Tuesday, March 26, 2013

ECE Bilingual Conference Part 3

In Part 2 of this series, I was excited to share some of what I learned about technology and using ASL eBooks.  Well, if you like the good, old fashioned paper book, have no fear!  Drs. Jean Andrews and Damara Paris from Lamar University, shared their team's research findings from the Alabama Emergent Literacy Study.  They focused on the "Adapted Little Books."

Below is only a small portion of their presentation.  There is so much information that goes beyond my knowledge, so I will direct this blog to parents of deaf emergent readers.

As a homeschool mom, I'm very familiar with "little books."  We personally used Sonlight's own Fun Tales with my three hearing kids. (example)  You may be familiar with Bob Books.  The Alabama study used these 20 Little Books.  These "little books" are usually 6-7 pages, use high frequency words, have a close picture-word match,  and use short phrases to tell a whole story.  It was recommended that parents and teachers use books with subject matter familiar to the child.  Bedtime, reading, brushing your teeth, eating breakfast, or going to school are all familiar topics for a pre-reading child. 

These books are "adapted" by being copied and enlarged so that the adult ASL reader can show the book while reading.  If you aren't familiar, it's best to have a stand for the book so that both languages (English and ASL) are always visible.  The book can remain open to the current page, yet your hands are free to sign, expand, point, discuss!

A few key points made during the presentation were that: Literacy begins at birth, is inner-directed (children construct their own meanings of print based on background and personal experience), begins at home, is a social experience, and is based on holistic instructions with whole stories.

Parents, especially we hearing parents, must also constantly remind ourselves of what their study proved: Reading acquisition for some (I would say most) signing deaf children is qualitatively different than that for hearing children.  When we first brought home the boys and began reading to them, I had to fight my instinct to read to them and teach them letters and words in the same way I taught my three hearing kids.  When reading to the deaf child, it is critical to include ASL/English bilingual strategies such as translation, fingerspelling, expansions and chaining.  Over and over again this weekend, presenters shared their research showing that fully translating the story into ASL, expanding, and telling about the illustration, proves beneficial to the deaf emergent reader.  Fingerspelling certain individual words was also a key to literacy.  

So, what if you are a hearing parent who is not yet fluent in ASL?  Go download some of the eBooks mentioned in my last blog.  Also, you can record other Deaf adults (pick those who are confident in their ASL storytelling skills) reading a book, then watch the video with your child.  Parents can collaborate to build their own ASL eBook library, saving the files in Google Drive or Dropbox. (Thanks again, Adam Stone, for that idea!)  If you don't know any Deaf adults, contact your state school for the Deaf and find mentors. Ask for resources.  Use social media.  There are so many Deaf adults out there who are passionate about literacy for young emergent Deaf children.  You WILL find the resources you need. 
So, how often should you read to your kids?   Lots of reading is good, but you don't have to make each reading experience a Shared Reading Experience. In the Alabama study, the children were read to 60 minutes, twice per week.  Each teacher would follow a specific order of tasks during their reading of the story: 
  1. ASL translation (either signing it face-to-face or having the deaf children watch an ASL translation on video)
  2. read English with signs and fingerspelling 
  3. children recite stories in ASL 
  4. children draw pictures of the story 
  5. children write, labeling the drawings
  6. use ASL to describe drawing and writing
Andrews and Paris also reminded us of the importance of other literacy-builders for your classroom and home.  
  • ABC fingerspelling chart
  • ASL handshape chart (My kids have had the most fun with this chart!)
  • Sign-to-print matching (label everything in your house with the English word as well as the sign.)
  • Sign-to-number matching (the written digit, word, and signed number)
  • Spend time signing read-alouds of more complex books and good children's literature
I don't know about you, but I'm ready to go read to my kids!


Monday, March 25, 2013

ECE Bilingual Conference Part 2 ASL iBooks

Using Technology for Literacy of ASL & English Bilingual Deaf Children

That's another handful of words!  Basically, if you're teaching your deaf (or hearing) ASL/English bilingual child to read, there are some amazing tools out there to enrich that experience.

At the conference, several different people presented on the topic of technology and ASL ebooks.

VL2 Storybook Apps
Check out their "About" page, too.
Click here to get the book in the App Sto

"VL2" stands for "Visual Language, Visual Learning" a Science of Learning center funded by the National Science Foundation and hosted by Gallaudet University.  The work they are doing is SUPER exciting for parents like me!

Right now, there is only the Baobab book, but two more books are in the works.  Each book, priced at a bargain $6.99, is packed with a rich literary experience for your bilingual child.  As the website says, "Every child loves and deserves a great story."  Each story has a "Watch" "Read" and "Learn" section.  "Watch" to see the story signed in ASL.  "Read" to see the English text (see photo).  Certain words and phrases are highlighted; when clicked, a video of the ASL sign, fingerspelling of the word, then again the sign, pops up on the screen.  Finally, "learn" opens an ASL dictionary.  Again, the signs are coupled with the fingerspelling of the word.  The fingerspelling is strategic as studies have shown what we've known anecdotally: fingerspelling aids in a Deaf child's reading skills.
"Read" view of the storybook.
Adam Stone, and ASL/English Bilingual Kindergarten teacher in Manhattan, shared his favorite iPad apps.  His presentation was one of my favorites.  Not only was the material presented beautifully, but the content he shared got me super excited to get home and use some of the apps with the boys.  Lucky for you, he's made his Keynote public!  You can view it here.

