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. Rachel now serves as the Executive Director of the American Society for Deaf Children, a 501c3 nonprofit established in 1967 by parents of deaf children. ASDC is the American Sign Language organization for families who are raising deaf children. www.deafchildren.org Motivated by her child, Leah's deafness, Rachel has spent the last 18 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: ASL 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 Salt Lake City Utah. They are parents to Leah who was born profoundly deaf, and is now a senior in college at NTID/RIT in Rochester, NY. They are also parents to Lucy who has spina bifida and cerebral palsy, and recently graduated high school. 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.

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

  1. This post is amazing… I am a teacher of the Deaf and am trying to fight the good (very difficult) fight of bilingualism. No matter how much success you show and no matter how much you do to convince other professionals that this works, it seems that it only takes a few well placed “professionals” to knock the argument supporting ASL down and confuse the parents. When you make a statement like “your child will never learn to speak if you sign to them” of COURSE it scares parents. Why would anyone be allowed to speak such unfounded and damaging statements to parents just seeking guidance?!?! Rachel. I ask you to think about speaking to schools for the Deaf… to communicate to the professionals that are stuck in their old and WRONG ways, showing them the damage they can do… and to give support to those of us in the trenches debunking years of myths and fears these people have instilled in families…
    Thank you for reminding me that we are not alone in this and that we CAN change the system.

  2. Reading stories like this make me so thankful for our public school deaf/HH program! We have been thrilled with our son’s teachers from Day 1 as they have used a bilingual approach to maximize residual hearing and speech skills, and, at the same time, embracing deafness and ASL. We have another 19 month old daughter who will join the program next year. We also have a state-funded program for deaf mentors – invaluable! Wow, but to be told your child will never excel academically… just, wow! And, so ignorant of those “teachers”.

  3. Wow… I’m really proud of you for doing what you did. I was born hearing and became deaf at the age of 2 1/2 years old as a result of spinal meningitis. When my mom found out I was deaf, she looked into programs. She got suggestions for oral program, but she decided total communication was the best for me. She wanted so bad to be able to communicate with me. She didn’t want me to feel left out. I attended Bella Vista Elementary 3 months after I became deaf. My mom said after I became deaf, I was distant. I guess after 2 1/2 years of talking and hearing, my life was so different. After I have been at the school with sign language and speech therapy for a few months, I started to blossom. I was back to my old self. That’s how my mom knew she did the right thing. I have a really good speech if I concentrate and I have a pretty good English… didn’t you notice?
    My mom signs really well and we talk about different things. Also when they tested me after I have been at the school for a few months, they saw that I was 1 1/2 year ahead of my age.

    I don’t know what happened to those deaf programs anymore. I work for LACOE and I work with deaf kindergarteners and first graders. Most of them have SEVERE language delay. The teachers work so hard.. BUT IT’s ALWAYS the parents. They believe the same thing you first heard. SO SAD. I applaud you for your efforts. Keep up the good work! Your daughters are lucky to have YOU!

  4. Thank you for an inspiring article and sharing your family’s story with the world. I will wish the best for your family and Leah. With involved parents like you, I will not be surprised to see Leah being a successful person and a wonderful human being.

  5. Rachel, Our daughter is now 30. We went through nearly the same experiences with her in NM elementary schools 25 years ago. The superindendent was a wonderful, progressive educator and provided almost everything AJ needed. NMSD in Sante Fe at that time was a wonderful resource to us. My job took us to ND/MN border and we found both of their schools for the deaf to be excellent. Many of AJ’s classmates went on to college and graduated. AJ attended Gallaudet in DC. It amazes me that you and other parents are going through the exact same fights today that we went through 25 years ago! It also amazes me that there is such a reluctance on the part of “educators” to embrace ASL for deaf kids.

  6. I also want to add to my dad’s comments (Lee in MD) about the struggles that we faced. My parents were told not to teach me ASL because I would never speak and that I would be “dumb” for the rest of my life if they did that. That’s when they met a wonderful educator who went to Gallaudet for grad school. My teacher didn’t believe that because we were deaf that we should not know the meanings and usage of words, in the 2nd and 3rd grade I had spelling words that were at least 11 letters long, and we used ASL in our classroom as well as having speech therapy time. I’m fluent in both spoken English and ASL. I was above grade level in English and reading my entire life. I now work for the Food and Drug Administration. Keep up your fantastic work with Leah, it will definitely pay off.

  7. I am blessed to have a beautiful little girl with perfect hearing. However, since she was 4 months old we started using ASL with her as a tool to improve her speech from a young age. We use the signing time series. She is now nearly 2 and still loves it, though uses the signs so much less now that she speaks so much. I try to continue with basics so she will one day not feel embarrassed if she is in the company of a deaf child/person. I wish the there was an academic requirement in schools for people to learn basic ASL. We focus so much on foreign languages…why not ASL?

  8. My wife and I know the anguish of being hearing parents of deaf children. We have two profoundly deaf daughters. Our oldest daughter graduated from Michigan with a 3.49 and our younger daughter was valedictorian at Texas School for the Deaf and graduated with honors from R.I.T. We used Signed English rather than ASL in their early life to encourage learning English syntax. We were also in a City that had a clinic similar to the Tracy Clinic in Los Angeles and an educational system that did everything possible to help them succeed. Hours and hours of work at night, as well, contributed to their success. The bottom line, however, is that with the proper support system, their is no reason that the deaf cannot succeed academically. We never gave up.

