I’m Sorry, Your Child Is Stupid

I asked myself, Rachel, if you only had 1 year left to blog. What would you write?

I would write this…

Our experience raising Leah is not typical, not typical at all. I dare say, we have successfully raised a deaf, bilingual child.

We did it in a school environment that called us “crazy.” In Leah’s Individual Education Program (IEP), where she transitioned from Early Intervention to preschool, we were asked,

“Why do you want ASL? No one else wants ASL.”

I didn’t care what the district said, because really, we had nothing… or was it everything, to lose.

The Parent Infant Program representatives from the state agencies told us that our child would graduate from high school with a third grade reading level. Then we asked them,

“Why do you believe that a child who cannot hear does not have the ability to learn?”

We asked them,

“What are you doing wrong? What is wrong with the education of deaf children in America?

These questions kept us awake at night. Why on earth was it acceptable that generations of deaf children were being failed by the only school systems available for them to attend? It became VERY, VERY clear that we could not and would not entrust our toddler’s education to such an admittedly broken system. They could guarantee that after TWELVE years of schooling Leah would have broken English and at age 18 she would be able to read like an 8 year old. They would not prepare her to compete with her hearing peers heading to college and into the work force.

The solution offered was an embarrassment and I imagined what the reaction to that statement would be if it was said about any other group of individuals… Take a deep breath and try out the following~

“I’m sorry, your child is black. They will graduate from high school with a third grade reading level.”

“I’m sorry to tell you that you can expect your child to graduate from high school with a third grade reading level because she’s a girl.”

Go ahead and fill in the blank- “Hispanic” “gay” “has blue eyes” “short”… fill in the blank!
ANY of those statements would be met with riots! No one would swallow it as truth! No one would stand for it! It wouldn’t just be the parents up in arms, the entire community would fight for those children!

Imagine that your state-funded school had the balls to say that about ANY child!! These are your tax dollars at work.

Now, my friends, let it sink in that this is the reality for parents just like me. The Utah School for the Deaf and Blind said, “statistically you can expect Leah to graduate from high school with a third grade reading level.” Parents of deaf children have been hearing that sickening statistic for years and not just in Utah- this is a nationwide epidemic. The worst part is… parents believe it! They look at their little deaf child and believe that their potential is limited because some stranger from a state organization says so.

Where is the class action lawsuit?

Every child with a disability is guaranteed a “free and appropriate education”.

This conversation should make you feel sick.
It should make you angry.
It should be on the local and national news repeatedly until it is resolved!

For some reason, Aaron and I didn’t believe them. Instead we believed that we could offer Leah something much better than that. We would do it. We didn’t know how, but we knew that she was deaf, not stupid.

We sought out deaf adults and found many who had college degrees and PhDs!! Proof that a deaf person could succeed academically! Most of these deaf adults had deaf parents. Their parents had never struggled to accept that their child was deaf. These deaf children were in a signing environment from day one. We asked deaf adults for their advice on raising our deaf child. We asked them because they had lived the life that we wanted Leah to live… a life without limits. We followed their advice. We looked to the Deaf Community as our compass. They told us that Leah’s first language should be American Sign Language. They said that once Leah had a solid first language (ASL), we could then teach her English through reading and writing.
Finally something that made sense!

We were excited to share this breakthrough with the Early Intervention team, with the School District, with all of those people who could make a difference for every deaf child. We told them what we had learned and what we wanted for our child and why we believed it would work. They looked at us like we were crazy. They told us we needed to pick a program that they offered, they weren’t going to make up a new program just for Leah Coleman. It was such a slap in the face to have them simply re-offer their broken system, since that was all they had.

We visited every preschool in their system. We drove hundreds of miles to do so. We were looking for a teacher, the right teacher. At each school we saw the same sad scenario, the deaf children did not have free, expressive conversations, they were signing by rote.

Each time we met the teacher they would ask, “What’s her name?”
I responded, “Ask her.”
“NO! Don’t tell me she can…” and they would turn to Leah, asking her in sign, “What’s your name?”
Leah responded by fingerspelling her name “L-E-A-H” and then showed them her Name Sign.
The teachers, one after another were stunned.
“How old is she?” They asked me.
I rolled my eyes. “Ask her.”
“NO!!!” They turned excitedly and asked Leah, “How old are you?”
Leah smiled “I’m two-years-old almost 3. I’ll be 3 in December.”

It was as if they had just discovered a new species. They were fascinated by her. Then they would then sit down with Leah and ask her everything they could think of. Leah chatted on and on about this and that, her favorite colors, foods and the people in her life. The teachers were completely engaged.

And every visit ended with them saying, “We really would love to have her in our class. She would be such a great language role model for the other children!”

It was nice that everyone wanted Leah, but I had a sick feeling in my stomach.
A nagging question.

Who would be Leah’s role model?”

There was no ASL classroom and so we created one. We chose a deaf teacher and then we wrote into Leah’s Individualized Education Plan (IEP) that she needed to be in a language rich environment, one where she had access to acquire her natural language, ASL. It sounds simple, really and no one was opposed to writing that in to her IEP… BUT… when we explained that ASL is a visual language and it requires two fluent signers in a room for a child to have natural language acquisition, the team was a little perplexed. See, that is how we were able to get Leah a one-on-one aide. Her aide was fluent in ASL and the teacher that we chose was deaf. Now there were two signers in the class and our child actually had an appropriate and effective language model.

In school Leah could not communicate with her peers. They stared at her blankly as she signed on and on about this and that. Then she started coming home signing like them. I was horrified! All of our hard work seemed to be dissolving right before my eyes! I asked, “What did you do today at school?” Leah would respond in a repetitive, almost robotic way, “BIKE-BIKE-BIKE” she signed, not making eye contact with me. Then “EAT-EAT-EAT” “PLAY-PLAY.”
“Leah. Leah. Look at me. What did you do at school today? I’m asking a real question.” Every day the same answers by rote. She would sign like that for about an hour and then finally ease back into being the expressive, happy kid we knew and loved.

We went to the school and visited the older grades. K-4 we saw the same thing. As I looked at the projects and work displayed on the walls in each classroom, it was obvious to me that these children were not doing grade appropriate work. As far as language level, Leah was testing at the level of the deaf 4th graders, but she was only three-years-old. We couldn’t put her in with nine-year-old.

We also created a Deaf Mentor program for Leah. Leah had a Deaf Mentor when we lived in Utah, a wonderful woman named Diane would come to our home each week and teach us ASL. There was no such program when we moved to Los Angeles. Luckily it was in her Individualized Family Service Plan(IFSP) and so we continued it. We were told that it would be up to us to find the deaf adult. We agreed. We found a deaf man who was a teacher working for our school system. That made it easy for them to pay him. John came to our home once a week for an hour and we turned our voices off and just signed.

