Monday, March 25, 2013

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!

1 comment:

  1. So glad you went to this conference! As a Deaf person myself, I can't emphasize enough and wholeheartedly agree with you on the third point you said "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"." Got to love the quote "The Brain does't discriminate against language. Only people do!". Thank you for sharing! -Laura B.

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