Plea for Total Communication Classrooms in public schools

I went to Fiona’s IEP yesterday. Everything went smooth, she was offered the same services as she received last year, attendance at a Total Communication preschool and speech therapy. Fiona is right on track with most of her language skills. She’s having trouble producing letter combinations of letters she can not hear, which is normal for children with hearing loss. They must memorize how to make the sound through speech therapy, the hope is that they will eventually know how to make the sounds. I asked if it will be easier to do once Fiona can read and they said “definitely”. I mentioned Fiona attending a typically developed preschool a few days a week next year to prepare her for kindergarten and the representative from her school district thought it was a great idea. I said, even if Fiona can’t hear or understand a lot of what’s going on, I was reassured that it was still beneficial, socially and to prepare her for kindergarten, the hearing world. I had forwarded the piece I wrote about Fiona and my upcoming IEP to the meeting attendees. They commented they were surprised I had so much anxiety about the IEP. They assumed I assumed Fiona would get the same services again. I didn’t know. After I left the meeting I realized Total Communication wasn’t brought up many times, and when it was I was the one bringing it up. I didn’t have a chance to gloat about my graduation from the beginning series of   sign class and that now I’m an intermediate signer! I am so glad I was introduced to sign language and that I had the opportunity to take a great class. It’s the best way to fully communicate with Fiona, using both sign and auditory. I realize they are preparing Fiona for the real world, and they do train teachers in mainstream class rooms how to best teach deaf and hard of hearing. The class room experience is adjusted to make it as optimal an environment for a child with hearing loss as possible. And I know in the real-world people won’t know sign language or that they must get eye contact with Fiona for her to understand what they are saying. Fiona misses things, constantly. I wonder, why should she have to be in a non- total communication learning environment at all?  She’s going to have such a more difficult time learning the same material? Fiona can’t rely on her hearing aids and FM system 100% of the time. She deserves to get the lessons as efficiently as all her class mates. The only way that deaf and hard of hearing kids get equal education is with a deaf and hard of hearing teacher. This will give them the best chance of succeeding in college and getting a good job and making it in the hearing world.

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Thoughts on Motherhood Through the Eyes of an Artist