People always ask us how we did it. How we were able to smash the statistics. How Leah can comfortably identify herself as hearing and as deaf. The above is just one piece of that puzzle. We knew that Leah’s success was ultimately up to us. We couldn’t even pretend that the current school system would carry her. We took on her education and success as our own responsibility.

Most importantly Aaron and I saw Leah as a wonderful little girl with a bright and limitless future. We saw her as all of that even when so many others… so many “professionals” only saw her as a deaf kid.

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About Rachel Coleman

The opinions and late night musings published on this blog are Rachel de Azevedo Coleman's alone, and are not ever intended to represent the opinions and sentiments of any organization or product that Rachel is, was, or will be associated with. Rachel Coleman is the creator and Emmy-nominated host of Signing Time!, the children's American Sign Language vocabulary building series. She is also the creator and host of Baby Signing Time, Rachel & the TreeSchoolers, and Rachel & Me. Motivated by her child, Liam's deafness, Rachel has spent the last 22 years creating ASL products to help bridge the communication barrier between hearing and signing communities. In 2006 Rachel founded the Signing Time Foundation, a 501c3 non-profit dedicated to putting communication in the hands of all children of all abilities. In 2014, the Signing Time Foundation launched a 50-Lesson online ASL curriculum called "Sign It: American Sign Language Made Easy" that is available free-of-charge to families with deaf or hard of hearing children ages 36 months and under. Apply at www.mydeafchild.org. For those who do not qualify to receive Sign It ASL for free, they can find it for purchase at very reasonable rates on www.SignItASL.com. Rachel and her husband, Aaron, live in Cottonwood Heights, Utah. They are parents to Liam who lives in Rochester, NY. They are also parents to Lucy who has spina bifida and cerebral palsy. In 2010 the Colemans were joyfully reunited with Rachel's daughter Laura. Rachel is proud to be Laura's birth mom. Laura was placed for adoption as an infant in 1992 when Rachel was 17 years-old. Rachel is now Grandma Ray Ray to Laura's daughter Marley.

308 thoughts on “I’m Sorry, Your Child Is Stupid

  1. Not so much looking forward to what we are going to have to go through with Ollie. Hopefully things have progressed some since Leah was little. However, after our last IEP, I don’t know…

    • I was truly touched by this entry. I am a Child of Deaf parents. And I have always known that the Deaf community has been wrongfully portrayed as dumb. Proof of that is my beloved father, who in some cases has accomplished more than his hearing siblings. But it is a battle that I have fought all my life, to let people know that there aren’t any limits to what they can do and understand. They DO NOT have a mental disability. The Deaf community can reach as high as WE BeLieVe they can reach. If we place limits on them that’s what they’ll have. But if we trust in their incredible potential and allow it to sore, it will, and it will amaze us. Thank You Rachel for what can appear to be a small step but is in fact the first to a revolution. Thank You.

  2. you’re right. It made me squirm and think. I’m not even sure what to say. You are awesome, Leah is awesome, what great parents to do what they feel is right to make sure their daughters are not lost in the system.

    My 28 month old was tested last week at Early Intervention. She has the speech of a 15 month old. They said they can’t count her signing but if they could, she’s way ahead. I want her to talk. I just don’t know how to help her. I don’t know enough ASL to teach her more. I hope the therapist can help us but I feel lost.

    • Deann, I can’t believe they wouldn’t count the signs!

      WARNING: One of the biggest parenting pitfalls is allowing yourself to get stuck on the idea that you want them to talk… I dare say what you REALLY want is to be able to fully communicate with your child. You want to know her and you want her to know you. Does it really matter if that is through spoken words? If your child has the capability to speak, she will. you don’t have to be afraid of that any more. If she can do it. She will do it. Signing will not delay her speech. It will likely fuel her ability to learn.

      Is she deaf?

      • You’re right Rachel, I want to communicate with her. Incredibly, I can, her siblings can, but no one else can unless they know sign. She has surprisingly few “tantrums” for a 2 year old. She is not deaf. EI said they might test her hearing again, but they did not. Watching her try to speak, she has a very difficult time making her mouth and tongue do what they should for each letter sound. I taught her older siblings what little sign I knew, we found Signing Time!, and of course we are doing the same with her, it’s just what I’ve known how to do on my own. (her big sister was in BST 1&2)

        • My daughter is 2 1/2, and she has Down syndrome. Our early intervention wont count signs either. She has nearly 200. She only has a few actual spoken words that we can understand.
          Our coordinator also said that if she could count the signs, Lauren would also be very far ahead in language. Its so frustrating.

        • Deann we went public with our choice to sign with Leah, even people from the state told us that we were choosing to isolate her. They said only her family would understand her… in answer we made Signing Time.

        • Deann… My son wasn’t able to speak until 4 years old and has some nice words now at 4 1/2. He has gotten alot of sings and ways to communicate from signing time. My son also has a weak jaw which makes it hard for him to form words. Although every child is differnt look into a “prompt” speech therapist. It is amazing.. My son has PDD-nos and we thought he might never talk either but we strongly feel that signing truly helped him. The Signing Time series is fantastic. Thank you Rachael for helping our children succeed.

    • Talk with you hands and listen with your eyes. An awesome phrase that I credit from a book that teaches ASL, I believe Gabriel Grayson. It is a great book to learn sign from. Also, try the websites, ASLpro.com and signingsavvy.com. They are great. I don’t have a deaf child, but I work with a family who’s primary communication is through sign. All these resources and sign courses on the college level have helped.

      • Deann,

        We also have a daughter who was severely delayed in terms of speaking. No babbling, few tantrums, no language (except for mystery pop out words once or twice) until she was around 2 (even though she’d been in speech therapy a year at that point).

        Rachel is right (of course): ASL won’t delay the onset of speech and just will give your little one another way of communicating.

        The other thing to check out is the Hanen approach to language, which is communication-focused and very different than standard speech therapy. The latter failed for us; the former, which is much more child driven, worked well in conjunction with ASL. The best parent resource is It Takes Two To Talk. Basically, our daughter did not realize that vocalizing/speech or even sign was for communication purposes because she had a communication disorder (she was diagnosed at 3 as high functioning autistic). Once we unlocked her capacity to communicate, it turns out that her expressive vocabulary is actually well ahead of where it should be. Her pragmatics (how to use language) still lag behind, and we still need to work on communication and social skills with her, but her progress in the past year and a half has been amazing.

        Good luck with this—I know how frustrating all of this is from our personal experience.


    • I’m surprised they are not counting signs! I work in collaboration with ECI through the school district and see a case load of “babies” in their home. I have a protocol for receptive and expressive language and it includes sign language!

      Rachel, I think it is awesome you allowed Leah the opportunity of incidental language! I think that is one thing that some parents do not fully understand … or schools do not provide. So much language is learned incidentally, so it makes sense that we need to provide opportunities in which the students can overhear/see! Rock on!

