THE MOST effective educators children have, or will ever have, Parents.

“I’m going to get the mat, it’s in my room” I say. Fiona repeats “The mat” several times. She doesn’t have her hearing aids in. I try to sign “I’m going to get the mat” to her. I don’t know the sign for mat, but I know the signs for “I’m going to get”, it works. She understands and stops saying mat. (It’s a bath mat, this clarification I will make next time). This is another example, why I want Fiona and my whole family to know sign. It’s moments like these that will come up over and over again. I realize something else at the same time, how much impact I  have with my daughter at home; reconfirming my commitment to be fluent in sign language and to use it all the time at home. We had a meeting and visit to one of the programs in the San Rafael Public school system yesterday. It was really great and I really like this woman that we are talking to, it felt so good to have a deep conversation with someone about education, I learned so much, and one thing I learned is the San Rafael School district does their homework! They care about the kids in their programs and take placement seriously. They shared Fiona’s evaluations and audiogram with a specialist for the deaf and hard of hearing, this lady is apparently one of the top experts in this field, which is pretty cool. She feels strongly that Fiona should be mainstreamed as soon as possible. I guess I can say this, Fiona is amazing! She doesn’t fit into any special program the district has to offer (but she will continue to get one on one speech and language support through her life at school). She gets to attend the special school that I wanted her to go to,  for five months, but then I am encouraged to sign her up for a regular preschool. I was told that right now she needs to hear language from peers, as much as possible. The good news is I learned the whole process is super fluid and we will re-evaluate and can change direction if needed.

I was so happy after the meeting. Our family had a great day, we had sushi, Jack and Fiona were well behaved in the restaurant. We got smoothies, watched Caillou together, Jack and Fiona rode their bikes around in circles in the living room, Fiona and I drew together, I love that. We sat on the floor and pet Billy, Fiona said how much she loved Billy, “I love her ears, her whiskers, her paws are so cute”. I realized Fiona was petting Billy where I put her tick medicine. “We need to go wash our hands” I say. Fiona and I go to the bathroom and wash our hands, but there’s no towel.  We go to the kitchen, “Get a towel out of the drawer” I say. Fiona repeats back, but she’s saying Door. I say Door and Drawer several times, but I can’t figure out how to explain the different sound, it’s so subtle. I go to the living room, “Jack say Drawer” Then I ask him to say “Door”. He does, I have confirmation, Jack understands the differences in the two words, Fiona does not. I grab a piece of paper, (My visits to the different school programs have served me well) I draw a drawer and write the word, I draw a door, and write door. I show Fiona. We walk to the front door, then back to the kitchen. We examine the two, she practices saying both words.  Then I take it further, there’s a back door, a front door, a bathroom door, ect. She starts showing me, pointing at doors around the house, running back to the drawers in the kitchen. I throw out the word Cabinet Door, but decide to save this for next time. I didn’t’ use the signs, I will add them next time. I realized something else at this moment, I am Fiona’s teacher. School is supplemental. Which also made me realize if I’m doing sign at home, and practicing with Fiona she’ll learn it. Will a teacher in a mainstream school know when Fiona doesn’t understand things because she’s not hearing properly? I don’t know. But could she thrive under the advice I received yesterday? That she needs to be around kids that have lots of language as opposed to kids who also are deaf or hard of hearing that do not use very much language? It makes sense, but it also makes sense that I need to keep up my end of the deal. I am her ultimate teacher. I want her to grow up with “Total Communication” this means oral and sign. In the fall, if she’s mainstreamed she will be getting the oral at school and the Total Communication part at home. It’s exciting Fiona is doing so well, and the other exciting part is Jack and Fiona can go to school together. Jack has been very upset lately knowing they were to be separated soon!

Aww! I can relax now, (well except for finding a preschool program!). I feel a sense of relief. Selfishly I feel proud of Fiona for doing so well and glad that Jack and Fiona will be chugging along together in their education journey, that there won’t be as much distance, I won’t need to put on two totally different hats, one rearing a typically developed child, one rearing a child with special needs. It’s going to save me a lot of energy. Today is my day off, I have a babysitter! I get to work in my studio. I’m so happy. I do have a MAJOR mess in the house though, toys everywhere, laundry needs to be put away. Grocery shopping needs to be done, I need to take Billy to the vet to get her splint off. Ugh, I guess I don’t have much time for my studio!

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Thoughts on Motherhood Through the Eyes of an Artist