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Sign Language Studies

American Annals of the Deaf

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Bilingual Deaf and Hearing Families: Narrative Interviews
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Destinee: Hearing.

Tammy: And?

Destinee: Hearing and deaf.

Tammy: Both! She has both hearing and deaf friends. Of course. And she talks with her hearing friends and signs with her deaf friends.

With ASL and using speech, she can ask for what she needs and get what she wants. She can verbalize her feelings. Before, she couldnít; people couldnít understand what she was saying. In fact, her ability to speak now makes people think she is not deaf.

Destinee: I love to play games.

Tammy: Sometimes she wants her CI on at home or if we go to the store. And we play signing games. Games like no talking, only signing. I ask her the signs for things like cereal, apples, orange, bananaóthat type of thing. Itís not only me teaching her, but sheís teaching me. Then she has time to rest because if you think about it, itís hard work trying to hear all day. Reading lips all day is tiring. Sometimes if she wants to come home and talk thatís fine.

You mentioned earlier about Deaf culture. Could you describe what kind of Deaf culture experiences you participate in?

Tammy: Deaf culture is an important resource to us. Mostly we go to the Gallaudet campus. We like to go to events, special presentations, go to amusement parks, Deaf Awareness Day, experiences like that. One of my best friends, her son is deaf as well. We have developed a few relationships with deaf and hearing parents from school. And we learn a lot from those friendships and when we have classes at Gallaudet. Like, for example, I didnít know that there was special insurance you could get for children with disabilities. So I switched her insurance. Also, I go to the parentsí ASL class on campus; I wish there were more ASL classes.

What is Destineeís current schooling experience? Is she using her speech as well as communicating in ASL?

Tammy: Now Destinee is going to Kendall School. Do you like Kendall, Destinee?

Destinee: Yes. I really like my school.

Tammy: Itís a good school. Destinee is in a special classroom for kids with CIs. It just started. Our kids are like pioneers. They have CI kids and deaf kids without CIís in a mixed class. She has a hearing teacher. The CI kids want to talk more. Destinee speaks, I would say, a little.

Destinee: Yes, I talk a little. My teacherís name is Lisa.

Tammy: I am not sure what will happen next year at Kendallówhat kind of program will be offered. The first year there was a special project and everyone loved it. One hearing and one deaf teacher, Destinee loved it. So did the parents. The kids were exposed to bothóAmerican Sign Language and English. The kids learned the two languages and how to code-switch. They loved it. They are very effective at codeswitching. If a hearing person makes a sound, they know to use their voice, or if a deaf person uses ASL, they know to sign. Even when Destinee was a toddler, she would speak with hearing people and sign with deaf people.

When I help Destinee with her homeworkófor example, if she is working on math, then she teaches me signs for math. She really tries to teach me, and at the same time I am trying to teach her math. She needs things like manipulatives. She has problems with math, seeing and looking at it. I donít know, she seems lost. I taught her to use rocks and then beads to do her math work as we are learning. Maybe Destinee is dyslexic. She also has perception issues and other things. The IEP meeting this year was a little bit overwhelming. We dealt with a lot of things like how deaf children process differently.

Destinee: I teach my mom signs. I learn sign from friends and teachers, then when I come home I can teach my mom.

Tammy: And Kendall offers wonderful workshops and opportunities for parents. For example, being a teacher myself, I know how important it is for Destinee to develop good literacy skills. Recently, I took a reading workshop at Gallaudet for hearing parents. It wasnít the Shared Reading Program. Iím not sure it has a title. We learned from Deaf adults. It was about three weeks ago; it was at Kendall, once a week. A Deaf volunteer taught it. They showed us how to read with our deaf children.

Destinee: I donít know how to read, but Iím learning at school.

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