      Another thing I want to throw out there. Sometimes us teachers, and parents get overly focused on the child’s speech/signing or lack thereof. Remember, we need to provide constant input in order to receive output. Provide rich language experiences … read, talk, sign, narrate your child’s life in sign … and when they are ready, you will see the output.

      I always tell my parents to advocate for their children! Some do, some don’t know how to or choose not to. Lucy and Leah are lucky to have two awesome parents!

  3. Leah is lucky to have you two for her parents! I teach and I can honestly say that I am not shocked by what you wrote, and that’s sad.

    Way to go, Leah, for breaking the statistics!

    • You are right. Most teachers wouldn’t be shocked. You are in the middle of a system with a lot of holes in it that are “fixed” with bandaids. I know it puts you in a crazy position fighting for your students, and their rights and following your heart.

  4. WOW! this makes me especially grateful for our school sytem here in ks! 🙂 we have a terrific deaf school and in our hometown many deaf / hard of hearing services. kudos to you and aaren for never excepting less than what she is capable of!!!!! 🙂 GO LEAH! 🙂

    • allie,
      Great point! Sometimes the biggest difference is simply where you happen to live! Not everybody can up and move to an area that supports their chosen mode of communication, but if you can do it! (We considered Riverside CA, Framingham Mass, and Portland OR)

      It’s important to look ahead, look at the older children in your child’s program. Look at the test scores and the work of kids who are graduating high school so you have an idea of what is REALLY available to your child in your schools.

  5. Whoa! I so appreciated getting another snipit of how you all learned ASL as a family. I know someone right now who could benefit from this experience in helping them get the right start for their child. I also see that there is more that I can and should be doing for my 4 year old daughter with mosaic Down syndrome. The whole IEP process is daunting to me, but mostly because I let it intimidate me when I should be using it to help my daughter. Just all around wonderful to read.

    • Bring a mentor to your child’s IEP meeting. It is much easier to get what YOU want when there is someone to back you up. Someone who know you are not crazy for asking. Don’t you DARE sign that IEP if you do not agree with it. You can leave the meeting with it unsigned. I have… many times.

  6. That is the challenge we are facing now. We are going a different route, though the response has been somewhat the same. WE had maggie implanted at 12 months and so we are focusing on english at the moment, but whenever we bring up the idea of having her sign too the response is always, you have to pick one or the other, she can’t do both. I say why not? I’ve learned three languages, she not stupid, just deaf. She can learn just as much as any hearing child and she will. right now she signs and talks together, though true asl is going to be a challenge(for me, not her) I know she can do it. Thanks for your amazing example.

    • Liz, Leah is living proof that a child CAN do both. She is fluent in ASL, she is fluent in English. Her reading and writing skills are AMAZING and she wants to be an author. Leah Coleman has all of that… and guess what? Leah Coleman has a cochlear implant.

      Do not be bullied by people who do not LIVE your life with your child. They give recommendations but they will NEVER ask to take responsibility for the outcome. The outcome is yours to live with. Trust your instincts.

      Know that I am here to help.

    • I was just at a bar last night and a friend was telling me about his nephew who is acquiring SIX languages. Not just words of each, but is able to produce sentences and have conversations within each language. It’s amazing but the child is using them all and using them correctly with each person who uses that language.
      Flemish Sign Language
      American Sign Language
      British Sign Language
      spoken French
      spoken English
      spoken Flemish/Dutch
      And, guess what, the child is deaf. The child is in a rich language environment where different people are using different languages and he’s just picking it all up.

  7. We have a delayed child with no diagnosis-he’s very ill and no one knows why. We tried the Early Intervention Program, and he began imitating the other children as well, instead of being the bright, interactive child we knew. We finally pulled him out and I am homeschooling him, using Signing Time. He’s made a ton of progress, more than anyone though he could, because we, too, decided to make his education our business.

    • Teena, It sounds like you are doing it right. No one is more invested in a child than that child’s parents. We learned very quickly that professionals are just that… professionals. Very few of them have walked 2 steps in our shoes. They know what they learned in school, they know what they have seen, but most of the time they do not live it.

      In the past 9 years doing Signing Time I have met tens of thousands of children I probably have more “field hours” than most folks sitting in their offices. Technically I am NOT a professional, but I think that gives me the profound opportunity to see each child as something SO MUCH BIGGER than their diagnosis.

      I see miracles. I see possibilities. I see potential. You see it too:)

  8. Thank you once again for sharing another part of your amazing journey. I have several people I want to share this with ASAP 🙂

  9. Ok Rachel,
    I’m mad, very disappointed…and annoyed! The “system” doesn’t work, everyone knows that. But I’m so happy you made a huge difference in Leah’s life and everyone that follows you and Signing Time! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!

  10. Once again you are proving to the world what extrodinary people you and Aaron are. Not everyone is as amazing as you are. Thank God for you! Leah and Lucy are so lucky to have you as parents. The Arveseth family is so lucky to have you as friends.

  11. OH, I cannot tell you how HAPPY I am that you put this into writing! Bravo, Bravo, Bravo!

    We are fighting the good fight for Oliver with the school district(s)…but it is super important to have someone like you YELL IT OUT LOUD! Thank You for more motivation today to never, NEVER EVER give up!

    • Renee, I must admit I was a little hesitant to actually push the “Publish” button. Why is it so intimidating to tell the truth? Why do I always brace myself for attack? And then I remind myself, I’m not trying to prove anything. I am just telling my truth.

      • I’m not deaf, but I was born with spina bifida and I use a wheelchair. They tried to put me in a special education classroom just because I couldn’t walk. I’m always a little hesitant to hit the publish button myself on Facebook or Twitter. Never know what kind of reaction I’ll get for being myself (very honest and blunt).

  12. Wow! Thank you for this. I had a friend in HS who was Deaf. Because he was in honors classes, and had an interpreter for every course, it never occurred to me that his experience would be atypical, or that schools would resist a Deaf child’s natural language, or that schools would intentionally limit a child’s ability.

    Thank you for sharing your story. May it empower and strengthen other families!

    • LiturgyGeek, in my HS there were a number of deaf kids. They attended many of the same classes together with an interpreter. When we found out Leah was deaf I couldn’t help but think back to my high school years and WISH I hadn’t been so scared to TRY to communicate with them. I never tried, even though I had wanted to. As I thought back, I could only remember one of their names. Ah retrospect… now that my child was “one of them.”

  13. I applaud you and thank you for sharing this with us. I am a special ed teacher and please know there are some of us out there trying to fight the system right there with you. Too many times I hear them say we don’t offer certain programs and I can’t encourage parents enough to fight for their child. I see too many parents who don’t know enough and just accept what the district tells them. I am teaching my special ed kids sign language-what I can. It is something I do on my own, because there is no reason ASL can’t be a part of any classroom. It can benefit everyone!!!

    • tjw, Thank YOU for being someone on the inside who is making a difference. Yours is a tricky spot. So many parents don’t know what is available to them if they were to ask… how could they know?