Pointy Three
Zoey Goes
These are all ASL and English storybook apps you can download on your iPad!  I can't wait to get each one of these stories, then blog about each individually.  They look fun!

Suppose you want to produce your OWN ASL ibook. Well, it's super easy with the iBook Author (free) app!  The kids and I tested the app today and loved it.  If you know how to put together a Keynote or Power Point, then you can create your own ASL ibook!  I plan to use this app to create lifebooks for the boys.  Not only will the books contain photos and text about their life, but Ken and I can sign the story to them and even ask friends to add their own thoughts.  What a treasure!

Not until I reached the end of this blog did I follow Adam's link to "FoundInBlank."  Here he provides links to these books, plus more! Thanks, Adam, for making it easy to find all these invaluable resources!

Yesterday, a friend of mine, Sheena McFeely, posted a blog sharing her opinions about eBooks and apps.  Be sure to check out her blog.  She also has an excellent YouTube site showing her bilingual Deaf and hearing girls. 

ECE Bilingual Conference Part 1

This weekend, I was fortunate to attend the (get ready, this is a handful) "ASL & English Bilingual Consortium for Early Childhood Education" Summit IV Conference.
Building Bilingual Partnerships:
Home, School, and Community

I say I was fortunate because I attended as a lay person.  The conference is aimed at teachers, researchers, and administrators working in the field of Deaf Education.  I'm a parent of Deaf and hard-of-hearing kids. I also happen to be an educator since I've homeschooled my hearing kids for over 8 years.  I am somewhat knowledgeable regarding ASL/English bilingualism since my professional field is teaching ASL and interpreting.  However....I was surrounded by people who knew worlds and worlds more than I about educating Deaf, bilingual kids!  They have challenges like I never imagined.  These educators and administrators are fighting a long battle that shows only slow, incremental progress.  (The battle being that against the governmental education system as a whole.)

Thanks to researchers such as Dr. Peter Hauser, though, I know the progress will speed up.  Thursday night, he presented research to back up what bilingual deaf educators have known for ages.

Peter Hauser shared research being done comparing Deaf and hearing brains: how they see, pay attention, process and express language.  It was exciting to see scientific validation of what we've known and seen anecdotally for years.

One study tested the peripheral vision of deaf people (signing and non-signing), CODAs (children of Deaf adults), and profoundly hearing people.  The speed at which deaf people could focus on a central image while still being able to identify images in their peripheral far exceeded the ability of hearing people, regardless of signing ability.  The truth was proven that deaf people have a greater peripheral vision compared to that of hearing people.  Read more about his studies by following the hyperlink in the previous paragraph.

Ken was with me for this presentation Thursday night.  I found myself nudging him over and over, saying, "See? We knew that!"  Well, we didn't KNOW, it was just life.  With Dr. Hauser's research, we know.   When we first adopted the boys, I had to adjust from a hearing mom with hearing kids to being a hearing mom with deaf kids.  Especially Travis, who hears nothing at all, presented a new challenge to me.  Ken would often interact with Travis in a more successful way.  I would watch him and wonder, "Why didn't I think of that?"  I didn't think of that because I "think hearing."  I have to remember to view the world from Travis' eyes.

A few bullet-points of the big take-aways for me on Thursday night:

  • Deaf people learn, process information, and pay attention differently than hearing people. They use different parts (often more of) their brain.  
  • Vision is the Deaf child's strength. Maximize each visual opportunity. Instruction should match how my child processes information.
  • Parent relationship with their deaf kids is critical.  Kids' esteem relies on their family: the language in the home and the parents' view of "deaf."

Finally, Dr. Hauser gave credit for this quote to a woman whose name I didn't catch.  Dr. Scoggins quoted it a few days later. I LOVE it!  The research has proven:

The brain doesn't discriminate against language. Only people do!

Saturday, March 2, 2013

It's Not All Roses

"Our pursuit is joy, not trite, silly, fleeting happiness. Now if happiness comes along with the package, yes and amen. We don’t hate happiness. If that gift has been granted to us, then that is grace upon grace." -Matt Chandler

We Brownies truly have a joy-filled life, but that certainly does not mean our days are filled with skippy-smiley happiness, throwing baskets of daisies along our path as we float through life.  My goal with this blog has been to be honest, whether in regards to waiting for what seemed like forever to get prayers answered, tough times in marriage, or dealing with depression

That being said, along with the fun updates about how well the boys are progressing, I will update any struggles as well.

Travis has made amazing strides in the past 19 months.  I've kept it updated here and on YouTube, but his latest skill is writing his name, Tian's name, and "mom" and "dad."  He also is putting together longer sentences and thoughts, often mixing real signs with made-up "babble" so that he will look like he's signing as fluently as an adult.  It's precious!  

