Saturday, August 22, 2015

Professional Hopes and Goals

My goal is to be able to promote signed language acquisition for all of the diverse families with deaf children. Pediatrics, the official publication of the American Academy of Pediatrics, has come out last July with the following edict about deaf children learning American Sign Language:

Children need to learn language. They must learn it from parents, teachers, and their community. The more languages they learn, the better these children will be able to communicate. All children would be better off if their parents all spoke 5 languages and taught all 5 to their children;…Deaf children of hearing (and nonsigning) parents are unique among all children in the world in that they cannot easily or naturally learn the language that their parents speak. Hearing (and nonsigning) parents of deaf children are unique in that they are asked to learn, at least in a rudimentary way, a new and foreign language to communicate with their children. Some parents eagerly and willingly take on this challenge; others do not or cannot. As pediatricians, we need to keep up-to-date on the latest research, translate that research into language that parents can understand, and help them make choices that are best for their child, their family, and themselves. There are no risks to learning sign language along with spoken language, but there are well-defined benefits. For parents and families who are willing and able, this approach seems to be clearly preferable to an approach that focuses solely on oral communication (Mellon, N. et al, 2015).

I have this goal and hope for equity for American Sign Language (ASL) so that deaf children will become more Kindergarten-ready because they have healthy language development.

Thank you to all of my Diversity colleagues for all of the robust conversations during our weekly Discussions. Especially because I do not have the experiences of a classroom, I have learned quite a lot from those of you who shared their classroom expertise. As with all my previous Walden classes, I shall miss interacting with you all.


Mellon, N., Niparko, J., Rathmann, C., Mathur, G., Humphries, T., Napoli, D. J., Handley, T., Scambler, S., Lantos, J. (July 2015). Should all deaf children learn sign language? Pediatrics, 136, 170-176.

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Welcoming the Family from Slovakia

In an homage to my father’s heritage, I am choosing to welcome a family from Slovakia into my classroom. Here are some of the ways I would welcome the child and the family into the Kindergarten classroom. The classroom activities would depend on a number of factors such as the grade of the classroom and whether the new student is already speaking English. Additionally, it would also depend on whether I have local resources to tap into such as a community of speakers.

I would inform my class of the new student coming in on Monday. Then we would look at the map. We will look for their capital, Bratislava and mark it. I would also show pictures of some of the their known points of interest such as Bratislava Castle, HighTatras, and Michael’s Gate. We would keep the map up on the wall and create a welcoming sign. It would be put up next to the map.

If I could, I would have a translator come to the classroom to interpret for both our class and the family when we welcome the child and the family to the classroom. I would ask the family to introduce themselves in their native language and have the children introduce themselves as well. Then possibly, we would ask the parents to teach us how to pronounce the child’s first and last names.

We would have either one of the family members or a Slovakian community member talk about the history of Slovakia and use the welcoming map that we have on the wall.

We would then read a children’s book about Slovakia; possibly someone from the community of Slovakian speakers can read the book in Slovakia and then again in English. Slovakia: Picture Book is a great choice, and so is Ogistis ak souri li or Augustus and his Smile.

In consultation with the family, I would host a day when we would eat Slovakia food in the classroom. Although I know we eat stuffed cabbages, I would check with the family to make sure they still eat the same type of food as I did.

There is a list of folk festivals – usually during the summer months -- with dancing, local costumes, and food. I would consult with the family to see which folk festival or tradition that is important to them. Then invite them to host it for the class and if appropriate for the entire school body. I could ask the PTA to sponsor the event if it becomes a school-wide event.

Finally, even if the child has been welcomed into the classroom, I would periodically check in with the family to make sure they are adjusting to life in the United States and in the community where they live, whether there is anything they would like to know more about. Whether they think if their child is doing fine in the classroom. Whether there’s anything we could be doing more of for the child and the family.

The attention to the individual child benefits the child and the family by our communicating through our actions that the child is important and worth our taking actions to ensure that the child is adjusting and having her/his needs met.

Saturday, August 8, 2015

“Why don’t you get a cochlear implant?” I get that more frequently of late because of media attention to the wonders of cochlear implantation. I get that from random people from a sales clerk to a restaurant waitress to well-meaning staff at the doctor’s office. In more cases than not, they think they are kind to let me know in case I might not know about it.

Such questions are a form of microaggression, more specifically, a microinsult that suggests that I as a deaf person is inferior in one way or another (Laureate Education, 2011). As Dr. Sun (Laureate Education, 2011) explains it, the question – in my perspective -- “saps the spiritual and psychological energies of the person especially because it is cumulative in nature.” However, in the perspective of the people asking me the question, they believe they are being friendly and admire me for what I have done.

The question is very insensitive and ignorant toward me and represents the ignorance of the person asking the question. They might believe one of those or all of those: that my ears need fixing; that my life is limiting; that my life will improve with restored hearing. Truth be told, my ears do not need fixing, my life feels privileged to me, and I have a great life as a Deaf person. That is not something that most people will believe or understand. I do not understand how they would think that a piece of technology would make me feel whole, as if I do not feel whole in my body. As I would always say, “I am perfect in my imperfection.”

I would politely and firmly respond, “no thank you.” I bet that they would consider my response offensive or rude. Thus, I feel invalidated.

If you look around, listen to radio or news, or read, you will notice that Deaf people are not their own spokespersons.  We are powerless to correct the constant barrage of misinformation about deaf people and their hearing “loss.” After detailing our hearing loss, they would proceed to outline medical solutions in which they have vested interests. It is an illusion that we must have hearing to accomplish in our lives. And more importantly, it is their internalized privilege to speak on our behalf.

Deaf people have to speak up more often to stop this microaggression of deaf people. Social media has been a boon to our effort to reclaim our signed languages and our lives.