Saturday, February 21, 2009

Some tidbits

Right now, Neil and Ben are dancing to Jonathan Richman out in the family room. Other music that Ben has listened to lately: Led Zeppelin, the original "Free to Be You and Me" album, Peter Paul and Mary, Evelyn Glennie, The Limeliters, Moxy Fruvous, the alphabet song as performed by Elmo (courtesy of YouTube), and Dvorak.

Two and even some three word phrases abound these days: "More oatmeal please," "egg omelet," "high hopes," bummer, dude" (Neil has been teaching him that one), "new cup," etc. The other day he made a brave attempt at saying "creme brulee," although he far overshot the number of syllables.

This afternoon Neil took Ben for a walk down the street to the cemetery, where they made a snowman. Ben had a blast.

Ben's receptive sign vocabulary: more, all gone, mommy, daddy, play, eat, ball, hurt, diaper, cat, dog, water buffalo, hippo, turtle, mouse, horse, fish, milk, water, bath, up, blue, and of course cookie.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

So long, Cousin Euclid

I'm mildly bummed. There was a really interesting discussion on cicircle recently of the origins of the Connexin-26 mutation that causes non-syndromic deafness. (Ben's deafness is caused by Connexin-26 -- see this old post.) The most common form of this mutation is a single basepair deletion of G at nucleotide position 35, hence the name 35delG. And it turns out that this particular mutation probably originated in ancient Greece. Which I thought was really cool -- as a mathematician, I'm more or less professionally obligated to venerate the ancient Greeks. I was already imagining Euclid or Pythagoras in my family tree.

Until I looked back at Ben's genetics report and realized that he doesn't have the 35delG mutation. Oh, well.

Ben has two variant types. One is a 1 basepair deletion of T at position 167; this so-called 167delT deletion has a higher carrier frequency among Ashkenazi Jews. The other is a massive 14 basepair deletion from nucleotide positions 313 to 326. The carnage, the humanity. It would be really neat to find out when and where these mutations originated. No, it doesn't change anything. I just like to think about things like this.

I'm sure my mother (a genealogist) has already uncovered lots of other interesting characters in our family tree. But no Pythagoras, alas.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Yet more debate (courtesy of Jodi's blog)

You should again check out this post from Jodi's blog. In particular, read the comments section. You get a good feel for the concerns and perspectives of the various parties, as well as the tenor of the debate (which at times is very strident).

Just a smidgeon of back-story: The 1880 Conference of Milan was a pivotal point for deaf education. A.G. Bell himself was at that conference and led the charge for an exclusively oral approach, and many people blame him for the disastrous effects this had on deaf children during much of the 20th Century. The A.G. Bell Society has traditionally promoted oralism and has done much to support families (educationally and financially) who pursue this route. My understanding is that it has often taken a very adversarial anti-ASL position in the past. These days, as noted in some of the comments on Jodi's blog, it takes an officially neutral position with regard to ASL.

For the sake of full disclosure, we are members of the A.G. Bell Society. I like their newsletter. Interestingly, there are many ads in it for deaf schools that promote sign, TC, and cuing, so whatever bias the Society supposedly has against these practices does not extend to their advertising policy!

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Top Ten Tips for developing language in children

Okay, here's the short version. I'm planning another post in which I describe my mother's Language Soup approach; that will be basically an elaboration on some of the items in this list. All of this (except for #10, of course) applies equally well to hearing children, but I think it's especially important for d/hoh children. Now, obviously I'm not an expert on any area of child development, and my practical experience with all of this is limited to exactly one child. Also, I'm not claiming that any of these tips are easy to carry out. Even some of the ones that sound easy (like #1) are surprisingly challenging and exhausting in actual practice. That said, I humbly offer up my Top Ten Tips:

1. Talk to your child. From day one. Even when you know he can't hear you. Yeah, it's a bit demoralizing sometimes, and it takes a lot of stamina. Do it anyway.

2. Pause and listen. Even when you know he's not going to say anything. It helps to teach turn-taking, and one day he's going to surprise you with a response.

3. Read to your child. As I mentioned in another post, we introduced books to Ben very early on. He usually wasn't interested, and he'd push the book away. But we kept at it, and by 3 months he loved books.

4. Narrate. "I'm putting the ball on the table. Do you see the ball on the table? Uh-oh, the ball rolled off the table. Where is the ball? The ball is on the floor. It is by the sofa. I'm picking up the ball. Do you want the ball? Here's the ball. I gave you the ball." (ad nauseum)

5. Use rich language. "The ball is under the orange blanket, which is hanging over the end of the sofa," instead of "The ball is there." "Can you help me by not throwing the diaper on the floor? That is unhelpful. No, we're not ready to get down yet," instead of "No -- stop that." My mother says that too many children show up in kindergarten having heard very little besides short commands and simple nouns.

6. Point and gesture. Make connections between the words you are using and the world around you.

7. Make connections. If there's a hippo in the book, get the hippo stuffed animal off the shelf and talk about it. If there's a line in a song about rain, get out the book that shows it raining on the bunny and talk about it. If your child is interested in the kangaroo, look for pictures of kangaroos online.

8. Praise and acknowledge anything that even remotely resembles progress, even if you know it was purely accidental.

9. Teach some elementary signs, like "more" and "all gone". The Baby Signing books by Child's Play (e.g. ISBN 978-1-904550-39-6) are great. Beware -- many of the trendy baby sign books actually have incorrect signs. Get an ASL dictionary so that you can check accuracy.

10. If your child wears hearing aids or a CI, use them during all waking hours. I'm sure you've heard that from everyone, and with some kids it's extremely difficult. Ben has occasionally had Issues, but for the most part he's a pretty compliant aid and CI wearer. These days he asks for them by pointing and saying "on". Very cute.

A good resource is the book Baby Talk: Helping your hearing-impaired baby listen and talk by Victoria J. Kozak and Betsy Moog Brooks, ISBN 1-931480-00-1. Okay, so that wasn't as short as I expected. I do tend to ramble on -- just ask my students. If you got this far, thanks for reading!

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

More on the sign/oral debate

Jodi Cutler del Dottore has a 12 year old son with a CI, and she writes a really cool blog. Here's a link to her latest post with a lot of discussion afterward in the comments about whether parents should teach sign to their deaf children: