The Penny

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

[Saturday, July 9, 2011]

Cool Kids and Conferences

I went to the ASHA Schools conference today, which was down by DC. Nice for me! Still, I hemmed and hawed over going, just because of the cost. Oh, and getting up at 5:30 on a Saturday morning. There were a few sessions whose titles interested me, but you never know what the actual session is going to be like. Will it live up to the promise of its title? These ones did!

First I attended a session on Legal Hot Topics. I know, I am so, so nerdy. My boss was in that one, as was everyone's boss, I think. She came over to give me a hard time about going to that session, out of everything that was offered. What can I say, I like to learn. The other topics were stuff I can do well already. I don't need to have someone tell me how to work in the general education classroom or collaborate with general ed teachers (which a few lectures focused on), because I do that every day!

We attended the same afternoon class, as well, which was called "Understanding Comprehension." It was so good! The woman teaching the course was from Utah, although not really, judging by her Kentucky accent. She teaches at Utah State. And she is most definitely not a member of the church. But she gave one of the best lectures I've ever heard, and I am planning to email her thank her profusely for giving me information that I will use the very next time I work with kids.

Speaking of people from Utah, during lunch I made a new friend. All of us were wearing badges with our name and where we're from, and the woman who sat down next to me was from Salt Lake City. Of course, I had to comment on that. Who would come from Salt Lake to DC for such a small conference (about 900 people)? It turns out that she is the head of all of the school SLPs in the state of Utah. We chatted for 45 minutes straight, on everything from playing the piano (she lamented her lack of ability to sight read, and I gave her pointers) to service delivery models in the schools (I explained how to push services in to the general education classroom, which is apparently unheard of in Utah). Come to think of it, it was more of an advice session that anything. She asked me tons of questions about working in gen ed. But I also listened to her tell about her background, her grandchildren, and her niece-in-law who will be attending BYU in the fall. She was super nice, and I was so glad to make a new friend. Better than eating lunch alone! And hopefully I got the wheels turning in her brain and may have influenced better outcomes for students in Utah. Pull out for language intervention is so last century.

And on to cute kids... Alright, let's just say that I'm working with one of my favorite students for summer school, and let's just say that said student is a soon-to-be-9-year-old deaf child who has had ASL exposure for three years and a CI for less than two. With me? So I worked with him and some other kids in the morning one day last week. Because I had to condense some kids together to see all my students in four days due to the holiday, I took him again during math (since he's on grade level in math already) so he could have more speech fun. This child lives for speech.

I've never grouped him with a hearing child before, because I only see deaf kids at his location during the regular school year. But for ESY, I have the deaf and hearing kids at this school. I pulled two hearing kids to work with him: a child in his class and one in the next grade up. They were both working on articulation. Frankly, they were harder to understand than my deaf kid, who has had a CI for less than two years. Sad. I wish I worked with them during the school year, because I could get them intelligible... trying not to let it bother me too much.

But that's not the point. So one of the kids had his word cards sent by his regular SLP, and the other did not. I checked his IEP, and he was to work on saying R and TH. After checking R and finding that he could not say it at all (and ESY is supposed to be for maintenance, not teaching new skills), I opted to work on TH. It's much easier to teach than R.

I had the boys take turns saying their words correctly and taking a turn in Chutes and Ladders. This was old hat to the hearing kids, but I watched as my deaf child absolutely blossomed. He had no concept of what I call "say and play," because I don't work on articulation with him. I work on listening and language, which impacts articulation. He thought artic therapy was the coolest thing ever. He told me later that he wants to have speech with friends all the time. No more individual sessions.

When it was TH boy's turn, I asked him if he knew any words that start with TH. He suggested "two." Then "top." I asked if anyone else knew of a TH word. My deaf kid suggested, "Throw." TH boy said, "Tow." (For any SLPs who read my blog and have a brain, I know... Why on earth would they work on TH for a child who is stopping??? I didn't write the IEP.) Deaf boy prompted, "No, THHHHHrow," pointing to his tongue between his teeth. Haha. I let him. TH boy said, "Thhhhtow." I corrected the error. When TH boy said, "Thow," and I accepted it (because I'm not working on cluster reduction, unfortunately), deaf boy said, "Good job!" and gave him a thumbs up. Then he gave me a knowing look and said, "I finish, I learn that." Meaning: been there! And he has... the math teacher used to ride him about saying thousand correctly.

