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You can find all of my articles including those on the now-closed Homeschool Mosaics site at Tactile View.org . The adventures of my life in the Dark Silence continues there with a few surprises, too. Follow along! I would love to see there.

I saw a blog post today from a friend that reviewed a book about Helen Keller. Because of my friend’s wonderfully worded description of the pictures I can tell you that the book is a great resource for understanding DeafBlindness. You might just start to “Get it” that DeafBlindness isn’t just adding deaf and blind. It is exponentially multiplied. So, I am going to give a little link love to my friend. Please check it out. There is no way, being DeafBlind, that I could have written a review with the descriptions of the illustrations and intent of this book so well. So, this post is to my friend at Mom’s Musings, http://hexwit.blogspot.com/2013/07/concept-building-and-coolest-book-on.html

Independence Day- So many seem to be unaware of why we celebrate today other than BBQ and fireworks. America was considered a grand experiment because we were the first country on earth to formulate a nation’s government based on the rights given to us by our Creator rather than an earthly King. You can see that in the words of the Declaration of Independence. We were a little slower giving those important rights to all that the Creator endowed, but we did finally after a terrible war to sort it all out and show us what was most important. Men’s hearts took even longer to fully change, but our nation was growing. Because we were trying to grow, God blessed this nation richly and used us to bless the world. Those rights were fought for from the very beginning and tested again and again as we showed the world they were worth not only standing up for but dying for. We are a nation founded on the beliefs that there is a Creator that is all powerful and all knowing. The phrase “In God We Trust” was first printed on our coins in 1854 and signed into law by Abraham Lincoln. That is who we are as a nation. Beginning before but marked by Roe v Wade in 1973, we began to forget who we were and are supposed to be. We began to strip away the rights that so many had fought and died to gain and protect. We began to forget that our nation was founded on the belief that people are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights, rights that you are given when God creates you. From there, we have begun stripping away more and more of the foundation of America. There is still hope. America isn’t what she was, but she can be again and even better. Remember who we are, America. Remember that we are thankful to our Creator for the rights we are founded upon. Remember why so many men and women have been willing to sacrifice everything including their lives for what America stands for. Remember this day and everyday. Turn back and truly mean “God bless the USA!” I love this country, and I love the God who brought her into existence to be a light shining from the hill. We have become as lukewarm water that is spewed from the mouth. Be bold, America, for that which you have always stood for. I thank those who have stood in uniform and died in uniform to protect my rights. I stand with them now as a proud American.Thank you, God, for being the One who loves us and still calls to us.

Wynfield Christian Academy proudly announces the Valedictorian for the Class of 2013 as Daniel Osborne. Salutatorian for the Class of 2013 is Narrae James. We congratulate both on their achievements. We are proud of them.

Also, Daniel Osborne has been awarded the National Scholarship Merit Award from the PSAT/NSMQ organization. This is the highest honor given to students based on their testing scores, academic record, extracurricular activities/community service, and character. Daniel is now eligible for many scholarships from various colleges/universities around the country. Congratulations, Daniel!
Narrae James has been award the National Scholarship Achievement Award for the PSAT/NSMQ organization. This to is a high honor given only to select students across the nation and world. Narrae is now eligible for many scholarships from various colleges/universities around the country. Congratulations, Narrae.
Narrae James, through her dual enrollment with GAMES, is earning an Associate’s of Science degree along with her high school diploma. We commend her for her efforts. Congratulations, Narrae.

Check out Homeschool Mosaics today, and better yet, follow the site, so you always know when the great articles are posted including mine. Today, I tell you a little about how I am able to be Principal of an accredited private school that serves homeschoolers. You don’t want to miss it! My Life as a DeafBlind Teacher should give you some insight into what I do, how I do it, and most importantly who deserves the credit. I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it because I got to show my appreciation to some truly special people. Check it out!

Make sure you come back here soon, too, because now that school has started back I have some posts coming on a couple of curriculums that I have been looking to use, and I have a few on some my musings about certain educational topics like labels. You might get a slightly different perspective on some things when I am finished, so come back soon to read these new posts.

