Fiona woke up late this morning. I woke her up, usually I put the hearing aids in her ears immediately, but this morning they were no where to be found. I looked and looked and couldn’t find them anywhere. I used my signs, bus, breakfast, shoes, socks, now, unable to make clear sentences. Barely able to explain to Fiona everything that was happening, everything I NEEDED to tell her, everything she NEEDED to understand. But we did it, slowly but surely. The bus had to wait twenty minutes for us. Jack was an hour late to school. I told the bus driver Fiona was totally Deaf this morning. I called the teacher and left a message about the lost hearing aids. But I knew Fiona would be O.K. today. She is still in her Total Communication class. Everyone uses sign language. They use all the tools to communicate with children who are Deaf. I knew she was in good hands.
I had just agreed with my school district to start Kindergarten without a sign language interpreter. Just Friday. I thought maybe the “other side”, the “Oral Only” was correct. Maybe Fiona will do fine without an interpreter, just using the FM system and all the support from training the teacher and classroom visits by someone trained in the auditory/oral method. I trust all of this. I believe everyone has Fiona’s best interest at heart.
I have new questions today. Something always happens that makes me remember Fiona is Deaf. She uses her hearing aids beautifully. She does the best she can and always tries harder. But when she’s not wearing her hearing aids or there’s excessive background noise or there’s more than one person talking, Fiona has an extremely difficult time understanding what is being said.
I feel like my whole family, Jack, Fiona, Alan, and me need to be fluent in sign language. Signing Exact English now, and ASL in a few years. We can’t rely on the hearing aids or there will always be GAPS in Fiona’s world. Ideally as many people in Fiona’s world, including her classroom are exposed to as much information about communicating with a child who is Deaf as possible. I think she needs an interpreter.
I was told again by a school official that they thought if Fiona had an interpreter that it would make her stand out more, that she won’t want the attention drawn to her. This philosophy is popular, that when kids have special needs and are being mainstreamed that they “fit in” as much as possible. Because I care so much about Fiona’s psychological well-being, I am trying to take heed of this advice that several people who I respect, and trust have given me. But then something happens, like I can’t find the hearing aids and Fiona can’t understand and things get difficult and scary.
Part of me thinks this idea that mainstreaming means your kid just blends in with all the other typically developed kids is dangerous. It seems like instead of making the child feel more connected to the group the child could potentially feel more isolated and alone. Isn’t it like an Elephant in the Closet?