Monday, June 12, 2006

Signing Update

Nicole and my daughter
Deaf Mentor Nicole with my daughter

Six months ago when my family entered the Deaf Mentor program to learn sign, I was pretty apprehensive about the whole prospect. I was concerned about how it would be to interact on a regular basis with a deaf person and about how well I'd be able to pick up a new language. But in the time since I've really grown to love the mentors who've come to our home. We've had two so far due to some turnover at the school. Nicole, our current mentor, has been coming to our home once a week for several months and has become a good friend. She is actually an old high school classmate of my wife's. Each week she comes and shares about 20 new signs with us and reviews signs from past lessons. We are about six or seven lessons in and the signs are getting more difficult, so the review is very helpful. In each lesson we also learn to put signs together into ASL sentences, which are organized very different from English sentences. Last we usually read a short lesson on deaf culture. And while my daughter can hear, it's still very enlightening to learn about what really is an entirely difference sub-culture right there in your own home town.

I'm picking up the signs more slowly than my wife who studied some ASL in high school, but it's coming. Nicole is very patient with me when I can't remember something and that really helps me to not be some embarrassed about it. My daughter usually sits in on the lessons and sometimes mimics the signs we make. Most importantly, she picks up new signs pretty regularly as my wife and I teach her in context in every-day situations. She is able to communicate much better than six months ago, but still gets frustrated and resorts to whining instead of signing. As communication improves I'm sure that situation will improve too.

So although my daughter can hear well with the help of hearing aids, her speech delays make this program a necessity for her development. Doctors have said that she may only learn about 7 spoken words in her lifetime. But thankfully through sign, she already communicates more words than that with her hands. Deaf Mentoring is a concept that can be intimidating. I know it certainly was for me, but despite some initial discomfort, it's been a great help to our family. If a program like this is available for your disabled child, hearing impaired or not, I'd recommend you check it out.


Anonymous said...

So, how did you find a Deaf Mentor program? Was that through the genetics group you work with, or some other resource? I've been looking for the past several weeks for any type of resource around here (as I'm getting more frustrated with the seeming lack of direction from EK's speech teachers), and all I ever find are 'Baby Sign' programs (not very useful if she is going to be relying on speaking with her hands for communication); and prohibitively expensive ASL programs.

What a wonderful opportunity you are having with your little one!

Rain on Tulips: 1p36 Category

Nate said...

The deaf mentoring program is sponsored by the Utah School for the Deaf and Blind, which in turn is sponsored by state funding. They began to recieve information on my daughter when she failed all her hearing tests at birth. In Utah there's actually a state registry of all the children with hearing impairments. So the school contacted us about her hearing needs and started providing all kinds of services.

An audiologist started seeing her for regular hearing tests and they provided a pair of hearing aids on loan so we could see if they helped her. Then when she turned two we started making arrangements for signing lessons in our home. It's a great benefit that's provided to all kinds of children throughout the state and it's funded by tax dollars.

Depending on where you live there may be similar programs available to the public. Otherwise, like you've mentioned, private classes and care of this nature end up being a very expensive alternative.

Anonymous said...

Very interesting. EK has not failed a hearing test yet -- though all the 'inconclusives' get frustrating! She got tubes in her ears at 12mos, and "passed" her first test after all the fluid cleared. But, I found out after they ran the test that they had not tested for high frequencies, which (from reading) I've learned are the first ones to go in 1p36'ers, if they do degenerate. So, I guess we aren't on a list as of yet, and so are on the 'outside'.

I was hoping it would be simpler to receive services like that, since we already know it is likely she will be non-verbal; my opinion is, why wait if we already have an idea it can help, and know it can't hurt!

I guess I will look into the local Deaf and Blind school -- its quite the challenge finding all of the resources that are out there!

(Speaking of finding resources: I just got a mail flyer this week about a meeting nearby here that is to help -- through the DDD -- to navigate all the systems and services available for Disabled children. We wanted to go to the last one, but it was scheduled for the day after my baby was born! Oops!)

Does your wife stay home with your little one? If she's an e-mail'y kind of person, you could let her know that I'd love to chat! My email is tulips (at) fluidnature (dot) com.

Anyway ... enough procrastinating... supposed to be packing for a quick weekend vacation!

Nate said...

Yup my wife is a stay-at-home mom and a hard working one at that. (For the record, I could never do what she does all day.) Anyway, she does indeed enjoy email and all that. I've mentioned you'd like to swap stories and such so I suspect you'll hear from her when she gets a free moment. Hope all is well!