This week is DeafBlind Awareness Week! Helen Keller’s birthday was June 27th. She and her predecessor, Laura Bridgman, made advancements for all DeafBlind people. Both worked hard to overcome their disabilities to become educated. They both wrote and spoke about the needs of the disabled.

Today, there are approximately 100,000 DeafBlind children and adults. We all work hard to overcome the obstacles in our life. We all want to be as independent as possible. We all want to contribute to society and make the world a better place. We are capable of learning and doing many things. We prove that every day.

Sometimes, though, we need help. Education, training, assessable technology, support service providers, etc. are all expensive. There is also a lot of medical research going on to help improve our lives and even one day to provide cures for the causes of DeafBlindness. There are a few organizations that help the DeafBlind. You support would be appreciated.

Helen Keller National Center for DeafBlind Youth and Adults in Sands Point, NY is the largest by far. They provide intensive training in all areas of a DeafBlind adult’s life. You can learn more about them at http://www.hknc.org.

The American Association for The DeafBlind is another. It is an organization run by the DeafBlind to help educate the public, government, etc. about the needs of the DeafBlind. They also work to provide support to the DeafBlind. You can learn more about them at http://www.aadb.org.

Another organization that helps to provide training and accessible technology to DeafBlind children and adults is DeafBlind Hope. DeafBlind Hope is a small non-profit, but over 99% of the donations go straight to the DeafBlind clients of DeafBlind Hope. We assist parents in learning how to teach their DeafBlind children and raise funds to provide training for adults. We provide technology to children and adults that is suitable for the individual needs. We also work to teach the public that the DeafBlind can do if given the tools they need to become independent. DeafBlind Hope is another organization operated by the DeafBlind for the DeafBlind. The CEO is Renée K. Walker who is DeafBlind and writes this blog. Yes, I am talking about me. I sincerely work every day to make the lives of the DeafBlind easier and more productive. We all just want to become as independent as possible and do our part in making the world a better place. You can find out more about us at http://deafblindhope.org

Please learn more about deafblindness and how it affects these children and adults. Consider helping one of these organizations. You will be bringing Hope to the DeafBlind!

I have missed a few months updating my blogs. I am really sorry. Unfortunately, I have been very ill, and I had emergency surgery a month ago today. I have been told that I almost died. Of course, I am thankful to God that He still has more for me to do, so I am still here. Life is good. I am ready and looking forward to Heaven, but I want to stay here for as long as God will allow me to serve Him. I will now get back to more regular updates of what is going on in my life, homeschooling, and DeafBlind Hope with my journey through the Dark Silence. Today’s post is a little of all three of those.

I have had a few shares of my own column on Homeschool Mosaics, but I haven’t plugged myself. I even missed last month’s post I did because I was having surgery. So, I think I should catch up a little. And don’t forget, there are other writers even more talented and interesting than me on Homeschool Mosaics every day, so check them out, please. I haven’t been able to plug for them due to being so sick and then recovering for surgery. These writers are certainly worth looking into. Now to see my post for last month and this month go to www.homeschoolmosaics.com.

My post for May is at http://homeschoolmosaics.com/om-cane-skills/. I hope you enjoy it. I also had a post of my column go live today as well. It is found at http://homeschoolmosaics.com/guide-dogs-the-perfect-upgrade/. I think you will find some uplifting stories here about my wonderful guide dog, Joey.

I will come back soon and tell you about my experiences in the hospital from a disabled perspective.

Well, today is the day I have a new post on Homeschool Mosaics! Please check it out. I think it is pretty interesting and informative. I enjoyed writing it, anyway. LOL <a href=”http://homeschoolmosaics.com/mama-look-its-helen-keller/” title=”Mama, Look It’s Helen Keller.”>http://homeschoolmosaics.com/mama-look-its-helen-keller/</a>

Renée K. Walker—Foreign Languages—Winter 2010/11

American Sign Language

By Renée K. Walker

Foreign language credit for high schoolers can be a nightmare for many homeschooling parents and students. Many public and private school students feel they are lucky when their state does not require it for high school graduation. Homeschoolers also often try to avoid it, but many find that colleges will not accept students without it. However, foreign language should not be overlooked as an essential part of a child’s curriculum. Like art and music instruction, foreign language study enhances intellectual growth in the student. It can also improve public speaking skills and self-confidence.

