ASL as “Foreign Language” for Hard of Hearing Children

Apparently, ASL (American Sign Language) is a very popular choice for kids to take at my son’s public school as their “Foreign Language”.  So popular, that they do not guarantee any child can take it.  

My son, AC , is in 6th grade now and mainstreamed.  His school recently sent home a standard form for kids/parents to state preferences for class choices for next year.  They made it clear to pick more than one option for Foreign Language, as there were no guarantee’s to get into your first choice.  ASL is one of the most popular choices.  A separate topic all together I’d like to explore more sometime…

We really wanted our son, AC, to take ASL as his “foreign language” next year since he’s hard of hearing.  Is just makes sense and seems like an obvious placement for him, right?  I mean, it’s not like he just WANTS to take ASL for the fun of it (although he does really want to take it, and thinks it will be fun).  He has obvious good reasons for taking ASL rather than Italian or French, right?  Well, like many things, I’ve learned that when you are dealing with a “mild-moderate” hearing loss – not much is obvious. 

So, the school asked me to put in writing my request explaining why I was so adamant about him taking ASL,  and return it with the form – and they would do their best to accommodate.  So, here’s my letter and top reasons on WHY I think my son, or really any hard of hearing child, should take ASL for their Foreign Language…

Hello XXXXXX,

I’m writing this letter regarding my son, AC, and his language preference for 7th grade. I understand that students will not necessarily get into the language preference that they want, and that is going to be assigned. I’m requesting that, if at ALL possible, AC be placed in ASL for his language due to the fact that he is hearing impaired.

As you know, AC has a mild/moderate bilateral hearing loss. He wears hearing aids, and is using the FM system in school. He’s having great success so far this year and we are thrilled with his progress. We look forward to his continuing in accelerated courses next year. Because of his hearing impairment, ASL would be the logical, most beneficial, and possibly essential, language for him to learn. I would really appreciate it if you would consider the following reasons/explanations for this request.

1) AC’s hearing loss could be progressive, and should he ever lose more of his hearing (which we hope will never happen – but is impossible to know for sure) he could really use adequate ASL skills in order to communicate effectively. Like any foreign language, ASL takes years to really learn – and is not something he can just “pick up” outside of school if he ever needed to.

2) We’ve been told that for social development reasons, it would be very beneficial for AC to meet other hearing impaired children that he can relate to. However, there simply aren’t many kids out there like him, and actually there are not ANY that we know of. He has always been the only kid we/he know personally that wears hearing aids. There is a large Deaf population in our area – however, he doesn’t quite fit in there either since he doesn’t use ASL. If he was learning ASL – he/we could at least begin to participate in more Deaf activities. (I am also taking ASL classes through work.)

There is also research to show that since hard of hearing children are in essence “caught between two worlds” (hearing and non-hearing) – they should explore both cultures. Learning ASL is key for him to be able to do that. I’ve attached a short article called, “A dual identity for hard of hearing students; good for the world, good for the deaf community, critical for students.”

3) Even with hearing aids, and the FM system, it can be hard work for AC to make out certain low frequency sounds and decipher certain words and sounds… especially silent consonants, etc., even in English – his native language. Example, even WITH hearing aids and the FM, he often can’t tell the difference between the “ch” and “sh” sounds. Because of this, there’s a good chance that he would have difficulties hearing, and therefore learning, new sounds and words necessary that other foreign languages would require.

I’m attaching the requested form, along with the article mentioned above. I will send a hard copy in with AC also. Please let me know your decision, and if you need anything else or if there’s any questions I can answer.

Thank you in advance for your time and consideration.

After receiving my letter, the “powers that be” seemed very agreeable and said they didn’ think it would be a problem considering the facts.  I sure hope not.  I feel fortunate to have a team and school that may not always fully understand AC’s hearing loss – but is willing to learn and do what they can.  That’s about all you can hope for, I  guess.  So, THANK YOU “powers that be” in advance. =) 

Maybe someday, ASL will simply be a garunteed option for any kids that are hard of hearing – with or without a letter. 

Deb

PS – if, by any slight chance, any other parents out there find themselves in a similiar situation – please let me know.  I’m always amazed when I hear we are NOT alone in some kind of situation that feels very unique….

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8 Responses

  1. Great post! I love to read your blog. My son is 15 months and was diagnosed with mild-moderate (now moderate-moderately severe) hearing loss at 2 months of age. He wears hearing aids and I just have so many questions as to what the future holds for him and us. It’s interesting to read about the types of things we might go through down the road. Thanks for posting!
    Angela

  2. Hi Angela & thanks. =). Saw your blog too, and read about the latest testing and all. Little Owen is so cute and brave. I hope you get some answers and he gets rid of his ear infection soon! keep us posted.
    Take care,
    Deb

  3. And thanks for the helpful article! I’ve never heard it from quite that perspective before… the dual identity. I knew I was doing the right thing by trying to get my son into as many HOH/deaf activities as possible, but it helps to read it as back-up!

  4. mzwiz – sorry for the late response. I’m glad you liked the article… it IS interesting isn’t it? I didn’t think of it that way initially either – but, it makes perfect sense to me. I’m curious – what kinds of HOH/Deaf Actiities you have joined in on, and what has been the results for your son? If you stop back here, please let me know. =)
    Thanks,
    Deb

  5. Good post.
    My son is about to hit middle school, will be wearing 2 bte hearing aids and has a mild/moderate loss.

    I wish his school offered ASL as a foreign language, I think that is wonderful that you child’s school does.

    I’ve often wondered where children in my area could take ASL classes for free or low cost.

    I like your blog, it is very informative.

  6. Kym,

    Thanks for visiting and the nice comment. I’m sorry my response is so delayed. Just been busy, like everyone else, but really want to start updating this more often again…

    How old is your son? My son is looking forward to next year, 7th grade, when he can start taking ASL. I’m also taking some beginner classes where I work, and have learned a LITTLE ASL. I’d like to continue on as well. Where are you from? There may be free classes your son and you could take in your community. ?? I know that here, there were some classes for any deaf/HOH people, and their family thru an area School for the Deaf.

    Thanks again, and hope you are doing well.

    Deb

  7. It’s amazing that your son’s school offers ASL courses. It’s even more amazing that they are so popular!

    We definitely didn’t have anything like that when I was in school, which is going back some years. now! There’s one kid at my daughter’s school who is completely deaf and Emily has told me in the past that they have signed with him as a group when they’ve been doing poems and things like that. She’s not in his class so I don’t know how common the sign usage is.

    I tried to hide my hearing loss as much as possible until I was about 15 so to be honest I don’t think I would have attended BSL classes even if they were available at school.

    Great blog! I found it via deafmomworld.

    Cheers,
    Steve.

  8. Steve –
    WOW… I feel bad for not checking in here for so long… Thanks for the comment and finding me. Yes – I think it’s great that AC can take ASL (or any kid can) as his Foreign Language – and that it’s so popular. I would have taken it when I was a kid if I could. I think it would have served me better than 3 years of French. LOL ? Anywya, AC seems to like it. I’m trying to learn it myself too. It’s fun… but, certainly not easy!
    Take care,
    Deb

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