stopped doing all of that for fear that I would shut down their love of books and stories. Nighttime when I sign the stories to my girls I have their full attention. They love stories! That is the positive vibe I want to keep going, and I will.
As a special education teacher with 15 years experience in teaching children with Autism and being a reading specialist for children with dyslexia, my mind has been BLOWN! All my training deals with phonological awareness. How do you do that when you can’t hear? Do you just memorize the words and the pictures and the actions hoping to find the meaning? This is where I feel like a fish out of water. Anyone with concrete ways on how to do this, I would love to know.
This is a messy and emotional blog for me to write because at this moment I’m looking at the future for my girls. Currently, I work with 18-22 year olds that struggled or never grasped reading and writing of the English language. I see where this puts them in their ability to make a living, to have a quality of life, to understand texts and even simple things like reading expressions from friends on social media. Learning, academics, schooling, training, skills, it all adds up to what the quality of life will be like. My only gut fear for my deaf daughters is that they would struggle with learning how to read and write in English and I see that shadow of the monster looming in the dark. I have to express this in order to really start facing it. I would love to know if anyone else faces this fear. I’d love to hear your comments.