ASL University |
Teenage Deaf Literacy
<<Hi Dr. Vicars,
I have enjoyed your
website and your newsletters. About a year ago I became the stepmom to
the son of my boyfriend when he received custody. Troy is 15 and
profoundly deaf. I have been attending ASL classes for about 6 months
now and am slowly learning ASL (I'm not a visual learner, so this has
been a challenging endeavor!). Troy helps me practice and he is a very
My problem is that Troy's reading is at
approximately a grade 2-3 level. At first I thought that he may have a
learning disability in this area. But, I have since discovered that
reading was not a priority in the former school he attended (grade 1-9).
If the student became frustrated they would just leave them be. He has
been treated as though he is slow and believe me that couldn't be
further from the truth.
Troy now wants to learn to read. His
main motivation is so that he can get his learner's license. His father
and I want his to learn to read to help him deal with a hearing world. I
am wondering about the best way to do it. I have been using some of the
lessons on your website, but in reverse. Meaning that I sign to him and
he writes to me and I write to him and he signs to me. I am finding that
this is a very slow way to teach him. We also have the close captioning
turned on the T.V., but Troy complains that it is too fast. I have also
used primary readers, but Troy feels they are for babies and resents
having to use them. When I request, his teacher will send home
worksheets on occasion, but again they are for 7 year olds. Is there
another method that is more interesting that you could suggest?
Each child is different and
no one system will work for every child...but since you asked me for my
advice in your situation here is what I'd do:
Inform him that
there will be no TV for the next week.
Then that night or the next
day take him to a mega-bookstore. (The kind with a huge magazine
section.) Tell him you will be there for a couple hours and that he
should look around and find something interesting to read--then shoo him
off to look on his own.
After a while find him and let him know that
you are willing to purchase a few magazines for him and you want him to
pick two or three different magazines that he thinks is cool.
he picks out a few magazines...walk him over to the comic book section
and repeat the process. Have him pick out a few comics. (I recommend
Marvel or DC.) Check to make sure the comics do not say "Suggested for
Mature Readers" or anything like that.
Then take him home and keep
that TV off. [The other day I turned off the TV at our house. After the
initial gnashing of teeth the kids went to the long unused game closet
and got out a game and played together for 3 hours!] Make sure he has a
good reading light near his bed and a place to keep or store his
You might consider making him work earlier that day (sweep
the sidewalk--whatever). Then AFTER he does the work let him know that
because he did a good job you want to reward him with a trip to the
bookstore. Do not tell him about it before he does the work. He is to do
the work because you say so not because of some expected reward. The
bookstore trip is after the fact but in his mind will attach value to
the reading material.
Then within a day YOU ask him if you can borrow
one of his magazines. Let him out of the corner of his eye see you
devouring it. Let him see you thinking something is cool. Suppose it is
a bike magazine or a knife magazine...point out two knives and indicate
that you think one is more cool that the other...then have a discussion
about the merits (weight, throw-ability, price).
Get him hooked on
the fact that reading let's him access information about things he is
Then as time goes on you will see which magazines get
dog eared. Those will be the ones to purchase. Make a trip once a month
and encourage him to try a different magazine each month. Continue to
purchase the ones that he reads and drop the others off your list. Find
new or used books on cool topics like "magic." Whatever hobby he
has...take him to the library (get him his own card) and walk him
through the process of finding that topic on the shelves. Let HIM do the
typing on the electronic catalog (Subject Keyword: MAGIC), you sit off
to the side and make him the main player. He touches the keyboard--you
don't. He pulls the book from the shelf. He fills in the library card
application--not you. You might have to look at the application and find
the important words and write them down on a separate paper as a
guide...but he does the actual application.
Then take him every two
weeks to return his books and check out new ones. Make it a ritual and
eventually it will become an awesome habit.
Another bit of advice.
Purchase some board games that involve words. Then take the time to play
them with your son. My wife didn't start speaking and using English
until after age 5. She was basically non-verbal for her first five years
and missed a huge language window. But would you believe Belinda just
finished her Bachelors in Creative writing and is now on her way toward
completing a masters degree? Why? Because her mother modeled reading and
played Scrabble with her constantly while she was growing up.
the games fun for your son. Cook up some pizza or whatever his favorite
food is and get out the game and play it while eating. Associate the
"good food" with the desired activity. Then save desert for after the
game. Make sure to let him win at least half the time. If it is no
challenge for you then let him move two times for every one time of
yours (or some other approach that makes you work for it).
process. Realize he may never become a "skilled reader." That's okay. He
is still a terrific kid and might end up being a wonderful carpenter,
ASL teacher, mechanic, or any other useful work he decides to pursue
that fits his strengths and abilities.
Dr. Bill's new iPhone "Fingerspelling Practice" app is
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