  9. Hi Rachel,

    My name is Julie Martin and I am one of your new signing time instructors. I was raised oral deaf due to the fact that my parents wanted me to be able to succeed in the world when I grew up meaning to be able to get a job and interact with hearing people. As I got older, I had the option to learn sign language and I have generously used both in education and professions to succeed. I have a college degree and have worked in the corporate business world for over 18 years and am now currently working on my MBA and developing my own business teaching sign language for all ages using signing time products. I truly believe I will be able to show parents that have deaf or hearing children with communication limitations that they cannot give up and their children will succeed learning sign language along with other forms of communication skills. I have been told I am the first deaf/HOH to join the academy and I am very excited about this and hope to inspire many! My daughter is six years old and will be in first grade this Fall 2010. She learned to read at an early age as well with both of her parents deaf/HOH and has been tested at third grade reading level. I cannot tell you how much I strongly believe ST has really given us a great start on her reading skills as she was reading before she was two years old! Now, that is amazing and was signing words to me for communication before she spoke simple sentences. Our school system offers ASL for a foreign language to meet our state college foreign language requirement! I am excited how much has come along since I was growing up and in college. I have been amazed how much the community has changed and strongly believe that learning to read and sign comingle into expanding language development that will teach deaf and hearing children to advance beyond ASL and allow them to test at higher education levels. ASL is definitely being shown that it provides that path in the right direction in advanced language and reading skills. There are so many parents out there that are seeing this and anxious to get Signing time classes and DVD’s in their homes to get started in the right direction that by the time their child is of school age they are prepared and many will ask how they did it. Two simple words, Signing Time!

  10. What?!?! They told you that because your child was deaf that she would only read at the third grade level?! What does being able to hear have to do with reading? My son is non-verbal and has Down syndrome and we expect him to read at least at a third grade level. I always assumed that having a non-hearing child would be a breeze compared to my situation (although our school district has been wonderful). I always assumed that schools would have no problem with your situation. I guess some school districts will do and say anything to avoid their responsibilities.

  11. I stumbled on your blog while on my friends. I wanted to let you know that I think you are amazing. Children need more parents like you who will do everything and anything they can to make their life the best it can be. There are laws for a reason, so people cannot be mistreated. I have a sister in law with downs and was told that she would never learn her name so they were only going to teacher her the first letter because she wouldn’t ever be smarter than that. She writes, types, and does more than people who do not have a disability. NEVER let anyone else tell you how you can raise your child. Deaf children can do so much! Just as my non deaf child. Ignorance is an ugly thing. I recently had a student of mine ( a 40 year old special ed. major) have her mouth drop open when another one of my students mention that his mother was blind. She said ” how did she have children, she’s blind?” He responded with “why couldn’t she?” Life is different with a disability, but that does not mean that anyone should be limited on what they can have. People in the “Special ed world” are often the first to poop on ideas, parents are what make the difference. Keep it up and good luck on your journey.

  12. I too have a son who is deaf. He has gone to school in Texas for 2 1/2 years, and although the schools are not set up for children who deaf, he had a wonderful teacher and wonderful aides. I just moved back to California, to be told that they don’t have a D.H.H. classroom because “there is only a handful of deaf children so that doesn’t warrant creating an entire classroom”. So now they want to give him an interpreter and put him in a regular classroom. My son has other special needs as well as being deaf, and I don’t see this being beneficial for my son. I have been asking myself what to do for that last month, and my sister told me about your blog. It feels better that someone else has the same thoughts as me. I have been so frustrated since moving back, I don’t understand why people think it’s ok not to offer a deaf child a proper education. I went to a parent’s w/special needs children advocacy center after I talked to the school to find someone who might help me. The lady in there recommended a boarding school that is 5 hours away for my 5 year old. The school looks amazing, but they want me to ship my son off from Sunday afternoon to Friday evening. That was their solution for parents of deaf children, let somebody else raise them!!! I am still very frustrated and looking for ways to change this. Glad I’m not alone on my journey.

  13. I love how you have written your journey. And how you fight for your girls.
    Signing Time taught our whole house so much, almost 5 years ago we had a little girl, Kaitlin. Kaitlin has Down syndrome. She is smart and can sign and talk, learning and growing more every day and I too worry about the school system and them trying to fit her into their box.

    You are an inspiration to other parents!
    thank you !!

  14. Lily is still excited that she met you during your trip to MN! Our pediatrician was so worried about her speech since she signed first (she is hearing & I am hard of hearing) as were some family members who chastised me for choosing signing; now they can’t believe her verbal vocabulary or how she can verbalize things we sign in her presence (I prompted her with ASL for the rainbow song and a family member was shocked). I use your story as an example of why not to accept the minimum for my other daughter in trying to get a 504 plan. Thanks for inspiring so many by sharing your story!

  15. I am a pediatric audiologist and professor who cares very much about language and communication development in my patients. I try so hard to convey this to my students, but this blog post says it better than I ever could. Thanks so much for writing this, and I look forward to sharing it with my students (after all, the whole reason I wanted to teach was so that I could train students to ignore the statistics and focus on helping each and every child with hearing impairment reach their full potential). Thanks, Rachel– you are an inspiration!

  16. Hi

    Check out this information: We want you in favor for ASL, especially the comment from Camille on June 23rd, 2010 at 10:46. I am inspired by your positive comment about your experiences and the academic requirement for basic ASL.

    Please look into this International Congress on the Education of the Deaf. Is it enough?

    The conference is happening in Vancouver, British Columbia from July 18 – 22 2010.

