Apr 13, 2020 [Subtitles available in English & Spanish | Subtítulos disponibles en español y inglés]
Video Description Link: https://tinyurl.com/twuqh9f
A male uses sign language.
My undergraduate degree was in business management, fitting because I was born and raised in New York City. While in high school, I worked toward a career in business. And I eventually decided to major in accounting. People kept telling me they couldn’t envision me working in an office all day because they felt it would be more suitable for me to work with people.
A teacher suggested that I go work at a camp for deaf children. That experience allowed me to learn that I wasn’t partial to one particular age group, but I enjoyed interacting with a variety of ages. So I entertained the thought of becoming a counselor for deaf and hard of hearing children.
Text: Carlos Aponte-Salcedo, Social Administrator
I’m now the coordinator for the school mental health team and PBIS or Positive Behavior Intervention and support. We provide one-on-one counseling services for about 20 to 25 students kindergarten through 12th grade. 90% to 95% of deaf children are born to hearing families. A very low percentage of these family members learn sign language. Families typically send their child to a residential school for the deaf where staff become their caretakers and advocates.
Sometimes, meetings happen among the school staff, student, and parents with an interpreter present. The student may communicate their goals and frustrations. The student typically shares what they are considering for their future career, what subjects they are struggling with, or other goals they’ve set for themselves. I have seen families cry as they realize their child has dreams, thoughts, and feelings. They are really seeing their child for the first time through an interpreter.
Without an interpreter, there has always been a language barrier. We have families who speak Spanish while their children use American Sign Language and English. We have trilingual interpreters who can provide communication access between the student and their families. Here at my school, we have families who speak 26 different languages.
Some students age 14 and older move here from other countries. When they go to school, they are language deprived. That means at 14, 15, and 16, they are acquiring language for the first time. Imagine a student with only two or three years of language in school now having to advocate for themselves during an IEP meeting, which is already overwhelming enough. In those instances, we utilize a deaf interpreter so that the student has at least some access to the information.
When students come to see me for counseling for the first time, it’s most often due to behavior difficulties, communication barriers, or struggles understanding themselves. A student may continue counseling for a year, three years, or sometimes six years.
Before a student’s sessions are terminated, we look back on our work together. We review the notes and comments made by the student, reflecting on their journey and seeing how far they have come to better understand themselves.
Some students end counseling feeling they have accomplished knowing themselves better, having better coping strategies, learning how to accept things as they are. Other students continue to have challenges and struggle to meet their goals. Either way, that progress of their journey is critical in order for the student to try to understand themselves as they navigate their way through the challenges in a hearing world.
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© National Deaf Center on Postsecondary Outcomes
Video licensed under Creative Commons BY-NC-ND 4.0 International