Wednesday, December 10, 2008


We had our second-to-last SEE class of the year last night. I'm trying to figure out a way to continue classes next semester right now. Jer will be gone for training the entire month of February, so that makes child care difficult.

It's incredibly difficult to find a babysitter for a child with as many medical needs as Connor has. Our respite care worker, Katy, is fantastic. She only works weekends for us, however, as she has a full time job as well, so that means I need to ask around and see what I can find.

If we can't figure out someone to watch him, I'll go back to what I did last year, and have Connor's Family Conversations therapist bring the lessons out. It's not ideal, but it's certainly better than no lessons at all.

We've been learning SEE for about ten months now, and I have to say I'm really enjoying the classes. I've gotten to the point where I can hold a conversation without any real difficulty. Jer is a bit behind me, but this is because I have many, many more opportunities to practice SEE during the week than he does. We're going to have to figure out some way to let him keep studying while he's deployed. Maybe I can videotape lessons and send them to him or something. He's very, very quick at picking up sign when he does have a chance to practice, and I'm sure he'll continue to learn.

I've picked up some tricks to help me learn more vocabulary and become more fluid. I listen to country western songs in the car (though I don't particularly care for country western music) and Christmas carols this time of year so that I can sign along to the music at stop lights. It gets you some interesting looks from the cars next to you--especially if you are in the car by yourself-- but is pretty helpful. Country western music has the advantage of having a lot of very slow songs with very simple words, so that makes it easier for me to sign to them. I also have learned the signs to almost all the picture books in Connor's rather large collection. That helps me pick up words that don't come up in everyday conversation.

I try and set myself vocabulary goals based on what we're doing that day. If I'm making beef stew one night for example, in the morning I'll learn the signs of all the vegetables and kitchen utensils I'll be using, and that way I can talk to Connor about the stew in the evening as I'm cooking.

Once I become fluent in SEE, I plan to start taking classes in ASL. Despite that, we'll probably always use SEE for Connor.

Let me explain the difference between the two and our reasons behind that decision.

American Sign Language (ASL) is a completely different language from English, with it's own set of grammatical rules, slang, and proverbs. Structurally it's set up more like French, and it's impossible to speak and sign ASL at the same time. It's the predominant language of those who sign in the Deaf community.

Signed Exact English (SEE) is not a separate language from English. It's simply a different medium to portray English in, like writing. You speak and sign at the same time with SEE, and unlike ASL, all of the slang, saying, etc are exactly the same as English.

We use SEE with Connor instead of ASL for a number of reasons. Connor is HoH, and when he was first diagnosed his hearing loss was fairly mild, so he was already understanding some English. He deals with cognitive delays due to his wide variety of neurological issues, so we didn't want him to have to start over on learning language since it took him so long to pick it up in the first place. It would be very confusing and difficult for him to learn two languages when he struggles with just one.

Due to his poor motor skills, Connor will probably never be able to respond in correct ASL or SEE. He currently has about 40 home signs (signs that he has made up) that he uses with motions that his arms and hands can do, but he's not able to do the complex moves with his fingers needed to sign accurately. I would expect we will eventually transfer him over to using a computer and picture communication to give him a way to speak with a wider vocabulary than he has the motor skills to sign. We will use any method possible to let him get across what he wants to say. However, we will still need to talk with him by sign. SEE gives him three different ways to understand what we're saying-- hearing, lip reading, and sign. Even without his hearing loss, Connor would probably have been ataxic (non-speaking) and we began looking into teaching him a sign system long before we knew he was HoH. I think it should be considered as an important tool for not just Deaf and HoH children, but those hearing children with cognitive and motor skill delays-- especially those who are completely non-verbal or severely language delayed.

If we adopt another child who is Deaf or HoH and who doesn't have any cognitive delays, we'd probably talk with them by SEE until they reach school age to give them a good base in structural English, and then switch to ASL unless we're talking with Connor at the same time. From the Deaf friends we've talked to, it's pretty easy to learn ASL after you know SEE as it's much more conceptual and many of the signs are the same. I think that each system of language has it's own benefits. It will depend entirely on the child and their individual needs.


1 comment:

Thara said...

Does SEE work for babies who are blind, not deaf as well? My daughter is blind and I've been told about SEE a while back.

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