    Your support on ASL for the babies and children, hearing or deaf is enormously appreciated. However, I want to note the British Columbia ICED Apology Committee has been working very hard to work with ICED to receive an apology. It looks like it will not happen: note from copied and pasted:

    **************************************************

    letter to ICED:
    Audism Free America (AFA) announces our grave discontent that the International Congress on the Education of the Deaf (ICED) refuses to apologize for the ICED resolutions of 1880 at their Milan Congress. This infamous resolution erroneously and unjustly declared “the incontestable superiority of speech” to be the rule of the day in Deaf education resulting in decades of abuse (physical, emotional, social, spiritual, educational, and linguistic) and the removal of Deaf people from the classrooms and boardrooms of Deaf schools across the globe,

    In declaring our discontent with ICED’s refusal to acknowledge and apologize for their role in the ICED Milan 1880 resolutions we heed ML King Jr’s words of “We must have the spiritual audacity to assert our somebodyness.”

    The resolutions were unjust and have never formally been rescinded or apologized for by ICED. We understand that ICED has been in negotiations with the British Columbia ICED Apology Committee and have reached an agreement for a “new beginning” document which does not include an apology. While we were always puzzled as to why the concept of an apology should have ever been a negotiable matter, we were assured numerous times that an apology was in order and would be forth coming. The latest information we have is that no apology will be granted.

    In the spirit of asserting our somebodyness, AFA asserts that the apology is owed to us and those who came before us and will come after us. Now is the time for standing – not for yielding.

    Archbishop Desmond Tutu stated “I am not interested in picking up crumbs of compassion thrown from the table of someone who considers himself my master. I want the full menu of rights.”

    We are only requesting that which is right, just, and good – and long overdue – an apology for your ICED MIlan 1880 resolutions.

    Let Freedom Roll,
    AFA

    **********************************************

    www.wfdeaf.org/pdf/ICED_article.pdf

    Show your support for Sign Language.

    There will be two B.C. Deaf Community meetings in Room 2201 at Douglas College on Monday and Tuesday, July 19 and 20 for members of the B.C. Deaf community.

    This will be about what the International Congress on Education of the Deaf’s decision about our DEMANDS for an apology for the 1880 Milan decisions that have hurt us for 130 years. Presenters from both B.C. and Europe will be on hand to inform the B.C. Deaf community members.

    Monday: B.C. and European Deaf people will make their presentations

    Tuesday: a panel discussion on what we should do for the future generations of B.C. Deaf people

    if you wish to contact – you can go to this website where you can write an e mail to Wayne Sinclair –

    deafbc.ca/archives/4670

    Thank you for your support and united we can!

  17. The deaf ed. classes near me use English sign language which is terribly complicated and difficult and the students (and I) suck at it and can barely communicate. But the teachers insist that English sign language, unlike ASL, prepares them for reading because it follows normal english grammar. (begging the obvious question “If you can’t communicate because it’s so complicated how can it prepare you for ANYTHING much less reading?)

    Do you have any videos (youtube or anything?) showing how one teaches a child who knows ASL, to read? Maybe these teachers just need to see how it’s done. (that, and they need a kick in the pants like the one you gave to your school system– woohoo Colemans!)

  18. Hi Rachel, fab that you remember us! Believe it or not, we are in Kansas & Renate will be an 8th grader at Kansas School for the Deaf. We love it here very much. Renate was in SLC two weeks ago on a Sorenson related business. Next time we are in Utah, we need to reconnect! Contact us whenever you are in the midwest! 🙂

  19. Rachel–so incredibly well said. And here is the other tragedy–the public school system does this to ALL kids, hearing and deaf. Everyone intrinsically knows this, but no one in the system has the guts to say it as boldly as the PIP person said it to you.

  20. You speak the truth. The special education system under IDEA is just broken, even though occasionally good things can come out of it, so much advocacy and vigilance is required by parents on a constant basis, and then the district official are condescending, rude and outright wrong in what they say. You are inspiring, though, in all you do for your daughters. I think about your example a lot when I am advocating for my boys (and even when I am working out and training). Thanks for the great work you do and for sharing it.

  21. Hi Rachel,
    I can’t imagine what you must be going through and truly admire not only your willingness but passion to fight for your daughter’s right, because of course it is a right, to not be limited by the educational system. Please know I am thinking of you and other families like yours.

    My heart just dropped when you said “My child is deaf, not stupid” because it is never fair to limit a child’s, or any person’s potential to learn and be successful. I have to admit though that my thoughts turned to parents whose children are also not stupid, but whose children may have only achieved a 3rd grade reading level by the age of 18 for whatever reason.

    Thank you for sharing your struggles and your life to encourage others. It has truly encouraged me to learn of your story. And thank you also for sharing your amazing voice and hands to make learning sign language and learning to communicate easy and fun for children no matter what their abilities are.

    Best to you and your family.

  22. We also were told by the school district that signing was not accaptable in the classroom because it was not we’ll known and people didn’t use ASL in the “real world”.!!!! Not an acceptable answer for me, I know it is used and understood by many. I was very offended that made such a statement. It was our son’s only means of communication as 3 year old with Autism. He is now able to speak verbally and typicaly signs along when he is talking. He learned to finger spell from the Signing Time videos. That really helped him communicate if he did not know of a sign for a word he would just spell it out.

  23. I feel incredibly lucky that we were aimed at a school that uses Total Communication that started home visits when he was only 15 months old, only weeks after his hearing loss was diagnosed.

    (Also lucky that we had the heads up that he was going to lose his hearing.)