      It was not my intention to paint all teachers as bad. They aren’t. We actually switched schools almost yearly to make sure Leah was with the best-matched teacher. The district looked down on this and told me, “You can’t pick a teacher!! You have to pick a program!” To which I replied, “We have picked a program and it’s the best program for Leah. Sadly you don’t offer it, so we are left picking teachers”

  14. Thank you for sharing this. I have been a 504 aide in Utah for 3 years. I was hired with no degree (some college education) and given mild/moderate special needs kids to help in Jr. High. I was never trained, just put in a class room to help.

    It has been a very frustrating and rewarding 3 years. I have done lots of research and looked for classes to help me with my job. I held the first 504 meeting at our school last year, because they’d never had one. How does an aide help a child when they haven’t met with parents and teachers of the child? Also I hadn’t been shown an IEP & when I asked for my students IEP, they questioned why I would want to see it. Doesn’t an aide need to know the Education Plan? Seriously?!

    I’ve also made a great repoire with parents, even though the school opposes communicaton outside of school. It’s all kind of silly sometimes. The system truly is broken.

    I’ve also used some ASL with my students (who have aspergers, autism, cerebral palsy, & turners syndrome) because signing is something they knew. But noone told me. Thank goodness for signing time because I didn’t have exposure to ASL before.

    Thank you for sharing and being available to so many of us. You are truly a blessing. Keep sharing.

    • ~m~, I don’t doubt it a bit. I have assumed that Lucy’s teachers and aides are very familiar with her IEP before school even starts and it hasn’t aways been the case. In the past few years Lucy has had an AMAZING principal who goes to bat for her. A number of the school employees have shared privately with me when they have felt Lucy wasn’t getting fair services. Having people on the child’s side inside the school makes such a big difference.

  15. Thank you for fighting for Leah and sharing your story! I work in the education system and it certainly has flaws. Kudos to you for getting Leah what she needs!

    • GS, most massive systems have their flaws. As Leah and Lucy’s mother it was just frustrating how much has to be juggled, medically, socially and scholastically. I am proud of what we’ve accomplished so far. It’s so important for the paradigm to shift, for families to believe that something else, something better is possible for their child as well.
      Thank you for your work in education~

  16. I may be a little hormonal right now, but I’m misty-eyed reading this. You guys are such awesome parents, PEOPLE really, and great role models for hearing parents of deaf children. After taking ASL classes and hearing about these struggles in an abstract way, to hear the story of how people I “know” and love overcame them, is inspiring, heartwarming, and awesome.

    • McMama, a little hormonal? You’re so hormonal your hair is pink! We love you too. I am amazed at what you are willing to sacrifice for others. You my dear, are someone who makes a difference- a lifelong difference.

  17. I am both horrified and ecstatic about your post. I had NO idea that was the education for a deaf child. Unbelievable! Congratulations for paving the way for other families and Leah is very lucky to have you as parents. What a cutie pie!

    • Cindy Castro, I was hoping that was the case. There are so many things I never considered until my children forced me to. Things like… oh… that recess is no motivation for a child in a wheelchair- she sits in her chair indoors or sits in her chair outdoors… meh. Or how playgrounds are mostly created for children who can run and walk and climb. We have so many blind spots and not because we aren’t sensitive or caring, just because we have blind spots.

  18. Do you ever lose the ‘fight’ in you? I have spent the last couple of years fighting with doctors on trying to just get my daughter properly diagnosed and have been made to feel crazy for years…until she almost died twice. Her doctors finally diagnosed her with CP. I knew it didn’t fit though so I continued my research. One thing I knew for sure was that my daughter could not speak. Against her speach therapists wishes, we found your series of Baby Signing Times when she was 2.5 and you have been a part of our life ever since. We enrolled her in PK when she was 3 and within 5 days she was abused by the teachers aide. When children cannot speak they are vulnerable. What this adult didn’t realize is that my child could communicate through signing. We pulled her out of school and now are moving out of Florida and going to have to deal with new doctors and schools. My daughter is 4 years old now and we just recieved her correct diagnosis a couple of months ago. Severe Congenital Suprabulbar Palsy (Worster-Drought Syndrome) This is quite rare (so doctors say) but children with her look normal/act normal…but drool, have swallowing/feeding problems with or without Aspiration, Apraxia, fine motor delays, developemental delays, possible siezures etc, and all to varying degrees. Sounds like so many children I’ve seen at therapy. We have been fighting for our child since she was born. I’m so, so tired. Thank you for your direction and inspiration. It gets so hard trying to navigate this journey alone.

    • Christy, I have, on more than one occasion, found myself curled up in the fetal position on the living room floor in tears! Aaron has come home from work to find me in tears, just bawling, “I can’t do it! I can’t do it!” Yes, it mostly feels like an uphill battle. Most everyone involved in Special Ed. or Deaf Ed. or regular old education knows there are problems, but obviously knowing it makes no difference. What would make a difference?

      Secondly, you MUST take care of yourself. It is necessary so that you can take care of your child. Hire help! Even a couple of hours a week will save your sanity. Lucy has a helper on Tues. and Thurs. for a whopping 2 hours. Just knowing that I don’t have to do it all, all day long. Knowing someone else will lift her, entertain her or take her to a movie. Knowing that I have 2 hours to write or garden or clean or nap! It’s a lifesaver.

      PS: I always tell parents that if they have a Speech Therapist who tells you not to sign with your child… fire them! First of all they are working from OLD, INCORRECT information. There are PLENTY who have the information to support you in signing.

  19. Thank you so much for sharing your experience. I have a child who was severely speech delayed that I worked on teaching her ASL so we could communicate and remove some of the frustrations. She also has other medical issues in which the school district refused to address (i.e. mold issues in her school causing her breathing difficulties and sadly she was not teh only one) so we fought and threatened legal actions and finally she was moved to a new school. Unfortunately many of the other kids we know still have to deal with the mold problem but we are in a new school with a new set of teachers and a new ST who keeps following up on my daughter even though she graduated out of speech at her old school.

    Our kids advocates are us and thank you again for sharing Leah’s stories and your fights with us. I have donated many of my little ones Signing times DVDs to her former preschool so they could continue teaching the kids ASL regardless of why they were in the preschool class. Watching all of the children sign was truly amazing.

    • Kris, wow! Another example of knowing there is a major problem (mold) and subjecting children to it. What do we do? You threatened legal action, so they moved your child, but just like me, you think of the peers left behind. I can’t help but think of all of Leah’s peers throughout the years. Are most of them a living statistic? Why? Because their parents believed what they were told? Or because their parents were too tired to fight? Or because everyone who knows the system is broken feels like they can’t make a difference… not them.
      I’m not blaming, I really am asking. Wouldn’t those parents feel betrayed and duped to find out the truth.

