The More Things Change, The More They Stay The Same

I'm going to do my best to keep this article short. For those of you wondering what happened to Drolz Uncensored, it's been put on the backburner for a while. Right now I'm focusing on a new book that I'm co-writing with my good buddies Dennis Jones Jr. and Eddie Runyon.

The book is moving along slowly but surely. It's going to rock. At the same time, it's not easy. My work schedule, my kids' schedule, and my wife's work schedule have often made it impossible to sit at the computer with any creative energy left. I try my best and then blshdisyeksxjzzzzzzzzzz... whoops! Fell asleep in a puddle of drool again.

The solution to this problem? Caffeine. Lots of it. But alongside a cup of joe, there's another ingredient that's an absolute must for a writer:

Motivation.

If you're a deaf person paying attention to the world around you, it's easy to find motivation. There's always stuff going on that makes you say dammit, I've got to do something about this. Lately there were four such incidents. This is the stuff that drives me to write, and I thought I'd share them with you before I go back into my self-imposed, book-writing exile.

The first incident involved a recent graduate of Gallaudet University. I don't want to give you his name without permission, but nonetheless he gave a great account of the positive changes at Gallaudet since the protest of 2006.

When someone asked him about his own experience at Gallaudet, he shared how he felt emancipated the first time he set foot on campus. Everyone was signing. The security guards at the front gate, students walking down the hallways, teachers in the classrooms, and so on.

Previously, this guy had gone to mainstream schools. He had grown accustomed to not being much of a participant in classroom discussion because an interpreter wasn't "real-time." Often he was inspired to say something but realized that as soon as he raised his hand, someone else had already answered the question or the discussion went off in a different direction. Train gone.

Of course I can relate. As a former mainstreamed student who later attended Gallaudet, I went through the exact same thing. It was kind of interesting to watch someone else tell the same story sixteen years after I graduated. Amazing how some things never change.

The second incident was an update from my wife, Melanie. She visited our son Darren's classroom a week or so ago. For those of you who haven't read previous articles in here, Darren started going deaf early in grade school and is now in the fourth grade. He has an ASL interpreter. Yes, he's "onestreamed." He's the only kid in school who relies on sign language communication.

Darren's doing good in most areas, struggling in others. In the areas where he struggles, he's been moved to a smaller classroom and that's helped him focus more and improve his skills. All in all, we're very proud of him. But Melanie added something that made my heart sink: During class discussion, Darren's a virtual nonparticipant. Just like our new pal from Gallaudet described it, it's often Train gone.

There's not much the school can do about it. They've already been very helpful and accomodating with the interpreter, smaller classrooms, individual instruction, and IEP goals. The only real solution is for Darren to interact with other kids who are just like him. And where are they? Scattered all over, onestreamed here and there. I swear, in this upcoming book I'm going to rip the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). No one out there really understands what Least Restrictive Environment means.

And that brings us to our third incident. Me reading the December 8, 2008 issue of Sports Illustrated. Check out the following quote:

They don't know other kids like themselves. But you put them in a world where there are other kids like them, and their self-esteem and all those other things that are hidden come out. You see them bloom.

The above quote had nothing to do with deafness. It was related to kids with learning disabilities. But it's the same concept. And don't limit it to "disabilities." It's about peers. I wouldn't want to be the only African-American in an all-white school. I wouldn't want to be the only boy in an all-girls school. And so on and so on.

My mind's made up. Darren's holding his own in a great school right now so we're going to ride it out for a while longer. He'll stay through sixth grade barring any unforeseen circumstances. But as for Junior High School? No way. He needs a school where there's other deaf kids. And we'll put him in one. Period.

And finally (I thought I said I was going to keep this short. Oh well.), the fourth incident. A colleague of mine asked me to do her a favor and talk to an early intervention parent group. So I gladly did a condensed version of my Deaf Again presentation. It went very well.

And then, two parents said something that gave me the burrrrrrrn that motivates me to write.

My presentation focused mostly on the benefits of ASL and the importance of having deaf peers and older role models. Each factor played a very significant part in my ability to evolve into a successful deaf adult.

One of the parents remarked that she understood where I was coming from, and that she felt fortunate to be able to meet other deaf people who shared a similar message. But she felt terribly frustrated and somewhat cheated when she realized that no one - no one - at the hospital where her child was born ever bothered to share such information.

Another parent raised his hand and said he had the same experience. Once his child was identified as deaf, all of the information the hospital staff gave him was auditory-verbal and pathological-related. Speech therapy, hearing aids, cochlear implant. That's it. No ASL. No deaf community. No deaf peers or role models. Just pathology.

Look, I'm not stupid. I know that most hospitals, and the doctors who work in them, will offer a pathological fix-it approach. That's their job. But we're talking Philadelphia. We've got a sizeable deaf community. We've got Creative Access, The Deaf-Hearing Communication Centre, The Pennsylvania School for the Deaf, The Pennsylvania Society for Advancement of the Deaf, and so on. We've got skyrocketing enrollment at ASL classes now offered at colleges and universities all over the region.

So if parents of newly identified deaf babies in Philadelphia are not being provided ALL the resources that are out there - particularly the deaf-friendly resources - then you know that the deaf community is being swept under the rug.

And that, my friends, is what drives me to write even if my schedule says it's barely possible. Look forward to the book. And Drolz Uncensored will be back once it's done.

Have a great holiday season!

Best regards,

Drolz

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I Can Relate Too 
Great article. Thanks for writing this. I am HOH and have been mainstreamed in public schools. Like most other HOH people, later on in my life I learned …

Looking forward to reading your stuff 
I cannot wait for that book! I have recommended your books over and over again to so many people. I'm looking forward to the wisdom you share in this …

Follow Your Child's Lead 
Hi, I'd like to share one thing... Both of my children are mainstreamed (well, my daughter onestreamed full time and my son mainstreamed part time, …

Seeing Reality Through Our Children 
Sometimes it actually takes going into the child's educational environment to see what is going on. We sent our daughter to a mainstreamed school for …

I Can Relate 
I can so relate to your story! I was a successful oral hard of hearing child growing up. I too went through the same thing, I was mainstreamed in my …