    He’s 7, entering 2nd grade already reading at a second grade level, fluent in ASL, pretty competent in English and surrounded by Deaf AND Hearing staff to serve as models.

    I wish we weren’t so lucky. This should just be the norm for Deaf kids.

  24. Hello to all. What an empowering and needed blog! I just discovered it.

    I’m hearing. My middle son is 23, profoundly deaf without speech, and a recent BA Psych grad from the University of Alberta in Edmonton, Canada.

    Like many of you, my son’s father and I were devastated and bewildered upon diagnosis at 13 months, but after research and our own bumbling discoveries we raised him in a communication rich environment. Worried about making a bad choice, we chose everything! (almost – no cochlear implant; they were crude back than in any case.)

    We used signed English (easiest for us & we reasoned that it would help him learn to read), introduced him to deaf people and ASL early, used hearing aids/FM, and worked hard at speech therapy in various forms (didn’t work out, as often happens with profound deafness). The key to our success with our son, I believe, was our openness to all ideas, and using the “happiness factor” as our guide: If he was not happy and thriving, then we needed to change something. Period.

    Anyway, good to see all the discussion on this blog. It’s so important for parents to feel strong enough to ask hard questions and push through questionable advice from experts who cannot know your child as well as you do.

    The key concern is language, not modality: make sure your child has a full, rich language (going in and coming out) so his or her brain can grow to its capacity. It doesn’t matter HOW you do that, but you MUST do it. Don’t settle for cheap imitations of language such as simple rote speech or baby signs. No full language = no full thinking. That’s what topnotch psychologists who study language and the brain (and deafness) say, and that’s what I’ve come to believe from what I see around me.

    It’s appalling to see the extent of intellectual dumbing down of perfectly capable deaf children everywhere because tragically underinformed hearing parents keep them from accessing language in the CHILD’S natural form (whether we like it or not): visual.

    My son and I are in the midst of researching studies and interviewing people on deaf literacy (touching on all the factors in these blog entries) for an upcoming book/DVD website that will hopefully help, as this blog does. We would welcome views and thoughts on what needs to be in this book — aimed mostly at parents but also educators and specialists of all stripes. Also, our upcoming website: deafNOTdumb, will be a clearing house of information, links and communication opportunities (deaf – hearing).

    Like Rachel, we just want to add our pebbles to the pool of misunderstanding and help deaf kids achieve what they deserve to achieve in life.

    Best wishes to all you struggling parents. If you follow your parenting impulses to make your child’s life happier and easier, not sadder and harder, you will do the right things. And always remember, any choice you make today can always be changed later. Stay open, stay flexible, do the best you can with what you’ve got. This is not about “one strike and you’re out.”

    CG in Edmonton, Alberta

  25. Let’s change society the way how they think about deaf children… they think they are stupid because deaf babies, children and people have been oppressed over the years which made us stupid. Enough is enough… we need hearing parents allies like you to fight for us and tell the system that they are wrong! Dead wrong! Deaf community gives deaf babies, children, people, and ASL language HOPE.

    OPPOSE AB2072! Thank you,

  26. Returning from NAD conference via workshop session with few Supt. of deaf residence campus plus board of Lex. in NYC, the debate was very good but last comment. Deaf guy signed, “Do not blame deaf school campus because of hearing parents hold deaf kids for delaying until too late so deaf schools has hard time to teach delayed deaf kids catch up until 21 years. I agreed with that comment.
    Visiting my deaf farmer in Utah, one hearing parents found out about deaf farmer who was from deaf resident school and bought deaf kid who graduated from Utah School for the Deaf but this kid still not have full time job and just sit to watch TV set daily. Deaf farmer’s deaf wife asked me why USDB gave this kid HighSchool degree.
    His hearing parents admitted to not attend his son in 20 years, too late. Now AB2072 makes worse spread to many states that we face this year.

  27. Rachel,
    You are a wonderful person. One of my best friends from middle school to present is deaf and she has helped me to understand that the stigma behind “deafness” is totally wrong and misunderstood even by professionals (and sometimes best friends). My daughter is not deaf, but I chose to raise her learning sign language first, then to learn to read, then math, etc. I am a firm believer that babies/children love to learn and that our school system is corrupt for all of them. Our brains stop developing around 6 years of age – right when our kids begin to go to school. After that, it’s harder to learn. I have read Glenn Doman’s books and he states that a baby’s intelligence is limited to what we teach her. Babies want to learn and can learn more than adults can imagine if one actually takes the time to teach them during the first 6 years of life. It’s all about early exposure. In my former profession (now I’m a SAHM) as a pharmacy team leader, sign language is a skill that can prove invaluable. Now, I am learning it as well. I only hope I can keep up with my daughter’s desire to sign and learn.

    Your daughters are beautiful! I love to read your stories and am inspired by what you have conquered. My daughter is just shy of 11 months (adjusted age 9.5 months) and in the past month or so she has learned her first 5 signs watching ST! Thank you – you’re an angel and your videos totally capture her attention. I know she is learning when she watches your videos. She giggles at the beginning ALWAYS!

  28. I was googling to see if there is any deaf cyclists doing Lotoja and came across this blog. Not quite what I hoped to find, but I couldn’t help reading your story.

    I am deaf since birth and currently working on my PhD in Biology at University of Utah. Of course, I am planning to do Lotoja this year. (I won’t be as fast as I would be because I am not healthy this year, but I will surely be out there to have fun!)