  20. Thank you for your insight into the situation faced by so many families with “atypical” children. The education system can be so intimidating for parents trying to do what is right for their child. To all parents remember: if the available options aren’t working for your child, make new options, don’t let people push your child through a system that will fail them. This applies not only to Deaf children but to children with physical disabilities and learning disabilities as well. No one is a better advocate for your child than you!

  21. Amazing post. My daughter is deaf/hard-of-hearing and I will NOT take no for an answer for anything, not the least of which is her education. Deaf people can do anything that hearing people can. Bravo, Rachel!

  22. I have had similar experiences with my child with autism. Unfortunately IDEA does not require a parents signature on an IEP, so not signing is not a solution most of the time. We are currently in the process of filing complaints and deciding how far in the due process we are able and willing to go. It is great that you were able to go to the deaf community and get guidance on how to educate Leah. We are still trying to find the all the hows that need to be implemented (although we have some ideas).
    Unfortunately for deaf students in Michigan, the deaf education program and ASL classes at Michigan State University are being discontinued.

    • Laura, I know there are parent support organizations in most places. Believe it or not I have found a lot of answers just by becoming a member of on-line communities that relate to our situation. Don’t you hate reinventing the wheel when you are pretty sure it’s unnecessary? Find families who are further along the path than you. We all need mentors!

  23. Thanks for this post. it is so hard to ask for everything for our children-even if we know what they truly need(language rich environment) the shortage is so great as far as Deaf Educators that sign and skilled Interpreters.
    We have been homeschooling since our boys came home from Ethiopia about 18 months ago…they just started attenting the school system for a few hours a day and while the school is VERY suportive, I also feel they are very LIMITED in resources.

  24. It isn’t just deaf children that face this school attitude. Almost every special needs child has this battle to fight: the assumption that because they are challenged, they will be less. That “appropriate education” can be defined as “any progress at all”- and only if they are expected to progress at all. What is worse, they hold back information about what services can and should be available, including what extended school year can and should do and be. If you don’t ask, you might no know to ask; and if you don’t ask, they don’t volunteer. It is a nightmare that plays out across the country in every IEP meeting, every eligibility meeting.

    Why on earth would anyone NOT want ASL? I think every special educator- heck, every educator, period- should have ASL skills as a basic requirement for certification. It is an excellent alternative form of practical communication for kids who have speech issues of any kind, processing issues, hearing issues… in fact, even for kids with no issues at all. Visual and kinetic communication provides active learning!

    • Joeymom, you are correct the problem is bigger than just the education of deaf children, believe me we have lived it with Lucy as well.

      I love what you said about an “appropriate education being defined as any progress at all.”

      There is still a stigma with ASL, many parents perpetuate it with their fear of allowing their child to acquire a first language that is not spoken. Fear that their child will not speak ever. My biggest fear is that my child would completely miss the learning window from 0-3 if we waited for her speech to develop before starting to communicate.

  25. Rachel, thank you for your inspiration. I am not a mother but have been a nanny and now work as a special needs aid on the school bus. Working with the school systems can be very tiring and sometimes discouraging. In all my experience with children, I can tell you that they are all so much smarter then anyone gives them credit for, they just need the right atmosphere and people to look up to. I admire you for all that you do and thank you again for sharing your experiences. I have a mantra; “There is no such thing as normal, someone’s “normal” could be another’s “weird” or “abnormal.” All we can be is just us.

    • Jennifer, I love your mantra. Thank you for sharing your perspective from “the inside.” In case you haven’t been told this lately, “Thank you for what you do for our children.”

  26. Hi Rachel! A friend sent me a link to this blogpost. I’m so grateful to have found your blog. The world of hearing parents of deaf/hearing impaired children can feel lonely and confusing in the beginning… for me anyway.

    We have your videos. We brought our daughter home from Uganda in February. She is approx 2 years old. We had no idea that she had hearing loss. We didn’t know any signs and we were completely overwhelmed. Our daughter would “sing” the song to your videos “It’s signing time with Alex and Leah… come and play.” Over and over and over and over. She would sign “signing” and “time” and then her own version of the rest. She was ACHING to communicate. Now she is learning signs as fast as we can learn them.

    We have already experienced some of the irritating “Don’t sign with her” comments from audiologists, speech therapists and developmental specialists. We are going to sign. That’s that.

    My problem is the guilt that I carry from not being able to learn it fast enough. Our daughter has many health issues and we have 3 other children. There just isn’t enough hours in the day for me to learn a new language. I’m taking it one day at a time and trying to forgive myself as I go.

    Thank you for this blog. It means so much to those of us who are just beginning our journey.


    • Amy, I was in your shoes. I wrote in my journal, after finding out that Leah was deaf, that I felt the only thing standing in her way was me and the fact that I didn’t know the language. Feeling guilty doesn’t serve you or your children. Look at what you have accomplished! You adopted a child from Uganda! Imagine her fate as a deaf child there. Give yourself some credit.

      It is intimidating and scary to even attempt to find your way through the world of deafness. The more I learned, the more freaked out I became. I felt that I was damned if I did and damned if I didn’t. There was so much judgement from every angle. Every deaf adult I spoke with resented their parents for the choices they made. AHHH! Your only obligation is to do right by your child. That’s it. (hugs)

  27. Rachel, Thanks for the post. It is so true! My daughter just finished 11th grade in what I believe is a broken school system for special ed. She has Rubinstien Taybi syndrome. It has been frustrating for us all these years. My daughter has trouble talking so we have tried to learn ALS( She is not deaf, just can’t speak well.. Most of her teachers did not know how to sign which was frustrating because she was misunderstood so often.
    Aside from that I did want to thank you for your signing video’s. We have enjoyed them and learned so many valuable signs.What was amazing to me is how quick she learned them with your videos. These video’s have taught our daughter to sign and to speak with her hands! I even got the school district to buy the 1st series!!!!
    You are an incredible person and an inspiration to us all!!!!! Thank-you Thank-you Thank-you!!!!!

    • Kris G,
      I am glad to hear that Signing Time worked so well for all of you. When Emilie and I made that first video it was only our intention to put a few signs into the hands of people who know and love Leah. It worked and it still works. You are very, very welcome.

  28. Hi Rachel, My son is not deaf but he has Down syndrome and is almost 6. Though we have faced different challenges with our school district I feel we have fought similar battles. You are such an awesome advocate for Leah and I hope I can be the same for Max. He signed long before he could speak (thankyou VERY much Signing Times!). Max actually learned his colors from your video. I thought it might be over his head but boy did he prove me wrong. At our last IEP, the teacher told us with disapproval that Max was signing more in class. There is a girl in there with a cochlear implant and he likes to “talk” to her and she signs a lot. The teacher viewed this as regression on Max’s part and it just pissed me off. Communication is communication no matter what language! Thanks for being an inspiration to me and making such wonderful vidoes that touch so many lives.

    • What good is as the “I” in IEP? I am shaking my head. Cochlear implants and sign language are NOT mutually exclusive! In fact I believe that any parent who can get unbiased information would be able to understand that signing with an implanted child is imperative. Sign language is not “dangerous” it is not “detrimental” ESPECIALLY for an implanted child. A child with a cochlear implant is still deaf.