Foreign language instruction isn’t complicated if you shop around for the best curriculum to suit your needs. The biggest decision you have to make is the first one, though: Which language do you want your students to learn? While there are many, in the homeschool world most choose French, Spanish, German, or Latin. There is another choice that many overlook, but it has a great potential to do good in the community around you.

Why Study American Sign Language?

As the third most-used language in the United States, accepted as a true language by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1989, and acceptable for study in most public and secondary schools for foreign language credit, American Sign Language (ASL) is an excellent choice for study. Some foreign language teachers question the validity of ASL as a true language, but linguistics experts do not question it, because it has its own system of grammar and syntax and is constantly changing as it grows within its culture and community of speakers. ASL is now accepted in most states for foreign language credit for high school graduation, and most colleges recognize it as well. Many colleges are even beginning to offer ASL instruction, with more and more offering interpreting programs in order to help address the certified interpreter shortage across the country.

High schoolers and families learning ASL have the potential of bringing light into a dim world for many Deaf people, especially DeafBlind people. You and your students’ lives can be enriched by the love and support of the Deaf community, which is indeed a culture of its own.

The study of ASL cannot be carried out successfully without a study of the culture and its history. Deaf and DeafBlind people are at a disadvantage in the hearing and sighted world. Communication issues prevent full access to many of life’s activities that most of society need and enjoy. If more people in the hearing world would take the time to learn ASL, a bridge could be built that would allow three cultural groups to meet, and new and exciting relationships could be developed. A Deaf person could easily ask a salesperson for help in the department store or order a meal at the restaurant or merely chat with a hearing person in the long line at the grocery store. A DeafBlind person could more easily find an assistant to help her write out bills or call a repairman to fix a broken window or simply have a visitor to share the afternoon with, dispelling the boredom for a while. Anything you can do in communicating with the Deaf or DeafBlind will be such a joy to a person who is sidelined from the hearing world due to communication issues.

If you find that you truly love American Sign Language and the Deaf culture, consider becoming a certified interpreter. There is a shortage of interpreters across the country. Trained interpreters are needed to help Deaf and DeafBlind people thoroughly understand what is happening in legal and medical situations. Their health or legal status could be in danger if they do not fully understand what is happening in those situations. Mastery of ASL is also a key to careers in Deaf Education and DeafBlind Studies. Learning ASL has the potential to help in so many ways, and no matter how big or small, the help is so very needed and appreciated.

Resources

If the question now is, “Okay, I want to teach ASL, but how can I go about teaching a language that is so different?” the help is out there, and finding it is easy. Many colleges and area agencies for the Deaf offer fairly inexpensive community classes, which are excellent choices. There are free options as well. The best free options are found on the Internet. The website http://www.lifeprint.com, created and operated by Dr. Bill Vicars, a Deaf ASL native and certified ASL teacher, is highly recommended by many Deaf agencies and by the Helen Keller National Center For Deaf-Blind Youths and Adults. You also can register with Lifeprint and submit lesson work and videotapes that are accepted for full credit in many places.

Numerous print resources are available for the study of American Sign Language and Deaf culture. A curriculum that gives a thorough study of vocabulary, grammar, and syntax is a series titled American Sign Language Green Books by Dennis Cokely and Charlotte Baker-Shenk. This series is published by Gallaudet University Press, a division of the first school for the Deaf and Deaf College, Gallaudet University. The Everything Sign Language Book: American Sign Language Made Easy by Irene Duke is a good choice for finding a lot of information in one place. The American Sign Language Phrase Book by Lou Fant, The American Sign Language Handshape Dictionary with optional flash card sets, and The Gallaudet Dictionary of American Sign Language are excellent resources, all of which can be purchased at http://www.amazon.com.

"Fingerspelling Chart ABC copyright by Lifeprint.com"

"Fingerspelling Chart ABC copyright by Lifeprint.com"

Find and use a chart of the American Manual Alphabet for fingerspelling. Twenty-six handshapes correspond to each letter of the alphabet. The Manual Alphabet is used in only a limited fashion in ASL, but fingerspelling and the handshapes play important roles. The Lifeprint website offers an alphabet chart, and most ASL resources will include one.