    Well, I wonder if you know of the Hands and Voices organization, which is a parent-leading one:

    www.handsandvoices.org

    My hearing mother, Lorna Irwin, did a lot for the Idaho chapter one for years now. You can connect her if you wish. (Her e-mail address is posted on the Idaho chapter’s homepage.) We hope to set up one in Utah someday, but we need more interested Utah parents!

    All the best,
    Mavis

  29. Dear Rachel Coleman: Thank you for sharing all that you share. It comforts us to know that what we are going through is not unique and we are not alone. We have a son with Down Syndrome and is also deaf. In addition, he has a couple of other medical issues…a trach and he is fed totally via a g-tube. Due to the fact he was 10 weeks premature we spent what seems like the first 2-3 years of his life more or less striving to keep him alive. He is now 10 and we continue to strive help him meet his full potential. Like the many people who above have blogged, we have had both good experiences with the public schools as well not so great. Since you have traveled extensively and met people from various areas around the country we were wondering if you could/would recommend a city/state/area that stands out in your mind that could positively address the special needs of our son, our situation? Signed, Willing To Move

  30. Hello I have a 2 yr old son Aaron. We were worried that he might be Autistic since he displayed some mild signs as my nephew and the only word he said was MAMA. So we asked his ped. to evaluate him when he was 18 months she did not find anything medicaly wrong with him. So she send us to Early Intervention to see if maybe they could help us out… He was tested and we were told he had great motor skills but had language skills of a 6-9month old. We also went to an audioligist for an audiology test and he told us he was too young for it so he gave him a standard test and came up with nothing, no hearing loss, no blockage no nothing… I should be happy (I am) but now more confused on why he doesnt speak… And to top it off my medical insurance does not cover speech therapy unless its loss of speech due to accidental or surgey related. So My older son (8years) and I went to the library to find books, videos, something that wil help us learn to communicate in some level with Aaron and we came across your Signing Time videos. We checked them out and Aaron absolutly loves them!!! Thank you for all your hard work on. Now everytime he learns a sign he tries to say the word to go with it… It brings tears to my eyes and makes my heart melt. Now with school coming up fast (with this program they help place the kids in main stream school at age 3) it scares me that he will not be helped or taught more of ASL and will be left behind as so many kids are. But again thank you so much for all your great help and now because of you, your family and your videos (and our social worker in EI) We are able to comunicate with our Aaron.

  31. Rachel…I have been an OT, occupational therapist for the past 22 yrs. 8 of those years was spent working with infants and toddlers in a variety of settings. I purchased the Signing Times videos at an early start symposium years ago, while working for United Cerebral Palsy. I absolutely love the videos! Thank you for producing them. Not only did I use them while doing treatments with the children I serviced in EI, but also with my nephew Mateo (who began signing at 10 mos.) and also with my foster daughter, Shay, who started also at 10 mos. It is amazing how the signing has reduced tantrums.

    I wanted to bring up a suggestion for some of the parents who have kids with speech delays. I worked for a year in a sensory integration clinic and cannot stress enough the importance of SI therapy for kids with speech delays, whatever the source of the delays may be. Because many of our schools and parks have gotten rid of swings, due to the danger associated with them, it is has made an impact on kids in our schools with regards to speech, attention span, and learning abilities. I was amazed to see how a very non verbal and minimal speaking child would come to life once SI therapy was started. I had a 3 yr. old little boy I was working with, who was only saying about 20 words when I first began SI therapy with him. After 1 month, he began to speak in 2 and 3 word sentences, all because we put him on a swing and increased his awareness with vestibular stimulation (the sense of where his body is at in space).

    I agree that the infant-toddler teachers and the Speech Path’s should be counting sign language as communication , even if it is the only language when assessing their levels. Being an OT, I never had to report on this, but my best friend is an infant-toddler teacher and an audiometrist, and I will be sure to ask her why this is being done and get back to you ASAP with some answers.

    I pray everyone is doing well. Blessings…

    Kristine

  32. I just found this post! I have been very, very interested in how you have gone about education Leah. I thought the same thing you did when I heard about the average deaf child’s level of literacy. I sincerely hope you can explain what you have done some time. My family has considered adopting a child who is deaf, and I would love to benefit from your experience. I take education very seriously, to the point that I have chosen to homeschool my kids to ensure they receive the education they deserve. You are truly a kindred spirit, even though your path is different than mine!

  33. Hi Rachel,

    I’m one of the ST Academy instructors. I just wanted to say hello and tell you that this post in particular really struck a cord with me.

    I teach an online course for college students which centers around exceptional children. I will be sharing your blog, and this post especially, with them. We talk a lot about the incredible power and necessity of a family-centered approach and your words put it so much better than I or any textbook has accomplished.

    Thank you.

  34. Rachel, I just found your blog through a link to this post. I am just stunned over the educational system for deaf children. I’ve been stunned over the broken systems in place for children with other disabilities as well. It’s alarming how educators will just write children off because they have a disability. I really admire you and people like you who are willing to go the distance and make a difference.

    • Lisa, I have been surprised how often our school district has said the best placement for a child with a disability is their home school, (local elementary etc.) I just don’t think most teachers are prepared to to manage, educate and support our special needs kids, not when they are also trying to teach 26-36 additional children in that classroom. I don’t have the answer, but I am hoping that this post gets people thinking about it and maybe someone will come up with something new AND effective.

  35. Rachel,
    I’m an ASL interpreter. My husband’s profoundly deaf. He’s been signing just a few years longer than I have. Together, we’ve made two Signing Time fans, who are 8 and 3. Both are fluent hearing signers. My husband could’ve been among those with the 3rd grade education. He’s not, but he has mostly himself to thank for that – he’s mostly self-taught. Long story short, he was raised in an oral environment with great “linguistic” support from mom, no sign, but tons of books – his escape.

