The Penny

Example is not the main thing in influencing others. It is the only thing.

[Tuesday, September 28, 2010]

Presume Competence


Last night I went to special ed back to school night. One of my little first grade students was there! He showed me a shiny new iPod touch and emphasized, "Mine. Mine." I guess he got it for his birthday two weeks ago. He showed me the cool games, and I asked him if he was planning to play during the meeting, which he was. Back to school night is for parents, not kids.

We had an ASL interpreter there for a deaf parent who didn't show up, and the interpreter made the decision to stay for my little guy. It was really sweet how he watched the interpreter for a good 20-30 minutes, although the presentations were way over his head. Polite. One thing that was discussed during the meeting was a new buzzword in county, which we got from our awesome consultant for the year, Paula Kluth. The phrase du jour is "presume competence." Act is if. Act as if the child is already a reader. He will be. Act as if he already can walk. Maybe he will. Act as if she understands. Maybe she does. We've all heard stories of kids thought to have severe cognitive disabilities in addition to severe autism... Only to find out later that the child understood everything going on around her. Google Carly Fleishmann.

After the meeting, the teacher of the deaf and I greeted "our" parents, and while she spoke with little man's mother and adult brother (through a foreign language interpreter--enough people involved without me), I let my student show me how to lose at Street Fighter. And how to torture stick figures in StickWars ("Look! Blood!"). After a while, he went back to the home screen and noticed that the battery was less than half full. He said, "Oh! Eat!" and mimed plugging it in. I said (and signed--our agreement is TC with him, although I'd rather do a bi-bi thing of keeping talking and signing separate), "Power. It needs power." He got VERY annoyed with me, and said, "No, eat! Food!" I could not believe that this bright (though language delayed) child was being told that electronic devices need to eat. So I had to tell him that people eat food, machines like this use electricity, when you plug it in power goes through the wire and fills up the device's battery, etc. He said, "Power eat?" Close enough.

The reason I bring this up is because it is such a perfect example of presuming INcompetence. He could have understood power in this context--as much as any other first grader understands it. But in a culture where deaf=retarded (with all the connotations of that word), he doesn't stand a chance at being smart. Knowledge is kept from him by well-meaning people.

Treat them like they're smart and maybe they will be. That's presuming competence. BlogBooster-The most productive way for mobile blogging. BlogBooster is a multi-service blog editor for iPhone, Android, WebOs and your desktop

[Monday, September 27, 2010]

Small World


The deaf world (well, Deaf world) is famous for being small. In fact, I remember "small world" being a phrase I learned very early on in ASL, when the teacher showed us her old boss on the Signing Naturally video.

A couple of weeks ago, I interpreted for a woman who asked me listen to her hearing daughter and tell her if the child was pronouncing words wrong... and later one of my students brought in a "My Weekend" book with the very same child's face in all the pictures.

The LDS world is apparently also small.

I work on the Pals team, which includes special educators, paraeducators, and related service providers from different schools all over the county. A few years ago, when I started on the team, I found out that one of the paras was LDS. Actually, she figured out that I was, because I wore a BYU sweatshirt.

This past Saturday, I agreed to help set up for the Relief Society broadcast activity at the stake center. When I got there, they didn't need help setting up in the gym, which they anticipated needing me for, so I helped out in the kitchen. There were three ladies on the kitchen team. They were each at least old enough to be my mother and had known each other for upwards of 20 years, and it was hard for me to get a foothold in their chatter... until I heard one mention that at her school they did such and such. I asked if she works in Howard County.. yes..
me: Oh, so do I. Which school?
Deep Run Elementary.
me: I work at Waverly Elementary.
Oh really, what do you do there?
me: I'm a speech language pathologist. [getting ready to explain what that is]
So am I! I work in the RECC.
me: I work in the deaf/hh program and the Pals program. [she knows that Pals is a RECC program]

That's right. Not only do we work for the same school district and share the same profession, we even work in the same "specialty" of the RECC (meaning preschool/kindergarten). And we happened to be in that small group of people preparing food for the RS broadcast dinner.

