To celebrate Better Hearing and Speech Month, we are highlighting CID alumna Allie Lane who was diagnosed with a mild to profound hearing loss at the age of three.
Allie attended CID in St. Louis from 2005-2009, graduating at the age of seven and entering a mainstream second grade classroom at City Academy. Now a senior at John Burroughs School, Allie is ready to graduate and start the next chapter of her life. But first, we chatted with Allie as she reflected on her time at CID and in a mainstream school setting.
We’re thankful she’s able to share her valuable advice for other students with hearing loss.
You attended CID for 4 years. Do you have a favorite memory of your time here?
I absolutely loved the plays and performances that we presented for our families and the CID community. I have one distinct memory of my class and I singing “Yellow Submarine” by The Beatles. We wore huge, fluffy scarves that made us feel very fancy. It was hilarious! I always looked forward to the plays. I loved working with my classmates and acting our hearts out. We helped to create the scenery from scratch, spending time in the art room painting and gluing the sets.
I have many other favorite memories of CID; it was my home for four years, and I absolutely loved my family there. I visit the school whenever I can to say hello to the teachers and for nostalgia purposes.
You transitioned to a mainstream school setting when you were starting the second grade. What was the biggest challenge you encountered at your new school?
The biggest challenge I faced at my new school was getting used to the fact that I was no longer surrounded by deaf people. Instead, I was the only deaf person in my school. This forced me to learn how to take responsibility for making sure that I advocated for myself. I had teachers who weren’t familiar with how to teach deaf children, and I had to step outside of my comfort zone to ask for help and tell them what worked for me in the classroom and what didn’t work. It was definitely a life-changing experience. During my transition, I learned many things about self-advocacy and courage.
CID students who are preparing to graduate often express that they are nervous about being the only student in their new class with hearing devices. How did/do you advocate for yourself in the classroom?
In the classroom, I often sit close to the teacher or request to be in the front row when they decide to change the students’ seats. Whenever someone, whether it is a teacher or a fellow classmate, asks me a question about my deafness, I always answer with full honesty. A key piece of advice I have for the students who are transitioning into a new classroom is: don’t be afraid when someone asks you questions about your devices or experiences being deaf. I understand that it can be an uncomfortable situation, but the more you’re comfortable with the subject, the easier it is to talk about it with anyone. When you’re comfortable, it also becomes easier to make sure you’re receiving the help you need at school. At both City Academy and John Burroughs School, I gave speeches to the entire school about being deaf, raising awareness about the struggles deafness can bring and teaching everyone what it’s like to be deaf. This helped tremendously with making people feel comfortable asking me questions. I love questions; they allow us to gain further understanding on something that we don’t know about!
Over your years of wearing hearing devices, there have been many advances in technology. What hearing technology has been the most helpful in the classroom? When socializing?
For a while when I was in grade school, I used an FM system. The FM system allowed me to directly hear the teacher during class, and it blocked out the surrounding noises in the classroom. This was very helpful, especially when I had two hearing aids, but after I got my cochlear implant, I phased out using the FM system and just relied on my hearing/lip-reading. I never use any technology while I am socializing, except for using the notes app to have people type out what they’re saying when I’m in a noisy environment. Often, whether it’s in the classroom or in a social setting, I find it more useful and enjoyable to use my lip-reading skills in order to understand what people are saying. This is purely a personal preference, but I always love reading people’s facial expressions, and I’m able to communicate with people across the room without needing to hear their voices.
You’re getting ready to graduate high school, and CID has several students getting ready to graduate and enter a mainstream setting. What is next for you? What advice do you have for the 2021 CID graduates?
I’m going to the University of Missouri- St. Louis (UMSL) this fall and will be a student in a joint program with Washington University for civil engineering. I’m excited and definitely very nervous to begin this new chapter in my life! My main advice for the 2021 CID graduates is: be yourself! Never be afraid to stick up for yourself, and don’t let others make you feel ashamed of who you are. I’m proud to be deaf, and I carry that pride with me everywhere. It’s okay to be different than those around you – it just makes your experience more unique and more exciting. There will be hard moments in the future, but those struggles will only help you to grow stronger and more confident. Don’t shy away from any challenge, embrace who you are, and always be open with people who are curious about your deafness (or just simply don’t understand it). I found that talking with others about my deafness helped raise awareness and made my experiences with people in both the school and social setting significantly better. I firmly believe that communication is very important with building connections and helping others understand. Without communication, we are unable to broaden our knowledge and step outside of our comfort zone, whether it’s interacting with someone who’s different from us or finding solutions to any problems we may face.
Thank you, Allie, for sharing your memories, insight and advice. We wish you the best of luck as you start this new chapter in your life, and we can’t wait to hear about all of your future accomplishments!