Along with these unbelievable improvements, we are still dealing with major gaps.   He's a four and a half year-old with only 19 months of language learning, so the gap is totally understood. As "right" as this gap is, it can still be a source of serious stress at times.

Regarding language development, Travis is still unable to tell us certain things in complete detail.  He can describe things he wants (the red Cars cup, to sit next to Dad, to watch Power Rangers Samurai, etc). He can tell us if he’s hurting or sad, where it hurts, and even a very general description of what happened, such as, "Tian pushed me” or "I fell."  Beyond that, we have trouble getting detailed information.  The lack of ability to communicate what happened leads either to indifference or, more often, a huge fit. (More on fits later.)

More often than not, Travis’ first reaction to anything unpleasant is to whine. (Isn't that true of many toddlers?)  Within a matter of seconds, though, the whine escalates to a fit.  The fits always involve kicking (his signature move) and refusal to look me in the eye.  Often there is yelling and coughing/gagging.  If he's really mad, there will be drooling/spitting and growling cry.

This is a short example from the other night.  When he has a fit, I sit him on the floor so he won't hurt himself by falling off our bistro chairs or knocking into something that could harm him.  It also serves as a time out and gives me a chance to step back and take a breath.

What causes these outbursts?  He wants his milk poured 1/4-inch higher in his cup.  His sock isn't exactly straight.  His pants aren't falling to the exact spot on his ankles that he expects.  A particular item he wants right then isn't available.  He will go instantly from a happy kid eating breakfast or getting dressed to this.  

Travis will sit in time out for other typical toddler behaviors: not sharing, shoving a sibling, not obeying Mom or Dad.  In those instances, he will sit in time out without much of a fuss, if any at all.  One thing about Travis is he is a rule-follower.  We still can’t convince him he is allowed to get out of bed and go to the restroom by himself after we’ve put him to bed.  He will sit screaming on the edge of his bed, wiggling and holding himself because he has to potty so urgently.  But he will not get up because that is a rule so engrained in him, he just can’t bring himself to break that rule.

But I digress...his fits don't come so much when he is being corrected, but when something isn't just the way he wants it.  I believe it's about control and lack of ability to fully express himself yet.  But I'm just guessing.

After this particular fit, I swept him up and took him to his bed.  I laid down with him, letting him cry for a few moments.  I began caressing his hair, showing him I was concerned and telling him I loved him.  He wasted no time before snuggling up with me, hugging my neck and kissing me.  This is common.  He never stays mad after his fits and the fits rarely last much longer than a few minutes.  Those minutes can feel very intense, though.  The situations escalate depending on the time of day, where we are, and if we are trying to get somewhere.

While Travis will be quick to soften, to give and accept physical affection, there is no real resolution in my mind. At this point, I don't know how much he understands about “next time.”  There is no back-and-forth discussion of what just happened and why it was not good.  I can only briefly show him what he did, tell him it was wrong, then show him how to respond in the future.  Travis will appear to pay attention.  He will parrot back an apology. Progress is slow, but at least present.

What I've learned:
  • My hearing kids probably never understood nor cared about my lectures about "next time" either.  Since they can hear, I could fool myself into believing they were listening.  Travis does show improvement in the area of his reactions, so he is understanding something.  Because his eyes have to be on me or else I'm talking to a brick wall, I keep my correction very short and to-the-point.  I probably should have done this with all of kids.
  • The fit will end more quickly if I stay calm.  It reminds me of Cesar Milan's phrase "Calm, assertive leadership."  If I freak out, Travis reads that and will react accordingly.
  • I must keep in mind Travis' first three years.  98% of those years are a complete mystery to me.  When he goes berserk because I've brought him his tennis shoes when he wants his boots (and all he has to do is ask for his "boots, please") I have to consider what's been engrained in the formative years of his life.  "You have to make lots of lots of noise to get what you want." If I show a positive reaction, shaking my head yes and signing back to him what I know he wants, I'll most often snap him out of the path to a fit.  At that moment, I can remind him, "What do you say?" and he will put on the biggest fake smile (still whining under his breath....haven't figured out how to teach him to not do that.) and say, "Boots, please."
  • I'm just like him.  How often do I not get my way and throw a little fit.  My fits may not involve kicking and spitting.  My fits may come out as an outburst toward my kids, but most often, my fits stay in my head.  It's easy to be quick to complain to myself when things don't go my way.  God is always patient with my unending petitions and, yes, whines.  Yet, God has told me I just need to ask. The answer isn't always what I want, but it's always good. 
Ken and I keep our eyes on the fact that there is amazing progress.  We just can't become lazy or forgetful about the work we have to do or the pasts these boys have. Travis brings us abundant joy every single day.  He's making me a better person and a more patient, understanding parent.  I know he's going to do amazing things in his lifetime.  I imagine he will look back at this blog with me one day and laugh at his fits.  It's all a part of the story of who he is. He's exactly who God intended him to be. 
Travis is showing a talent for drawing & writing.

Love that face!