    As an interpreter, I see just how the schools have and continue to fail on a daily basis. I see the lowest skilled interpreters hired in the schools instead of those of us with top certifications, teachers of the deaf who can’t sign worth a damn, and districts putting their own twists on “least restrictive environment” and IT ANGERS ME! I see so many intelligent deaf/hard of hearing people at work every day who are failed by this broken system. I’ve seen first-time college kids who’ve graduated state schools for the deaf and can’t read the word “anniversary”. I’ve seen people raised in oral environments and mainstreamed in the public schools, and without parents getting involved, making waves, and learning ASL (a real problem among hearing parents of deaf children), kids fail.
    I want to applaud families like yours, Rachel, for having the balls (as you said) to buck the system and do better for your daughter than the status quo for the average American deaf kid. She deserves better, and that seems to be exactly what you’ve given her. \Im/

    • Stephanie, thanks for sharing your “insiders” point of view. I agree too many hearing parents of deaf kids get stuck being afraid that their child might never learn to talk.. what they really should be concerned about is that their child might never have critical thinking skills. American Sign Language is the key in my opinion. A rich visual language environment!

  36. Ok, so I am just getting to this post. A little behind on my part, yeah, but so happy to have read this. IEPs are definitely daunting at times, unless you have the right team, in my opinion. For Sophia, it was frustrating for me to be told she wasn’t “deaf enough” to continue at her local school for the deaf, but even more frustrating to be told that the only school she could attend was the same one that was so horrendous for one of my daughters, that I opted to home school the next one to avoid that school. Sophia would have a teacher that was going to have to compete with the constant noise due to open walls, connected classrooms and open doors. I envisioned this little pre-schooler coming home so exhausted and frustrated everyday that it would culminate in the breaking apart and scattering to the winds of hearing aids; something she did each and every time she became overwhelmed by the hearing world. At the same time, my world was crumbling, so I sent a message to the elementary school principal for the deaf school of my home state. She said Sophia would be welcomed with open arms, no questions asked. And so I moved back to my home state. I get asked a lot by parents and teachers how I managed to raise a perfectly bilingual daughter.

    Rachel, i totally understand the feeling of frustration from those administrators who just don’t get it. And I commend you and Aaron on everything that you have done. It’s never easy to be the “boat rocker,” but it can be so worth it when the cause is great. So, from one boat rocker to another, a big virtual hug and a huge thank you for being the amazing woman and mom that you are and not accepting what others told you had to be.

    P.S. Happy belated Birthday too.

  37. I am a mom and a nanny. I have been signing with babies and toddlers for about seven years now with great results in terms of early bonding and success with language acquisition and cognitive function. The next baby I am going to take care of is expected to be born in late January 2011. His parents know from ultrasounds that he has one typical hand and one hand with just one finger. I plan to sign and talk with him just as I have every other baby I have helped raise over the last seven years, regardless of wither he is hearing or deaf. I assume that he will have his own version of signs that takes into account his unique body. Do you know other kids with limb differences who sign? My instinct is to sign to him anyway, and see how he adapts to communicate back to me. One of my friends who is Deaf was horrified at the sad idea of a baby born without two functioning hands, but I don’t plan on feeling sorry for Baby L. I plan on treating him with love and respect and high expectations just like the rest of my brood. Maybe his ASL will be more fluent than mine. I look forward to finding out.

  38. I wanted to have you read something my profoundly deaf cousin wrote. She is articulate and beautiful. Her name is Jessica Barlow. She on facebook and it is in her “notes” section. You can send a friend request and let her know that I suggested you look her up.

    It’s a great read, and might be helpful to hear from an articulate, informed, deaf young woman.

  39. Dear Rachel,

    I am the director of Deaf Education at Utah State University, and I want to personally thank you for the excellent article regarding raising and educating a deaf child.

    Far too long American education of the deaf has been sacrificing deaf children to the gods of educational and legislative ignorance! Far too long, we have been playing to the deaf child’s weakness (lack of hearing), instead of their strength (vision). Far too long, we have been giving the deaf child an inappropriate education in the most restrictive environment! It is past time that parents, educators, and administrators DEMANDED that deaf children be provided a fully accessible language (ASL) that will expand the child’s world to be on a par academically, socially, emotionally, and linguistically with their hearing peers.

    Far too long deaf children have been denied the development of an identity because of not having a deep and meaningful language with which their world can be accessed. Far too long, deaf children have been forced to become clones of hearing children, instead of being allowed and encouraged to become Deaf.

    In our teacher training program here at Utah State University, we are attempting to turn out a new breed of teachers of deaf children: a teacher who recognizes the need for a fully accessible language; a teacher who is willing to fight to assure that the deaf child’s education is both appropriate and least restrictive; a teacher who sees the importance of Deaf role models; a teacher who understands that the deaf child must have a peer group with whom they can communicate deeply and
    comfortably; a teacher who is skilled in the language (ASL), as well as excellent pedagogical techniques that assist in connecting the visual language with the written form of English; and a teacher who promotes the traditions and values of the Deaf community.

    Kudos to you! Keep up the excellent work.