  29. We are blessed to have two grandchildren from Ethiopia who are deaf. Imagine the frustration dealing with “experts” when the child’s native language is different.
    They were deemed Special Ed. candidates!
    Within a few months one was in the top of her third grade class and a year later the boy, who had no schooling in ET, fit well in the middle of his class.

    It didn’t come easily!

    • Charles, you said it perfectly. I do understand because a deaf child’s native language IS different. My own child was born into MY family with a different native language than what was used in our home. Does that make your head spin?

    • S Club Mama, We did consider home schooling but realized we were not at all qualified to be Leah’s language models since
      1. Neither Aaron or myself are native signers
      2. Neither Aaron or myself were fluent in ASL
      3. To be in a language rich environment with access to incidental language, Leah needed two fluent signers in her space.

      We as her hearing parents could not offer instruction or education in her native language, ASL

      • When I read your post, my first thought was “homeschooling”, too. Alot of parents don’t feel they have the education or resources to homeschool, but homeschooling can be whatever you make it. You are free to find adults or peers that are fluent in ASL. And don’t shortchange your own ability to learn. Obviously you learned enough to create well-loved DVDs!

        Your blog post just reminded me of the many struggles parents have with the current educational system. And many have turned to homeschooling.

  30. I am going to frame this quote!

    “Do not be bullied by people who do not LIVE your life with your child. They give recommendations but they will NEVER ask to take responsibility for the outcome. The outcome is yours to live with. Trust your instincts. ”

    So true!

  31. NEVER get tired of hearing your family’s story Rachel. It can be rough out there for all of us who have children that aren’t “typical.” We have to stick together and be there to give each other strength when we’re confronted with the naysayers. Thanks for sharing!
    (from NJ, was there in Charlemont and saw you in NYC at Carnegie with my daughter Rebekah who has autism)

    • Hi Lisa, of course I remember you! I realize this is just a slice of the problems with public education and deaf education, we have had different issues with Lucy. Why does it have to be SO exhausting? If anyone should be given a break it’s parents who already are dealing with extenuating circumstances.

  32. Your frustration sounds so familiar to me. When Calyssa entered Early Intervention as a 2-year-old, an audiologist (who, as it turned out, hadn’t worked with pedes since his training decades earlier) said that she couldn’t be deaf because she responded to some sounds. (Well, I’m not exactly blind, but without my glasses I see poorly!) So the only way the school district could qualify her for services was under the “mentally retarded” classification. I didn;t want to accept that diagnosis, becuase I knew it was wrong, but I had no choice. Fortunately, once she turned 3, she aged out of the Early Start into a class for mentally-challenged. kids, and barely a week later, the speech therapist called me at home and asked, “Have you had her hearing tested? I think your daughter is deaf.” “So do I,” I answered. A pair of wonderful pediatric audiologists emerged from a different testing booth a few days later and confirmed that she was profoundly deaf. Not retarded, not challenged, deaf. Fast-forward little more than three years, and I have a happy child, about to enter D/HoH second grade in a different district in the Bay Area, who speaks remarkably clearly, SEE-signs fluently, reads well above grade-level…and will attend camp at the Cal School for the Deaf this summer. She, too, identifies herself as both hearing and deaf.

    • Julie, WOW…. wow.Amazing that you had to go with a diagnosis you knew was wrong to even get services. Parents ARE the professional when it comes to their children. Congrats on your work and efforts with your daughter. What I love is Leah has no idea of the many stigmas in the world of deafness. She doesn’t feel one is more superior than another. She doesn’t HAVE to choose. She can have both deaf and hearing as aspects of herself. Too cool!

  33. These are part of the reasons I became an educator. It is appalling what parents with students with any type of disability are told! I refuse to believe that any child no matter what their situation in life is not smart enough to do _____ (you fill in the blank). I grew up in the special education system. I beat all the odds. I have been an exception to the rules since I was little.

    Good for you in fighting! It can be so hard to fight! I think that the school system hopes that parents just get tired and “accept their offerings” which are never quite enough regardless of the situation.

    In response to all the parent’s who are having trouble with their early education programs accepting ASL (signs) as language that is just wrong! I love that our pedi accepts our “normal” hearing children signs as language! They are communicating in a real language! Why would it not count?!? the best part is that they are able to tell me what they are thinking about. AMAZING stuff!!

  34. “The worst part is… parents believe it! They look at their little deaf child and believe that their potential is limited because some stranger from a state organization says so.”

    This is so true about many conditions. My daughter who turned 3 a couple of weeks ago, has Down syndrome. We started signing with her ourselves & then started using Signing Time. She now has several hundred signs at least. Her spoken vocabulary is even larger & she is starting to speak in sentances. Even more amazing is the fact that she new the alphabet before the age of 2 & was reading over 200 words at last count. This is definately not what we were told to expect by the “experts” & if we had believed them she would not be doing as well as she is. I do take into consideration what the “experts” say, but we choose what we believe is the best path for our daughter. Sometimes that means getting a 2nd opinion & sometimes it means driving over 3 hours & 12 towns away to find the best SLP, but we will do whatever it takes to help our daughter reach her full potential.

    Thanks for the wonderful blog post! More parents need to know it is OK to fight for their child.

  35. Hi, Rachel!

    I was just wondering, does Leah ever attend her own IEP meetings? In KY, it starts when you’re 14, and I have only been able to attend one meeting because I didn’t really know you could attend your own meetings until my teachers told me. I just turned 16 at the end of May, and I love being able to make some decisions about my education. It has helped me to become a better self-advocate.

    Now, if I could just get going physically…

    Leah is so beautiful. I would love to read some of her writing.

    Take care!


    • Hey Ash, We have always brought our children to their IEP meetings. Leah and Lucy have strong options about their educations and what they want and do not want as far as services go. Lucy has said in her meeting that she doesn’t like to always have a one-on-one aide over her shoulder all day. She wants some more independence. We wouldn’t have known that if she didn’t tell us.
      I know there are always workshops pushing “Parents as Partners in the IEP Process” but I believe your child’s input is invaluable too

      • I just noticed that there was a reply button at the bottom of your post, so I can reply to your comment. Haha.

        But anyway, I was going to ask you something else. When you say “free and appropriate education” is that K-12 exclusively? Or college too? I am already starting to look at scholarships, but am wondering if I should since some people have told me college is completely paid for due to CP. You may or may not know the answer to this, but I figured I’d ask anyway.

        • Ashley, You should apply for scholarships. Of course you should. I don’t know if it IS the case that college is paid for because you have CP. I haven’t heard that, but neither of my girls are college age. I have heard of all kinds of support services in college for people with disabilities.