It makes me wonder how many other members of the church work for Howard County. I know that they had another LDS freelance interpreter until she moved last year. When the interpreter coordinator first hired me and found out I was LDS (BYU on my resume gave me away), she told me that, as well as how much she loved LDS people. She had a great neighbor who was a member of the church.

When she hired me, I'm sure she thought, "Small world!"

[Saturday, September 25, 2010]

Kids Are the Darndest Things


I love little kids. They can make me mental sometimes, but at least there is never a dull moment. I have recently had the pleasure of experiencing:

A student who has become obsessed with going to speech, signing speech about a thousand times a day. She even told her teacher she was going to the cubbies just so that she could look through my window to see what exciting things her classmate was doing. This started last week and is already so bad that she cannot concentrate in school, because she's thinking about speech all the time. Hopefully the behavior specialist can give us some strategies. Funny, I used to have to give this same child the choice of speech or thinking chair (time out) last year.

A four-year-old in a preschool where I have an IEP student, who came up to where I was writing notes in the "housekeeping" area of the classroom with the conversation opener, "How old is your Honda?" My keys were in the table. That's right, this four-year-old recognized the Honda symbol on a key and instead of saying Hi to me asked that. Although I was tempted to say, "My friend, you might be on the spectrum," I said, "Well, it's a 2006." He nodded knowingly.

A student who loved speech so much last year that he chose it over PE. He's a boy. Boys don't choose anything over PE. When I went to get him out of content recently, he signed, "Don't-want. Later." Sniff.

A student who loves me so much that she gives new meaning to the phrase "on me like white on rice." She wants to sit on my lap, hold my hand, lean her head on my knee. It breaks my heart to tell her no.

A student who boxed my ear when I bent down to say hi to him. He wasn't having a bad day or anything. Something was in front of him and he punched it. End of story.

[Sunday, September 12, 2010]

They Are Listening!


I blogged here about how I began singing the Books of the Old Testament song to my Primary class in February, and that I was excited that they had finally begun joining in to sing with me almost two months later. The reason I introduced this song to them was because it's what helps me find scriptures, and I was thinking along the lines of "teach a man to fish." I could just tell them the page numbers, or I could give them the same references they will use for the rest of their lives (chapters/verses) and teach them how to find the scriptures themselves. After each time we sing the song, I tell them where we will be for the lesson and sing a bit of the song, kind of making my thoughts audible. "Today we will begin with 1 Kings, chapter 17. Hm, Deuteronomy, Joshua, Judges, Ruth, Samuel, Samuel, Kings... that's the one! So I'll start kind of close to the beginning and I'll know I'm on the right track if I see Joshua or one of the Samuels. First Samuel.. First Kings!" Totally stream-of-consciousness. And I stream-of-consciousness them, too: "Leah, I see you're on the right track! You're in Joshua.. keep going.. Samuel, Samuel, there it is, Kings!" Yes, I get a bit cheerleadery. Scripture skills are important. The kids humor me, probably because I'm so happy when they find the chapter they are looking for.

But I hadn't heard the kids use this strategy themselves. Until today!

We were in Sharing Time (large group: our class plus two others), and my class was split into two groups; each group was to read a scripture and identify which gospel standard (from a list) related to that scripture. I worked with the two boys, and the three girls were going to work on their own. They were given the scripture Exodus 20:7. I was listening to make sure they began on the right track, when I heard one of the girls, the youngest child in my class, who never raises her hand, who speaks inaudibly when called on in Sharing Time, about whom I have worried so much that I was almost ready to call her mother to make sure the child was happy in class and it wasn't too far over her head (presuming competence, I pretty much teach them like they were Seminary students, filling in gaps as needed)... this timid child said to the two older girls she was working with, "Genesis, Exodus, oh, it's gonna be near the front."

The things I do make a difference. I floated home from church today on cloud nine.

