We've finally gotten to the bottom of the signing aide versus interpreter debate in Whitney's kindergarten class. Last year Whitney had a terrific signing aide who was diligent about helping her to form signs correctly in a hands-on way. Melanie and I were concerned this year when we learned that Whit wouldn't have a signing aide at all. Instead she was assigned an ASL interpreter to help her along. The concern Melanie and I had was that an interpreter might not be able to take the same hand over hand approach to teaching Whit to sign.
This concern led to some phone calls to the coordinator over signing aides and interpreters for our local school district and finally calls to the special education coordinator as well. Melanie left quite a few messages and was getting frustrated that the return calls weren't coming.
Then, late last week, we got our answer. The district special ed coordinator called and talked with Mel for quite a while. She had been piecing together the story between Whitney's kindergarten teacher, her interpreter and others involved in order to give us a straight story when she called.
As it turns out, the special ed coordinator knows Whitney personally and specifically requested an interpreter for her instead of a signing aide even though her individual education plan states that she'll have an aide. And she was right for doing so.
The one detail that this kind district administrator was aware of that we as parents weren't, is that interpreters are assigned to a specific student and a signing aide is not. So Whit's interpreter is there for her all week long during every moment of class. If Whitney had been given an aide, she might see her less during the week and when the aide was present, she'd have to share her with the rest of the class as well. For one on one attention, having an interpreter is the way to go.
The best news is that interpreters are also allowed to do the hand over hand work necessary to teach signing to young ones. As the students learn and grow, less of that work is necessary. Until finally in high school, the interpreter's job is 100% translation with no direct teaching. So Whitney's interpreter will be working closely with her and teaching her as time goes by. And it'll be a one to one relationship that should really benefit my daughter.
I'm grateful for a caring district administrator who has many students' needs to attend to. But who would take the time to single out Whitney and make sure she would have the right people in place to continue her education in the best way possible. That's going above and beyond to help one needy little girl. And that little girl and her family are thankful.