Thursday, November 19, 2009

My Versatile Daughter

This year has brought us to a new place in the road on educating our deaf child. After lots of prayer we decided to enroll our daughter into deaf school. We have not abandoned homeschooling! Actually this process, although fearful for me, revealed our teaching ability as Shelby was tested to determine her grade level.

I told the teacher at what level I guessed she was at so that she would know where to start with the testing. And guess what? I was right on! So that proved that I knew where she was at, so I was an active teacher, but it was also a little embarrassing because she was several grade levels behind. I knew this. We had struggled with reading for years! I just couldn't seem to make progress and felt it was because of our lack of ASL skills. I wasn't able to present the info in her language well. There was just a wall I couldn't break!

So we enrolled her in school to get this exposure to ASL, to develop positive deaf role models (which she really never had a problem with this), to meet friends like her, to get speech therapy since she wants to communicate with the hearing world so badly, and to get specialized teaching for reading. Reading is her key to success!

She has been in school for a month now. Over the past month her teacher, the speech therapist, the art teacher, the audiologist, the itinerant teacher from the local district, and the ASL teacher all observed her. And I got to meet with them this week for the verdict. I was a little nervous, but also excited to hear how she was doing.

And you know what! Her teacher is having the same problem with her as I was! I also learned that they didn't feel the need to work with her on ASL as she has better ASL skills than most kids her age! She talks in ASL and has trouble turning that into English, obviously. There was concern over her cochlear implant as it has issues. We are still waiting on parts, but there wasn't anything I could do about it. Her teacher said that her ASL is fine, its her processing that is not quite right.

So all these years of struggling, came to find out that I had been dong a great job! Shelby has a loss of myelin sheath in her brain that the docs never could tell me how it would affect her. I spoke to neruodevelopmental specialist this summer and she explained to me how Shelby's brain is functioning. Her brain tires easily because it takes her so much longer to process information. This tiny bit of information helped us understand her a little bit more. Her teachers strongly feel this processing issue is a result of the myelin sheath.

She has an issue with time. She doesn't understand tenses. Doesn't grasp next year. She lives in the present (as Diane can testify to that!) And as one of the teachers mentioned, if after 8+ years, she can't remember that snack is always at 3:00pm, then there is something going on there. So they are working on a plan that will give her the concept of time so that she can function as an adult.

So anyway, we were sitting in this meeting and the teacher asked me what her skills and likes were so that she would be able to use that in class. I started listing things like cooking, sewing, knitting, using power tools, horseback riding, etc. Boy were they impressed! They started joking about the transition classes they have available in high school. These classes are designed to teach these kids this stuff so that they can transition into real life. Most of them live in the dorms and rarely see a kitchen. Shelby could probably teach some of these classes!

Needless to say they were very impressed with Shelby. But I learned that I wasn't doing a bad job. I don't regret putting her in school, but our goals have changed a little. So now she is in school to get more exposure to ASL, to develop more positive deaf role models, to meet friends like her, to get speech therapy since she wants to communicate with the hearing world so badly, and to get specialized teaching for reading, focusing on her processing issues. Reading is her key to success!

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