We are back at it! Can you believe it?The dog days of summer have gone so fast. I guess,they are really back again:) I always used to think it was a special time if it was hot and humid when we go back to school,but it seems like the norm the last few years.
Take pause a minute and think about that paragraph. " Dog days of summer", "hot and humid", the "norm"... wow..those are phrases I throw around and my hearing children knew them easily when they were early elementary aged. If I tell my HS students with hearing loss that I want them to draw me a picture of a "dog day of summer" or a "hot and humid" day, they might struggle. Why is that?
Call me crazy(go ahead, really),but I often think thoughts in my head in sign language. In fact, when I am tired, I can't think of a word to say,but it comes to me in signs. Yes, I have been signing for way too many years. That being said, I was walking on the side of the road today-no, not hitchiking,but I thought about it! I was taking a decompression speed walk..the sidewalk ran out,so I was on the "shoulder".. my brain started to sign "I better move over and walk on the shoulder".. and my mind had an image of me signing "walk" with two fingers on ,you guessed it, my shoulder! WHAT?I must have been tired..I am a hearing adult-I know better..but my brain went to concepts rather than meaning. In order to properly sign that, you have to sign a road and then sign a path next to it (The shoulder) and then a person walking on that path. Hearing children would have heard this word many times-" oh, look,there is a cop car on the shoulder, I better move over." " Oh, there is a dead deer in the shoulder-sad." Oh, I swerved and it was good there was noone in the shoulder". " My shoulder hurts from all this lifting." Hearing children have access to language again and again. Kids with hearing loss have the opportunities,but don't always hear the words. Sometimes, they misunderstand, sometimes they don't hear anything and sometimes they hear part of a message. This same word may now have a few different meanings in their head,because different images come to mind when the word is misunderstood.
Back to school is a great time-but also a fast paced time. As the language gets more complex,so does the speed and pace of the learning. Words are presented once or twice, because it is assumed that children have had this experience with this common word many times at home. Please be sure that you tell your children's teachers to go slowly and repeat. Ask the Teacher of Deaf and Hard of Hearing Children to pre-teach and post-teach vocab. Help out by reviewing words at home-not just vocal,but "common" words. Post them all over the house.. practice using them in the car and on trips. The more exposure the better. We tell our hearing son " Repetition, repetition, repetition for football practice-same goes with language. The more you practice, the better you will be!
Allison Schley has been in the field of deaf and hard of hearing education for 20 years. She founded a nonprofit for families with hearing loss. She most recently wrote a children's book, entitled Forever Friends. This book shows the how a deaf dog and deaf boy teach the world that all kids are good and being deaf is okay.