[Wednesday, September 8, 2010]

Smart Me


{totally off-topic picture}

I'm so proud of myself. As you know, I hadn't blogged for a while, and I also hadn't visited my blog. When I tested the post a couple of days ago, a twitter prompt was popping up. Eh? That was new. I tested my site again today and it was still popping up.

I knew it must have been something in the HTML code of the template, and I began looking at new templates. I figured I would never be able to fix that. I do kind of like the one I have, though. So I decided to try to troubleshoot the HTML. Scary, right? I don't know very much about reading and writing HTML. But I found the offending lines of code and deleted them! I am so proud of myself! Just wondering how it got there in the first place...

[Monday, September 6, 2010]

Similarly to Phyllis Nefler...


...I've lost my will to blog!

Maybe not exactly lost my will... I want to write things, but sometimes I'm lazy, sometimes I'm busy, and sometimes I just can't say that "in public." The internet is as public as it gets, right? So that means I can't say much about work.

But I can say some things about work. I went back two weeks ago, and the kids started last week. Yippee. I didn't really get a summer break, because I was working. Not full time, but still.. working. Blah. I'm happy to have my deaf kiddos back, though. One child has been SO on the ball since coming back. Our fingers are crossed that it continues. They're all doing at least as well as they were in the spring, which is a relief.

I haven't begun working with my Pals children yet. Pals is an itinerant position where my county has me visit children in private preschools and daycares to work with them there, rather than bringing the children into special education preschools. It's wonderful for children whose disabilities are not severe, and it's wonderful for parents who are uncomfortable with the idea of special education. This week, Pals team members will meet with parents and settings to get an agreement signed so that we can work with the children again this school year. Hopefully we can start seeing the kids next week.

Speaking of Pals... my Pals "home base" has been one school, Dayton Oaks Elementary, while the deaf program is in another school, Waverly Elementary. Dayton is not close to any of the preschools and daycares where I have Pals students, so I didn't really make it out there much last year. I guess it was my home base because I worked with preschool students in the Dayton Oaks special education preschools two years ago, so it made sense. It no longer makes sense, so I asked the powers that be to have my basehood transferred to Waverly. A couple of hours later, I was officially a full-time Waverly person! Not that I'll spend more time there than I already did, because it is just as far from the Pals preschools/daycares... but it will be easier to decide what to do on days when preschool has no services, professional days, etc. Mainly, it will decrease my guilt at only hitting up Dayton Oaks once a quarter. They had even started sending my mail to Waverly by the end of last school year. Yeah. I was "that" person.

This year, I get to work with little guys and gals who have hearing loss, language disabilities, autism, selective mutism, speech disabilities, cognitive impairment, and autism. And my caseload is still small. It will grow, as it always does. But it looks like a have a bit of variety to begin with, and I'm really looking forward to the challenge of selective mutism. It means the child understands everything (or at least as well as others the same age) but refuses to speak to most people. Typically, they will speak in their home, without strangers present, or they will speak to other children at school but not to any adults. Fun times, right? When you can help them feel secure enough to communicate with more people, it's the best.

So, there is already drama in one of my programs. I won't go into it, but I'm just mentioning it because it brings me to one of the highlights of my work week. I had the opportunity to sit down with some professionals while they worked out issues, and I tried to be a neutral party. It wasn't hard, because I could see both of their perspectives. I was also trying to defend one person I know has a tendency to freeze and lose her train of thought when under pressure--but I tried to do so without offending another person, who is someone I respect and who, frankly, has a great deal of power. Afterward, two people higher up on the food chain told me that they were pleased that I was on the team at this school, that I was a good communicator, had a level head... just saying nice things. One of them is a person I never thought particularly cared for me, so it was nice to hear that from her. Hope she tells my boss!

Aside from work... let's see...

