Hard of hearing students sound off on experiences at Lane

By Adina Garneata

Voices. A faint, continuous humming in the background. It is difficult for Leslie to make out what they are saying, but as they get closer, it gets easier for her to read them. Ethan sits across from her at the lunch table. Someone approaches the table and they both look up at the person’s mouth, waiting for the words to formulate. For Leslie and Ethan, their eyes are their ears.

Leslie Williams, Div. 353, and Ethan Cook, Div. 353, are hard of hearing/deaf. They communicate through talking, sign language, and reading lips. Both of them developed their hearing problems when they were very young.

“When I was around three years old, I got Scarlet Fever. After that, it became hard for me to hear,” said Williams.

“One day after I was born, I got really sick,” said Cook. “That is how I lost most of my hearing.”

At Lane, Cook and Williams are part of the Hearing Impaired Program. There are 12 students in this program, and three of them require interpreters to accompany them to all their classes: Williams, Cook, and Carla Arrleta, Div. 265. All three of these students attended Bell Elementary, where sign language is part of the curriculum.

Ms. Seifert is the interpreter that works with Williams and Cook.

“One of the best parts of my job is just spending time with the students, and being exposed to all of their classes. It’s like I’m learning things all over again,” said Ms. Seifert. She became an interpreter because her aunt had the same profession.

The other interpreter, Ms. Flie, goes with Arrleta to her classes.

“I became an interpreter because my sister is deaf,” she said. Ms. Flie also revealed that next year, Lane will start a Sign Language Club.

Williams and Cook have known each other for five years, and have all their classes together at Lane.

“They fit right in,” said Dr. Dossing, their Biology teacher. Dossing stated that while she sometimes gives Williams and Cook alternative assignments, they usually do the same work as everyone else.

“We mostly talk to each other,” said Williams. “But all the other students in our classes are really nice to us. We have no problems with anyone.”

However, Williams and Cook said that at Bell, they had numerous problems with the other students.

“Some of the kids that weren’t hard of hearing would take advantage of us,” said Cook. “They would make other deaf kids teach them bad words in sign language, and then they would make these signs to us. I don’t know why. We never did anything to them.”

Cook also described how, at Bell, he would play football with other kids and some of them would be mean to him. They knew that he could not hear everything they were saying so they would use that to their advantage when playing.

“We would get into a lot of fights,” said Williams. “But it’s not like that here [Lane].”

Ms. Flie worked at Bell for 16 years before she came to Lane. She said that a lot of the hearing students are not used to being around deaf students, which often causes some of them to treat them differently. However, she never saw any mistreatment.

Williams and Cook both said that being hard of hearing does not bother them.

“I can still hear,” said Williams. “Even though it’s not very strong, I can also talk.”

Cook finds it funny when people call his name and do not know that he cannot hear them.

“I only notice them if they shout really loud or if they are close to me,” said Cook.

Williams and Cook are already looking forward to the future. She wants to be a doctor and he wants to be a video game designer or hockey player.

“I love hockey. My favorite team is the Black Hawks and my favorite player is Cristobal Huet. He’s awesome,” said Cook, while sporting a Huet jersey. He said that his lack of hearing is not an obstacle when playing hockey.

Being hard of hearing may force Williams and Cook to have an interpreter, but it does not stop them from doing things that they enjoy. In the end, they ultimately decide what they want to do, and nothing can stop them from pursuing their dreams in life.