  36. Wow, Rachel… it is so hard to fight the system, and as teachers sitting at a PPT (IEP meeting), you want to change the mold but at times (most of the time) the district will only “allow” you to follow their mold (budget cuts, no extra teachers, no extra aides, share these aides)… sadly, even if it’s failing like you showed.

    You and Aaron have made so many right decisions, not only just for Leah but for Lucy, too… and communication was at the root of all of it. I can’t tell you how many horror stories I have heard from Deaf folks who were mislabled as MR when they were in school.

    Hooray for you guys.
    Thanks, as always, for sharing.

    • JenML, Even comment #35 had that experience of her child being diagnosed as mentally retarded instead of deaf.
      When we first took Leah (age 1) to the ENT he hit a tuning fork (right in front of her face) and then brought it over to her ear. She followed it with her eyes because she was probably wondering what on earth it was and what he was doing with it! His response… “Well she sure heard that!”

  37. You never cease to amaze me with your life stories! I’m sitting here fighting back tears as two nights ago I read an article that said if a child isn’t talking by age 5 then his/her chance of ever talking in not very good. Joey (who has Down syn) will be 5 next month. His only sounds are vowels or when he hollers and grunts…every now and then we will hear a consonant sound. His hearing is perfect. Sadder part is I know I get blamed (by some family) for teaching him sign. I KNOW that is NOT true! What are your thoughts on teaching PECS along with sign? Most on his IEP team are suggesting that for this coming school year (preschool). I have mixed feelings.

    • Steph, Imagine his frustration level if you hadn’t been signing with him. Once again “SPEAKING” is not the primary focus “COMMUNICATION” is. You know what? Maybe Joey WILL never talk. He either will or he won’t and beating yourself up over it will not change that outcome. Lucy will never walk. I am fine with that. I could beat myself up, taking her to hours of therapy and trying to force her to do something she CAN NOT do. I could feel guilty. I Think that would be a waste of my time and Lucy’s.

      Steph here is the thing. If he doesn’t ever talk it’s ok. It’s ok. Once again do not be bullied by people who don’t live it, be that family or professionals. YOU are the expert on Joey. 🙂 You are.

      I have no hands-on experience with PECS. I am sure there are people here who do. All I have is a completely biased opinion with no actual experience. So I’m going to keep it to myself… don’t you wish all of those family members would do the same? LOL (I am going to have to quote myself on that one!) “Thank you so much for your completely biased opinion that seems to be based on no actual real life experience!” <----- ROFL

      • Hi Steph,

        I’m not sure why, but I was scrolling and your post caught my eye. I’m also a mom of a 5 year old daughter with DS. I had a couple of thoughts which may or may not help. Have seen absolute miracles happen when tonsils have been removed. A friend’s 10 year old with DS who didn’t talk until his tonsils came out. Six months later, he was reading a book to an audience at a Reading Recital. Our daughter made huge improvements as well after having her tonsils removed.

        I also attended a talk by Libby Kumin, a speech therapist, who said kids with DS can have apraxia, which is almost like dyslexia for speech. Evidently there is controversy on whether kids with DS can truly have it. However, when treated for it, she’s seen kids make great gains in speech.

        Definitely don’t feel guilty–you have given your son an amazing gift–the ability to communicate. Best of luck to you.

  38. I love this post! How empowering to all mothers and fathers. I live in Austin TX. I know nothing about the deaf school system, but I know there is a school here for the deaf- Texas School for the Deaf. I’m sure you’ve heard of it. Anyway, loved this and thank you for sharing! 🙂

  39. I have admired you fromthe time I first heard your (basic) story. As I’ve been reading and learning more and more I am more and more inspired by you.

    I do not have the slightest inkling of an idea what it is to walk in your shoes, but I can tell you this for certain: I admire the way you walk in them! You have taught me a lot about the kind of PERSON I want to be. One who doesn’t see boundaries but opportunities; one that ACTS rather than sitting back and letting life run amok; one that stands proud, even when stumbling, knowing that life is not about our circumstances, but what we DO with what we’ve been handed.

    You are right, it’s appalling what we as a society “accept” for so many within our populations. It is so very important that we strive for BETTER and things like you writing your story to share are PART of the solution; the more people hear about how it CAN be different, the more it WILL be different. It’s always easier to ask for something someone else has already been given, the more people who ask and are successful at pushing those boundaries, then SHARE their stories, the more road will be paved for others to do the same. THANK YOU, for while you were working for your daughter, you have triumphed in many ways for MANY MORE tan your daughter (who we all know is an amazing young lady! – taking right after her mommy!)

    • Jaclyn, I think that might be one of my all time favorite acknowledgements!

      “I do not have the slightest inkling of an idea what it is to walk in your shoes, but I can tell you this for certain: I admire the way you walk in them!”

      Thank you for your friendship

  40. Because you are awesome, and don’t take no for an answer and you believe in this philosophy: “Listen to your heart above all other voices.”

    Your heart will always tell you what to do, and look what you have done for yourself and for your child. 🙂

  41. I am sorry to have to point this out, but I feel it needs to be done. I totally believe it wasn’t meant to be offensive, but when you said ” but we knew that she was deaf, not stupid.” I found it highly offensive.
    As a mother with a daughter with Down Syndrome, I have become a part of the movement to ban the use of the word retarded. But, to me, stupid is far worse.
    My daughter may end up at 18 with the reading level of a third grader? Does that make her ‘stupid’? Because that is the implication, and it hurts, even though I know that wasn’t your intention.
    I only mention it as a matter of course, as I am sure it is something you will take onboard. As a parent of a disabled child, I know it is hard to keep track of what offends who.
    Thank you for your consideration of this. And to those reading the comments, please remember that this word can hurt those of us who are fighting for our children to not be called ‘retards’ OR ‘stupid’.

    • Carolyn, No apologies from you! The whole premise of Signing Time is delivered within the first few lines of the Theme Song- “Where friends can meet and find we’re not so different after all” I wrote those lyrics and your comment brings that experience right here. Thank you for trusting that my intention wasn’t to offend. Thank you for being brave and sharing what is true for you. You may or may not know that my youngest daughter Lucy has spina bifida, cerebral palsy and at age 2 was incorrectly labeled as mentally retarded by her neurologist. This issue is closer to home for my family than some might realize. Again thank you for your perspective and your mission.

  42. Rachel,

    I certainly hope the thought of only blogging for another year is hypothetical. It’s discussion topics like this that so need to be addressed, but it’s hard to find a forum of people who get it. Truly, the only limitations that face our daughter are those placed on her by others who only see Down Syndrome. We just had a speech evaluation and Erin only has about a 6-9 month delay. Not bad considering our EI therapists told us she wouldn’t start speaking until she turned 5–probably even longer since we were using ASL with her. You know the grief we took about that…Even our dentist lectured me on how I was delaying her speech, right after she signed grape when he asked me what kind of toothpaste she wanted. Thank heavens your website and the extra materials on the videos gave me the confidence to continue pursuing ASL despite the many experts.

