Last Friday when I arrived to pick up Lei at school, I was called into a small room off the office. I found my girl sitting hunched over with the hood of her turquoise sweater pulled up over her head. Big tears dripped off of her chin.
The case manager, an energetic young Dutch woman, and the boy who is in Lei’s Big Group Project group were there, too. I’ll call the boy John. He’s bright and quirky, which I hoped would bode well for the two of them. I sat down next to Lei and put my arm around her while the case manager explained to me what she had already called John’s mother about.
Was it one who told great stories? Or one who told you that your career as class clown could take you to the stage? Or one who sent you a hand-made card when you were sick? Maybe it was one who challenged you to think big?
Ask anyone who their favorite teacher was and why, and they will give you a name and a story—each different and completely unique.
“He’s just a normal kid, the only difference is he can’t hear.”
The tattooed, goateed dad watching his two hearing daughters and hard-of-hearing son run around the playground of a sun-drenched School for the Deaf was talking about his two-year-old boy, a little younger than Lei at that time. We were both there for a Preschool Institute for deaf and hard-of-hearing children and their families. I wondered if his easy confidence came from being a more experienced parent.
Or the petite, dark-haired mom of an 11-year-old deaf girl, who I met through the summer day camp for deaf and hard-of-hearing kids. She told me her daughter “was a really calm baby, and she’s still really easygoing. Gets along with everybody. She’s just a normal kid.”
I smiled and nodded. Inside me a voice was saying, “Lei’s not just a normal kid.”
In the multi-purpose room all the fifth grade families are sitting at lunch tables, listening to a presentation that explains about the Big Group Project our kids are about to start working on. I am grumbling under my breath.
Group work is my daughter’s nemesis. This is one of the areas where the challenges of being deaf and gifted complicate each other so much that two plus two seem to equal five.
My daughter attends an International Baccalaureate (IB) school. Her school is great in a lot of ways – organic food, inquiry driven learning, top-notch IEP team – but all the emphasis on group work puts her right up against one of her biggest weaknesses almost every day.