Regardless of the particular American Sign Language curriculum you choose, find a mentor—an interpreter, ASL teacher, fluent signer, or native speaker, who can make sure you are learning the signs properly and using them correctly. It is difficult to learn a sign using only a picture or even a video presentation. If possible, find a mentor in the Deaf community. He or she will help you not only to properly apply the skills learned in the curriculum, but also to enrich your vocabulary. You can form lasting bonds that not only will enrich the class but will enrich your lives as well.

A Few Considerations

Before you begin your study of American Sign Language, there are a few things that need to be considered. Many hearing individuals have the misconception that ASL is an easy or a simple language. That is probably derived from a misunderstanding of how the grammar and syntax works or from a direct translation that sounds similar to baby talk, but isn’t. ASL is a rich visual language that actually paints pictures with more detail than any verbal language does. The grammar and syntax is more like Japanese or Navajo than English. Learning any foreign language can be a challenging task, and learning American Sign Language is no exception. Consider this when choosing the language of study for your student.

Another aspect to consider is that some students who may have been overlooked for foreign language study due to learning disabilities, autism spectrum disorders, or auditory /visual processing disorders may be capable of learning and actually benefiting from acquisition of a visual language rather than a verbal one. Also, many hearing people think that any form of communication done with signs is sign language or ASL. However, many modes of communication use the hands to facilitate interaction and teaching of English to the Deaf. Signed Exact English (SEE) is one in which every English word is signed. It uses ASL signs and SEE signs, i.e., signs made to cover signs not found in ASL, because ASL doesn’t use the same syntax as English.

Pidgin Signed English, also known as Contact Language, is another tool that is used to bridge the gap between the hearing and the Deaf. It uses mostly American Sign Language signs, but in English word order. It is similar to ASL in that you don’t sign the forms of “be” or every single word.

All of these approaches are ways to communicate with the Deaf and may be beneficial if communication is the motivation or if used as a bridge to teach English skills to the Deaf. However, these approaches are not foreign languages, because they do not have a syntax or grammatical system of their own. They merely represent English words formed with the hands in a visual manner. For this reason, study of these approaches does not qualify for foreign language credit at the high school or college level.

When you choose a curriculum, ASL must be listed as the language of study. A listing of “sign language” is not enough to identify the subject as American Sign Language. Finally, ASL study must include a study of its history and culture of the Deaf community. In no other language have the creation and evolution of a language been so obviously impacted by the history and culture of its speakers as with ASL. Your study will enhance your understanding not only of the language but of the lives of members of the Deaf community as well. Their struggles and progress have united them uniquely as a community.

With all this good information from reputable sources, there are no excuses to not learn American Sign Language, a tremendous skill that can be acquired and enjoyed by you and your students. Do yourself a favor and after checking with your colleges of interest and/or your state requirements regarding foreign language credit, seriously consider American Sign Language for your students’ foreign language credit. The choice can bring joy to your family and the life of many Deaf and DeafBlind people.

 

First published by The Old SchoolHouse Magazine, Winter 2010/11.

Touch Points

By Renée K. Walker

You may remember me describing here the troubles I have had getting doctors in my area to provide me interpreters. That fight continues, but I now have completed the first battle. Though I can’t speak of the specific circumstances or resolution, I can describe the process that I have been through now and that the process worked. At least for one incident, compliance to the ADA law and education to help those who come into this particular situation in the future has been met. That is what the advocacy process can do. We all need to learn the skills to advocate for ourselves, but at times, we need help to move the mountains before us.

The best way to begin is to call and ask for an appointment first. Once the organization has given you an appointment, tell them your specific communication needs that fall under ADA law for effective communication. This could be the CART system which is where you have a typist who has been trained in medical or legal interpreting depending on your setting or it could mean an ASL interpreter, or some other form of communication. If the office tells you that they don’t provide interpreters or your method of communication. Try to remain calm and use the moment to educate the personnel regarding the ADA law. Explain that it is required by law and offer to provide the personnel with a copy of the law section that pertains to the situation. You can also direct them to the National Association for the Deaf’s (NAD) website at www.nad.org or the ADA website at www.ada.gov. Document your call and its contents in some way. If you use relay services, save the transcript. If you have a hearing person call for you, see if they will write a summary of the transcripts. In my state, the laws allow me to record conversations without the permission of the other party. That could be a possibility, but you have to check the laws of your state first. You do not want to be in violation. A written record is usually quite sufficient. Even if the office personnel stated they weren’t interested in the ADA information. Mail them a copy anyway asking them to please look it over and seek legal advice if they wish. Respectfully ask them to consider your need. Call the office again after giving them a little time to do as you requested documenting the phone call. Many times this opportunity to educate politely is all that is needed to help people to understand your needs and their responsibilities. Often, the personnel didn’t mean any disrespect. They just were unfamiliar with the law and had not had any prior experience with disabled persons needing communication assistance.

