And so, just days before Axel's surgery, we met again to discuss observation reports and determine how to best meet Axel's needs in the next school year. With surgery looming and just days away, school decisions, bonding issues....this was a lot of stress at one time. I promised myself I would NOT cry during this meeting. Most who know me will say I am NOT usually a crier, and yet the people sitting around that table had seen me cry at every single meeting, and heard me struggle to maintain composure on every single phone call. Please God, just this once, let me be tear free!
The observations from the DHOH staff were all the same. Axel's communication needs were not being met in the classroom. There were times when Axel would...in sign... initiate conversation with staff, and either they didn't notice or they didn't understand him. There were other times when staff initiated conversation with him but they either forgot to sign, or signed incorrectly so Axel couldn't understand them. By early afternoon, Axel would stop communicating and start acting out instead. Please remember, this is NOT the fault of the classroom staff! It would be like expecting your child's regular ed. teacher to suddenly learn ASL overnight. It's just not possible.
We discussed options such as an ASL interpreter. Axel does not have the ability to access an interpreter at this time. He can't understand this person is signing what that person is saying. Its too confusing for a child at Axel's level. We discussed the possibility of a classroom aid who is fluent in ASL. (there are a few in the district) That brings the question of who would be teaching him, and who would be assessing him? Neither of these options allow for Axel to have free and natural communication with his peers or classroom staff. The Dhoh staff recommended that Axel go to the ASL program. (Despite my prayers, I'm pretty sure I was crying by this point.)
If Axel had even the slightest hearing loss, the decision would be easy...he could go to the ASL immersion program in the neighboring district.
But Axel hears.
In the end the district agreed to write the referral to the other program, but because it's a program for deaf students, the other district has the option of rejecting the referral. Those seats in the classroom are meant for students who have hearing loss, not kids like Axel.
Two weeks ago I found out, informally, that Axel has been accepted into the other program! Not only that, but they are EXCITED to have him there! Just like me, they can't wait to see Axel SOAR with this new and constant exposure to a fluent language model. I know our home district is excited as well. There will still be kinks to work out, and behaviors to work through as Axel realizes that everyone there can understand him even when he's yelling at them in made-up signs. LOL