Then it was deaf boy's turn. I asked him what he wanted to say. He chose SH, which is what his classmate was working on. I offered him the SH cards, but he declined, saying, "I think." Oh, boy. "Shopping." Good one! "Ship." Wait... Does this kid understand the English sound system?

He demonstrated an incredible knowledge of the English sound system (called phonology) throughout the session, thinking of words for TH boy and for himself. He thought of two different words for himself each time, and he produced the target sounds correctly every time. When he ran out of SH words, I suggested switching to K. He said, "Key. Car." I know that he knows how to spell car... He was absolutely relying on the sounds rather than memorized spelling to come up with words. Cat, king, careful, cut, kite...

Then he said he wanted to do T. He said, "Hot." I told him, "That starts with H, not T." He said, "Hot. Hat. End T." He was thinking of words that end with /t/. Ending sounds are much harder than beginning sounds! Hearing kids years older than him struggle with this.

And his family is worried he'll "rely" on ASL forever. This kid is processing sound on a level superior to his hearing peers, after less than two years of part-time exposure! He hears English at school. It's not like they're AVTing it up at home. I am in awe of him.

And simultaneously annoyed with his "gen ed" ESY teachers. There is no true general education during ESY, but these gen ed teachers are assigned to teach the hearing special ed kids (who are occasionally pulled out by a special educator). My deaf babies are in and out of the hearing class. I'd rather more out than in. Those teachers do not "get" my kids.

Case in point: I explained before ESY began that Little Mr. Smarty Listener is on grade level for math. His language is extremely delayed and so is his reading, but with visuals and examples he does fine in math. Well, for whatever reason (because his speech intelligibility is poor and they associate that with learning disabilities?), they ignored my comments and treated him like he couldn't understand.

One day last week I went in during math to help the teacher of the deaf (who just graduated and was understandably terrified of writing interim progress reports that would not set off our rather difficult parents). While I worked with her at the back of the room, I listened to the classroom instruction. And got very, very annoyed.

They were working on decomposition, which sounds disgusting but just means breaking a number into component parts: tens and ones. They were trying to get the kids to see that there's more than one way to do this; for example, 28 can be broken into 2 tens and 8 ones or 1 ten and 18 ones or even 0 tens and 28 ones. My kids were absolutely stuck on the simplest decomposition possible and could not see the numbers another way. With a class of special education rising second graders, the teacher was explaining this verbally in a full-class setting, with the only visual being "____ tens, ____ ones" written on the board. These kids can't read! And they can't understand a verbal explanation. Most of them are in special ed because they have language learning disabilities!

I finally got fed up and went to teach my children. Or at least the one I knew had a fighting chance at understanding it. The multiply handicapped one... of course it would be too hard for her. She's working on counting to 10. But Mr. I'm on Grade Level? Please. There's no reason he can't do this.

I apologized to the interpreter and asked the two deaf students present that day to turn around. Luckily they were already at the back of the group, so they didn't have to move. I asked the other teacher, who was at a table catching up two students who had not yet completed the previous activity, if I could use the blocks at the feet of the idiot teaching. She looked surprised and told me that there were tens and ones manipulatives at the back of the room. (Then why aren't you people... nevermind.)

The TOD came to sit by me. Fine, she can learn how to teach math to low-language kids. I began with the example on the board, 47. I used ASL so as not to disrupt the hearing kids (and because it was more effective).

First, I took a tens stick and lined up 10 ones cubes next to it. They were the same length. I had the kids count the cubes and emphasized that there were 10. Then, I gave them 4 tens sticks and 7 ones cubes and had them verify that it was 47, which they did. I asked how many tens, how many ones. They answered correctly (we taught them this months ago). I took one of the tens sticks and made a show of replaced it with the 10 cubes that he had counted. I asked how many altogether. They both said 47. I asked how many tens. The little "deaf plus" cutie quickly said four. About what I would expect from her--she doesn't understand the concept of tens (I think she thinks "tens" means "first number"). Smarty counted and said three. I asked him how many ones. He looked up at the ceiling (his thinking face), smiled at me, and spoke, "17." And the hearing teacher asked, "Who said that???" I was tuning her out and didn't know that she had been asking the hearing kids to answer that question. I told her it was Smarty, and she was shocked. I hope she realized that deafness does not make you stupid. She told Smarty that he was right, and he played at being embarrassed, smiling behind his hands. I asked him in ASL if he understood, and he nodded. He went on to make quick work of the rest of the problems.

Because that's how you teach math to deaf kids.


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