    J. Freeman King, Ed.D.
    Director, Deaf Education
    Utah State University

  40. My daughter brought you’re blog to my attention as I had notice she had commented on it. My daughter is a beautiful, intelligent, amazing 18 yr old high school graduate, college bound girl… who happens to be deaf. I too encountered the exact same senarios with USDB and PIP here in Utah.
    Coincidently I just took the LMF with your sister and one of my close friends happens to know you and I’m just in awe of everything you’ve done to make the world a better place for these amazing kids. You’re entire family amazes me. You are truly blessed to have such amazing children as I am blessed to have mine, I wouldn’t trade her or our experiences for anything.
    This post was so moving as I felt so alone going through it all 17 years ago… I remember trying to get her to turn her head when I said her name, and crying when I realized she’d never heard a song I had played for her.
    But those all seem so insignificant as I look at her all grown up… and knowing that we did it. She was herself the entire time and I let her be that. I never stopped believing in her and didn’t listen to what the world said.
    I admire you and you’re ambition, you’ve really made such a difference in the deaf community, there isn’t anywhere you go that you don’t hear about signing times.
    Congrats on your success but more so on being such a good mom!

  41. To Whom It May Concern,

    Nov 2010–I’ve read Rachel Coleman’s current blog about how she was told that her deaf toddler would graduate from high school with only a third-grade reading level; that her daughter would not have much of a vocabulary and would probably not attend college. I connected with her experience because 25 years ago that was told to me by the USD program director, Steve Noyce.

    Parents then were more intimidated by the professionals. There was no way to challenge or check if they were right. For the most part parents accepted the conditions the school presented and said “Do what you can for our kids. It’s better than nothing.”

    Our family had gone through the PIP program when we moved to Utah when Ellen was two. There were no PIP advisers who could sign. Every one of them were trained in the Oral modality. However, I insisted that Ellen start with sign because I also had gone to the Deaf community and believed what they told me about what my deaf child needed. Our PIP advisor was hesitant about my decision to begin with signing but she could see I meant business and wasn’t going to be persuaded otherwise. I’m not tooting my own horn here but many, many parents could not make these decisions, could not stand up to the oral-professionals’ pressures, and did not consult with the deaf to know what their child needed. They knew nothing and were taught nothing about their deaf child by USD. Instead they believed the hearing USD professionals who told them that if they started early with listening and speech training, their child could and would learn to hear and speak.

    Steve Noyce was my daughter’s program director from the day she started pre-school at age three. When I was told Ellen would probably not read better than a third-grader when she was 18, I told Steve I wanted Ellen, not only to be able to read at grade-level, I also wanted her to learn to think. I wanted her to be able to argue with me and discuss her thoughts and make plans for her future. I told him I expected him to provide a program where she could learn to do all that. Like Rachel Coleman, we were told they would not create a program for just one child.

    During the eight years we dealt with USD, I sent Steve Noyce study after study and academic paper after academic paper to show him the recorded benefit of ASL for every deaf child, not just mine. Not only did ASL provide internal language, but it also helped those children who wanted to vocalize be able to speak better. This is true as I’ve seen Ellen pronounce a word correctly after she’s seen the sign for it. I don’t know if any of the academic information I sent truly sank in for Steve, but I couldn’t wait for him to become convinced. Ellen needed the language input and SHE couldn’t wait. We sent her to the California School for the Deaf–Fremont for her second and third grade years. Ellen looks back now and says that that was a turning point for her. In that ASL-language-rich environment, she realized she COULD achieve and that she was NOT stupid.

    We returned her to USD for her fourth grade year. She had advanced so much in those two years that the deaf classroom with deaf peers was no longer appropriate for her. (Imagine that ! She’d out-distanced her deaf peers in two years in an ASL environment). However, USD had not appreciably changed in providing for non-remedial deaf students in their classrooms. Their placement option for her was to mainstream her with an interpreter. Interpreter standards had not been established in Utah at the time and her interpreter was lousy. I could see a new battle-ground looming up so we moved to the Indiana School for the Deaf to complete the rest of her years of education. The Indiana Deaf School has a Bilingual-Bicultural philosophy throughout their pre-school-to-12th grades. Bilingual includes ASL as the language of instruction with the learning of English as a second-language and the Bicultural teaches deaf and hearing cultural nuances so deaf can understand themselves and their hearing counterparts. It makes for greater sociability for them at home with hearing family members and in the larger hearing world.

    Parents are smarter now and more resourceful and more vocal. The USD and USOE need to listen, not only to parents and students, but also to the Deaf community and professionals who have in-depth insights and advice. Stop wasting the brains of these deaf children in the USD school system. Our children are a natural non-renewable resource and should be carefully grown and nurtured. It’s a crime to continue using an out-dated system of educating the deaf that has a proven high-failure rate.

    Sincerely,
    Bronwyn O’Hara
    parent of 2 deaf and 1 hard-of-hearing children

  42. It makes me really sad to hear of all of these horrible experiences these families and more importantly these children have had with the deaf education system. I am a certified SLP who is fluent in ASL. My husband is Deaf and we are very active in the Deaf community. I am shocked that these therapists do not count sign as true words and part of their language. I work for a local school district and I use sign language with my language and artic preschool kids who don’t have a hearing loss and it really helps expand their language. I also have a private practice and work primarily with deaf adults who really would like to be able to speak but have never been able to find a therapist that could meet their language needs. One of the main reasons they choose me as their therapist is because I am fluent in ASL and can teach them how to speak in their native language.