    • Diane,
      TOTALLY hypothetical 🙂 Thank you for expressing your interest though. Sometimes blogging feels like launching epistles into a black hole.

      “SINCE you were using ASL”??? SINCE? GAH! If only I could reach through the internet and shake those people (I would you know.. I really would!) I we back to signing in secret? I sure hope not. If nothing else you can read in the other comments that you are not alone! AND you are not the only one whose child enjoys the benefits of your commitment to signing, even in the face of disagreement.

      When we found out Leah was deaf, she was 14 months old. A family friend said, “I understand why you are signing but you really should be careful. Don’t teach her too much or she may use it forever.”
      My response, “Leah is profoundly deaf. It is pretty likely she WILL use it forever and that’s not a problem.”

      • Thanks for the laugh and support, Rachel. I still would love to do a study on how sign language improves the lives and outcomes of children with Down Syndrome. All the research (all two studies)shows introducing ASL has no effect on speech delays, but that is certainly not our experience.

        It has been fascinating to watch Erin use her signs when she’s speaking in longer sentences. As she verbalized more, she stopped signing for a bit. However, now she seems to use the signs to help her organize her thoughts when speaking in sentences. She started with “What’s Your Name?” “My name is Erin,” and “Nice to meet you.” Sound familiar? (We love Sign of the week, but were wondering if you could expand to phrase of the week.)

        We were also told she would have a really hard time with phonics, but, again, that has not been the case. She learned the alphabet with Signing Time ABCs and the Practice Time ABCs. At 5 she’s graduated from the pre-reading summer program at the library to the early readers, and she is decoding words by sound.

        Ironically, the visual phonics program that “the experts” say is what she will need in the future to learn how to read, uses a non-ASL set of signs to represent sounds. So, why is it then such a leap to think that introducing ASL at an age-appropriate stage of development will not enhance reading and decoding?!!? I just don’t get the reasoning or lack there of.

  43. Hi Rachel!
    First of all, thank you for sharing this part of Leah’s journey. I truly appreciate it.

    It is so refreshing to see parents who WANT to educate them about their children and how their children will be taught. As a sign language interpreter, it is so disappointing and frustrating to be told by a TOD or a set of parents that we MUST use Signed English with a child. I understand if that is the child’s wish, but at the age of four or five the child doesn’t know the best language preference any more than they know not to eat candy for three meals a day. I’m sure that entire paragraph is completely politically incorrect, but that is how I feel.

    I worked at a school for the Deaf in Puerto Rico (www.esd.faithweb.com if you ever visit PR, I’m sure they would love to have you visit) and my time there only encouraged me that children are capable….of MORE than we could imagine. If only we give them the tools instead of imposing limits.

    • Kristina, a fabulous point! As i said in the blog this is only one piece of the puzzle. It’s only the tip of the iceberg. If parents don’t know what is the best choice for their deaf child, they will NEVER ask for it and things will NEVER change. When we were in Los Angeles we were the only parents asking our district for ASL. To be honest most of Leah’s deaf peers came from very low income homes where English wasn’t their parents’ first language, Spanish was. I tried to put together weekly signing lessons for the parents but most had no transportation and some had no interest at all. They seemed to be content that their child had 2 free meals and a bus ride to and from school five days a week. The last thing they were focused on was incidental language acquisition or the difference between ASL or SEE sign.

  44. I totally agree with you. I am a special Education Major. I am actually making myself learn ASL so I will be able to have the “a language rich environment.” That is totally un acceptable. I might just be new school and still learning. But I actually want to a child feel like they are the best and no matter their disability let them out do that smartest kid in their grade level.

    • Jessi, hoorah! One of the frustrating things for us was that we wanted a teacher who was fluent in ASL. When we asked if the teachers could be tested for fluency so we could make the best choice the Teachers Union said it was a violation of the teacher’s rights to be tested for ASL fluency… huh? What about my child’s right to receive her education in the least restrictive environment? Least restrictive environment being in her native language, ASL. Whose rights are more important? We couldn’t even get the information we needed to make the best choice for Leah.

      • I would love to become fluent in it, when I watched your shows on PBS I was very good, and when I was 8 I bought a book and learned that in a week. I tell my parents I want “Signing Time” whole DVD collection. But I agree with you, becasue I am a student who just got tested for a Learning Disability and I am having to fight with my professors to get my LRE. Good Luck

  45. I had NO idea it was like this in the school systems! I was friends with 2 deaf students in high school, and they were just like everyone else, funny, smart, conversational, kind and understanding. It’s partially due to my friendship with them that my 19 month old so is so proficient in signing – much of what they taught me 10 years ago is coming back to me, and I can pass it on to him, with GREAT help from Signing Time of course! Thank you for opening my eyes to this terrible failure of our school systems.

    • JoDy, I have family members who were shocked by this blog. Like I said, I have to believe that if people really knew this then no one would stand for it. To be honest I don’t even think Leah knows what we went through and if she does remember she has nothing to compare it to. For her it is just what happened. For Leah it was totally normal for mom to go into a education meeting for 2 hours and cry the whole time.

  46. I am mother of two BEAUTIFUL little girls. One is 4 and just started to be mainstreamed and the other is 1. We ourselves have been through these same experiences. It is so frustrating to hear the school districts say…well she wont need ASL. When we had earlier intervention they were like we dont know what to do with her she is testing above what we are use to dealing with. Well teach her something anything we would say! Wouldnt you rather her have a better chance and be ahead. She now attends an all day program and she loves it. We had to fight for interpreter we had to fight for fm system. It makes me feel very sad to know parents are just accepting…”O your child will never read passed fourth grade reading level.” I would say says who! It is my responsibility to make sure that never happens. I dont care how hard it is Im not going to allow that for my child. Ive talk to other parents who have been tolds using ASL will hurt their communication. I believe these doctors are wrong. I just try to tell them that in our home it has just improved it! Another fight is my daughter is not deaf enough….I hate it when someone will say well she can speak. Well just because she can speak doesnt mean she can hear. It drives me crazy!! Thank you to the Coleman family, who have been such a big part of our communication with our children!!

    • Gina, When families are told that ASL will hurt their child’s communication I think it is time to start asking “Is that just your opinion or have you actually lived with and signed with a deaf child of your own? Do you have any current research on that or did someone tell you that a long time ago when you were in college and you’ve just been repeating it ever since?”

  47. Sorry for the second post, this is for Mollie:

    At my son’s 18 month checkup, one of the standard questions is whether the child is putting 2 words together. At the time, he was not speaking in phrases. My pedi was concerned, until I explained that he was signing simple sentences, such as “please more food”! End of concern, we moved on to other topics. 🙂 A week later, the verbal language started to explode out of him, and it’s not giving up steam!

    • JoDy the cool thing is you can hit the [Reply] button under someone else’s comment and it will show up connected to theirs!! YAY. Try it next time, but for now i will post up on Mollie’s to check Comment #50

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