In the event that your needs are still not met, please don’t get discouraged and give up or go to an appointment using just a friend or relative who can communicate with you. The ADA law has been written to help you. There are reasons the ADA law stipulates using a qualified interpreter. Family and friends may not be able to translate the complex medical or legal concepts to the patient in an effective manner. Often times, emotional situations may be difficult for them to handle, and the family member or friend may resort to hiding some information. The love and concern is understandable and commendable, but it is not appropriate when the patient’s ability to make decisions regarding their health or legal issue is hindered. It is the patient’s right to decide the form of effective communication they need and want, but understanding why the ADA law was written is also important in helping the patient function on his own behalf.

Your next step should be to contact your state’s local advocacy agency or ADA attorney. The attorney assigned to you will then work with you to get the information regarding your complaint. If non-compliance is determined, the advocate will contact the organization and inform them of your complaint against them providing the legal information that the organization needs to understand in order to best serve you. This may be enough to resolve your situation and help you get your communication needs met.

If not, you are not alone. Your advocate will help you with the next steps. If you wish to proceed, the advocate will file on your behalf a complaint to the Department of Justice (DOJ). You will provide input as to what you would like to receive from the organization that is in non-compliance such as an appointment where an interpreter is provided to allow effective communication. Once the complaint is written, you will receive a copy and give final approval to allow the advocate to file the complaint with the DOJ. DOJ prefers to start off with using a third-party mediating company. This company provides people who are trained to remain objective and help the parties in a dispute come to an agreement. In this situation, they help the organization understand the need for compliance to the ADA and the best procedure to do that. They also help educate both parties in how to best meet the needs of the complainant (person filing the complaint). The mediation meeting takes place at a neutral place or using telephone conference or whatever method works best for the parties involved. Your advocate is with you throughout the process. You can decide if you want the advocate to speak for you or if you want to speak for yourself asking help from your advocate as needed. The process of mediation is not a court trial. It is an informal meeting for discussion. The mediator helps to keep the discussion flowing and working toward resolution. Either party can end the mediation process at any time. All conversation during the mediation is completely confidential, so you and the other parties can be open. You are not forced into anything, but you do have lots of support from your advocate and the mediator to help things run smoothly and professionally.

Hopefully, the mediation meeting will lead to a resolution plan. The plan itself may take several months or more for the respondent (the person you are filing the complaint against) to fully complete all aspects of the plan depending on the situation and the complexities involved. When all is complete, you will be notified. If you are to be given an appointment using effective communication, that will be part of the plan. You will be given the opportunity to arrange that appointment. The mediation process and your case will not be closed until you and your advocate agree that the plan has been completed as prescribed.

Should the mediation process fail, the DOJ will then take the case back and a federal trial may then be held. I am not familiar with that process yet, and hope I will never have to go that far. I would prefer that education and/or the mediation process would be enough to secure my rights to effective communication in medical and legal settings. From my experiences with the mediation process so far, I can see that it is highly effective, and the results are probably very successful in many cases.

Remember as you request for your needs to be met that you are not only advocating for yourself, but you are also advocating for others who will follow you. If we all are more willing to use the resources available to us to enforce the ADA law, we can educate more organizations and make the lives of all disabled a little easier.

 

If you have comments about this topic, you may write a letter in braille or print to Renée Walker, 143 Williamson Drive, Macon, GA 31210; or you may email me at rkwalker@wynfieldca.org. You can also read and comment on my blog at http://www.deafblindhope.wordpress.com. You can also check me out at www.facebook.com/reneekwalker.

 

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