Most of us have a pretty strong attachment to our names. It’s one of the main things that defines us, and the surest way to get our attention.
Even in a crowd of people, if you hear someone calling out your name — not looking for you, but for another person with the same name — the automatic response is to answer.
But what if you couldn’t hear someone calling you, and never had? That was the case for Lewis, a 15-year-old student who’d had profound hearing loss since he was born.
When asked what he wanted to hear first, he said “My name. It’s the most important word to me. It’s as though I haven’t got a name (because) I’ve never heard it before.”
Lewis and two other students at Mary Hare were the stars of a documentary that followed them and their stories for a year. “Extraordinary Teens: School of Life and Deaf” came out in 2017, but its lessons still live on.
On its official Facebook page, the school says that “Mary Hare School is the largest non-maintained special school in the UK, educating some 240 profoundly and severely deaf children each year.”
“On the 14th of December at 10pm, Channel 4 is showing their documentary Extraordinary Teens: School of Life and Deaf,” the school posted on Dec. 5, 2017.
“This documentary, filmed at Mary Hare, shows what it is like growing up as a deaf teenager. Told through the eyes of 15 year old Lewis, the film follows him and three other pupils over three terms at the school.”
“Lewis is preparing to be fitted with a cochlear implant that he hopes will help him hear; Andrew applies for the role of Head Boy in a bid to fit in with his peers more; Fae and Mae are preparing to leave Mary Hare for university and to be separated.”
The school’s principal, Peter Gale, hoped that this documentary would help others understand deafness better.
“It is great to be able to show our school and our amazing pupils to a national audience,” he said, according to the post. “I hope if viewers take one thing away from the programme, it will be that deafness is not a learning difficulty and there is very little that deaf people can’t do.”
“As people will see in the programme, we learn through speaking, listening and the written word. Other schools do it through sign language. I think it will be a real shame if reaction to the program is all about communication choices. These young people and their families have chosen what we do. Others choose something different and that is fine.”
“In the film, you get a glimpse of the fact that being deaf can be pretty hard. However, get the support right and there is no reason why pupils can’t fly. I just don’t accept that deaf people are somehow ‘wired differently.’ They have the same hopes and aspirations, interests and worries as other young people of their age. I think the programme shows this.”
Lewis was never guaranteed his hearing. He would go on to get the implant, but it didn’t work right away.
“I hate the word ‘can’t’,” he said, according to the Telegraph. “I hate feeling frustrated. I like to be able to do things.”
Fortunately, he started to hear things — but he hadn’t grown up hearing them, so he had to learn what they were as a teenager. One of the sounds he couldn’t place? Birdsong.
“I recorded the sound and I was thinking, what is this sound? What is this sound?” he said. “And I was shocked to find out that it’s birds. This is the sound. It’s really high but it’s good. I’m really happy I can hear it.”
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