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…
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.
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….