I got to babysit the twins again! Oh my, I haven't blogged in so long, I probably haven't mentioned the first time I babysat them. A couple from church has twin baby girls, who are about 8 months old now; last month, while Laynie was at her family reunion, I babysat them. First non-family babysitter, which was probably because their very young mom respects me as a former nanny. Whatever, I got to play with babies!!!!! They are so cute, and their personalities are already so different. One is adventurous and independent (backward-crawling into corners and under furniture), and the other is a bit clingier but likes to be up high and see everything. And she has an infectious giggle. Of course, they are both delightful. Well, last week, Laynie got to go with me and babysit them again. It was much easier with two people! Naturally, I got the fun jobs like booger-extracting (both had colds) and diarrhea-diaper-changing, but it was so nice to have company and an extra set of hands. One (Miss Independent) was HILARIOUS when I fed her. Even after having her nose suctioned, she couldn't breathe and eat at the same time, so she would greedily slurp for as long as I left the bottle in her mouth. The formula would run down into her neck folds... oh gosh. She would noisily suck on the bottle until I pulled it from her mouth, which would about every 10 seconds. I was afraid she'd drown herself! Then she'd gasp for air, milk running right out of her mouth. Laynie was cracking up. Miss Independent's sister, Miss Giggles, is going with "starve a cold." I know, 8-month-olds don't make very good decisions. Anyway, I had a great time with the girls, and I'm about ready to call their mom and ask if she doesn't have something she needs to do outside the home... child-free.

Ah, church. Church is great. My class is great. I never know who's going to be there, because apparently some families take loooooong vacations... and some take many vacations. But I love, love, love my kiddos. They are professional tangent-inducers. And I am always good for a digression, so we're a great team. Yesterday, a lesson on Rehoboam and the impact of peer pressure devolved into a 10-minute discussion on who Jews are and what the deal is with Hanukkah, which they now want to celebrate. Oy vey.

On to my next topic: Bug. Laynie is still a happily-implanted girl. I laugh when one of her batteries dies and she has to take off the other one, because hearing with one ear is just not pleasant. What a Picky Patricia! I guess I can't knock it, because I haven't been there. It IS pretty annoying if I lie down to watch TV and a pillow blocks one of my ears. I guess having NO hearing in one ear would be worse. But she had no hearing in *both* ears for so long! Anyway, she can still understand some simple words in context. She understood something recently that surprised me.. I'm trying to remember what it was. Oh, yeah. I was in the bathroom, and Laynie yelled through the door, "What do you want for dinner?" I understood her (yay!) and called back, "I don't know!" She understood me (a billion yays!) and said, "You don't know??" It was a really productive conversation. The other day when I stayed late--very late--at work, I guess Laynie got worried, because she called my cell phone. I showed it to my friend, Cindy, teacher of the deaf, who got all excited. She got to hear a scintillating call, which went something like this:
Me: Hello?
Laynie: Hi, Annie.
Me: Hi.
Laynie: Are you coming home?
Me: Yes.
Laynie: OK.
Me: OK.
Laynie: Bye.
Me: Bye.

Cindy got all misty-eyed, saying how she would have loved to have had even that simple a conversation with her deaf mother over the phone. Cindy's such a good egg. I can always count on her for a cheer when little listening triumphs happen. I'm sure there have been more of those little triumphs lately, but I just can't think of any. It's going to take a long time for Laynie to learn to listen--especially if I continue to sign voice-off! After a couple of tough years learning not only to turn off my voice when I sign but not even to mouth English words (ASL grammar!), it's really hard to use my voice at home. It's hard to remember, and it feels awkward when I do. Usually, I only use my voice when I'm mad. Not that I get mad... Anyway, I always notice the quietness of my home after my sister has been around. We get pretty noisy together, and the difference is glaring. Laynie always comments on how LOUD we are, and Katie tosses back, "Quit being so hearing then!"

Laynie is getting very good at identifying environmental sounds. She can describe a sound (with classifiers, which turn out to be far superior for describing sounds than any English words) and predict what probably made that sound. Next stop, speech? I guess time will tell.

Well, isn't this just like me? Once I get going, there's no stopping me! I guess I'll call it quits for today. I hope everyone is having a wonderful start to the school year, fall, and whatever other transitions are going on in your lives.