    I know of some of these people whose names and have been mentioned and like you said, they really don’t understand because they haven’t lived it. I am so happy to hear that you looked for educated deaf adults as your guide as to what works and what doesn’t. My husband (who signs and is not oral) graduated with his degree in English Education. When I ask him why he is able to understand English so well compared with other deaf adults, he credits being in a family who used sign (although a lot of it was SEE and home sign) and sadly being mainstreamed starting in Jr High. The system can and needs to change in order to provide that “Individualized” program that every child with a “disability” deserves.

  43. Rachel, thank you for making this blog post. I am a student at Brigham Young University, and I am Deaf. I’m in the process of writing a thesis on these exact issues. May I quote you from this post in my paper?

    Charity Harding

  44. Miss Rachel
    Hi, My name is Dee and I discovered your music while I was watching Nick Jr with my 5 year old.. I fell in love with Leah’s farm and Fast and slow and decided to look you up and after reading your web page and I just had to speak. God gave you three wonderful daughters because He trusted you and your husband. He knew that you had it in you to fight for them and their well being. My kids didn’t have the struggle that yours did but I had to fight to make sure they weren’t labeled, treated differently or made to feel that they couldn’t learn simply because of a disability however we live in a society that says if you aren’t considered “mainstream” your needs don’t count! I have three children, a daughter almost 20, a son 17 and my baby son who is 5. I am sure I seemed to be a difficult mother in those IEP meetings for my oldest and now my youngest but I don’t believe in limiting a child just because they have difficulties.. I also don’t like labels. All children are worthy of love and respect especially from teachers and administrators that we as parents trust them with and if they can’t see their worth then they are in the wrong profession. So I am simply trying to encourage you to stand up for your babies and don’t let so- called experts act like they know your children better than you do. You are their best advocate and if you won’t stand up for them then who will? All children are welcome by God and by those of us who love them. It takes different flowers to make a garden.
    Be blessed and keep on keeping on!

  45. What a great write up! Thank you. Fortunately our area has a wonerful HI program but I can still relate. Parents have to be completely involved, hearing or not. Our daughter was main streamer at 4th grade and is doing great but getting to that point was a lot of work for her and us. More people need to bring attention to their schools if they aren’t giving the HI kids the correct tools to succeed!

  46. Great blog! I totally agree, as a profoundly deaf individual.

    My parents were lucky enough to learn from specific individuals that I was to learn sign language right from the get-go, from birth. They initially knew nothing about what to do when they found I was deaf as a baby. They also implemented a heavy emphasis on reading and writing, and I benefited enormously from that, and I am forever grateful for that.

    Throughout my K-12 years, I was in a S.E.E. (Signed Exact English) system. I remember realizing that there was a gap in English comprehension between myself and my classmates – in 3rd grade. I watched as all of my friends’ English levels retreated and the gap grew larger, and their comprehension were dismally poor by when we all graduated high school together. All the teachers were criminally lenient with them.

    In my undergraduate years, I became roommate with one of those classmates who I had grown up with (he was one grade under mine). He was in the engineering program at our renowned institute, and I saw that he had 3rd-grade English comprehension. He was a smart guy – his math prowess was great. I worked with him and helped him gain skills focused on improving his English – and he improved! A few years later, he graduated from that institute with much better English comprehension, and then he got a free, everything-covered scholarship at an even more renowned school. He’s now pursuing a Masters in Nanotechnology. Now, if he stayed at 3rd-grade level English level, where would he be today?

    I think using English-based sign language as a basis for instruction in school is a crime. It is not natural, and puts a burden on deaf people’s minds that they do not need. It throws them off track and demolishes their English ability along the way.

    I think using ASL is the best thing, along with a heavy focus on written English. I’m training right now to become a Teacher for the Deaf, and I can see that our deaf education system is improving – incrementally.

    Thank you for this blog.

  47. Rachel,

    I am a profoundly deaf person who currently holds an important position with a large corporation. I make a good living and live as an independent adult who pays taxes and votes. When I graduated high school and college, my reading level was on par with my hearing peers. I am not a smart person by any means, but I am definitely equal to my hearing peers. I do not even speak at all that well and even with hearing aids I have absolutely no speech recognition. I can lip read somewhat, but I do not use that ability to communicate.

    I got to where I am because of my hearing parents who felt that I should be signing. My parents had visited numerous of programs, but they fortunately were drawn to a program where children signed. However, that school did not offer an infant program until my parents somehow convinced them to start one up. I learned my first sign just before I turned one. My whole hearing family learned to sign. Some better than others, but I grew up in a house where I could sign to anyone that I lived with. I am forever thankful for my upbringing.

    I was periodically placed in mainstreamed classes with sign language interpreters when my school was unable to offer education equal to my hearing peers. While it is not an ideal option, it can still be beneficial and worthy of consideration. The only downside is the social life aspect of it.

    Nonetheless, it is my opinion that the single most important factor in the education of a deaf child is parental involvement. Rachel, you are way ahead of the curve right now and as a deaf person I applaud you and wish your daughter the best of luck.

    -Anon

  48. Hi Rachel,
    I am a teacher of deaf children and I am deaf myself. My husband and I are both deaf and are both professionals in the Deaf community. Thank you for so eloquently sharing your experience. I have to tell you that parenting is SO IMPORTANT. I work unbelievable hours trying to compensate for what my students do not have at home. It breaks my heart. No matter how hard I work and how many different methods of instruction I use, if the children do not have language in the home and do not have family who actively involve themselves in their child’s education, nor learn to sign fluently with their children, I truly am limited greatly at what I can do. I have had students who had parents like you and the difference is like night and day. I applaud your dedication. Thank you.

    A dedicated but weary teacher in the midwest

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