Sunday, February 8, 2015

My Magic Wand

Recently, a question was posed in a Voxer chat group that really made me think:

If I had a magic wand, and with one motion could change something in education that would make my job more effective, what would I reform?

My initial response is that I would magically establish regional DHH programs throughout Kentucky.  Why wouldn't I pick that answer?  Anyone who knows me well would think the same.  This subject is what I have been advocating for years now.  It is the quickest and easiest answer to this question.  However, the more I contemplate, the more I realize that there is ONE thing that would completely transform how I teach.   If this one change was to occur, Deaf education would never be the same again.

Imagine what it would be like if parents, upon discovering that their child was deaf, were paired with a Deaf mentor.  This person would be the parents' connection into what life could be like for their child.  A Deaf mentor could:
  • Make daily/weekly visits to the home to teach parents and family members American Sign Language
  • Help the parents understand what living in a visual world is like
  • Connect parents to other Deaf adults, parents of Deaf children, and Deaf teens
  • Serve as a role model to the child
  • Provide strategies for parents on how to incorporate aspects of Deaf culture into their home
  • Help parents understand that learning ASL will help their child learn to speak if so desired
  • Be the one that connects parents with hearing professionals
The list goes on and on.

How awesome would it be if parents and family members of Deaf children became fluent in sign language so that there would be no barriers to their interactions?

How different but exhilarating would it be if Deaf children entered preschool or kindergarten with a fully developed language that consisted of over 10,000 signs/concepts similar to the language level of hearing children?

How thrilling would it be for these children to be developing a Deaf identity prior to entering school?

How would the dynamics of Deaf education change if teachers no longer had to constantly play catch up as they tried to directly teach ASL, offer incidental language learning opportunities, AND teach English and other academic content?

This is to not say that other supports and services for the child and their family would be eliminated.  There is still a need for speech therapy for those children who would benefit from it.  Research has proven over and over again that learning ASL does not hinder speech development; it enhances it.

Additionally, teachers, consultants and other professionals (hearing or Deaf) that provide support to parents are still vital to the overall development and success of a deaf child.  These professionals would work in collaboration with the Deaf mentor and not in place of.

For those children who are hard of hearing, they would not be lost in the fold; Hard of Hearing mentors would also be available to serve as role models and mentors to the family.

Let's use a magic wand and allow Deaf and Hard of Hearing individuals to be the first point of contact for parents of children with a hearing loss.  Let them welcome parents into this visual world and show parents what their children could become!


  1. Your emphasis on giving these children (and their families) mentors is wonderful. The type of mentorship that you are describing is one that would not simply be about those initial first contacts. You are creating a situation in which there could be a life long bond created simply by connecting these families to those who have gone before them.

    I think that is why I see such value in online communities of practice. I see so much support being generated by simply being a member of an active facebook page or Google+ community. It might be possible for folks to identify themselves as potential mentors within such an online space and then the new families could simply be "paired" and start their conversations that way. Is there such a place for DHH folks to go and ask questions and get matched to mentors? Is there such a place for these mentors to come forward and identify themselves?

    P.S. This comment is a part of the #C4C15 project. Find out more here:

    1. Ben,

      Thank you for finding my blog and taking the time to comment on My Magic Wand post. I find your idea fascinating and not something I have considered. Online communities are incredibly powerful for professional growth but do have an untapped potential to make connections that are needed for the sake of our students.

      You have given me some food for thought that I plan to share with some people who I think could make it happen!


  2. This is my dream, too! I have tried for several years to do something like this with just the children and families in my county. Sadly, I haven't had much success yet. But I haven't given up, and hope that with hard work and the support of the other TODHH that I work with, and the support of students and parents, that we can make it work! :)