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November 12, 2002

Art helps kids relate to hearing-impaired

From: Columbus Ledger-Enquirer, GA
Nov. 12, 2002

Artist captures plight of students
Staff Writer

Mary Blaeholder wants to make one thing clear about her son:

"There's nothing wrong with Charlie; his ears just don't work well."

Now, thanks to caring and creative teachers at Midland Middle School, that message soon will be prominently displayed in the building.

Monday, students and parents gathered in Jane Anthony's seventh-grade English class to see Carol Crocker unveil her artwork. Crocker has been a hearing-impaired interpreter in the Muscogee County School District for eight years. She works with six children at Midland, which is the school district's middle school for hearing-impaired children.

In the pencil drawing, a group of students wait at a school bus platform. Four of them are talking and laughing together; the fifth, the one with the hearing aid, stands alone, longingly looking at the group. Crocker wanted to depict what it feels like to be deaf in a hearing world.

From the rave reviews, the drawing does that -- and more, hinting at a universal lesson: "I think any middle school child feels like they're the only one to look like they do, feel like they do, so we all understand what it's like to be different," said Linda George, the school's guidance counselor.

"Yeah," added Katie Powell, a seventh-grader. "People make fun of me because I'm little."

Crocker got the idea when Anthony asked her to help the students delve deeper into Columbus native Carson McCullers' novel "The Heart is a Lonely Hunter," which was celebrated during last month's Valley Reads program. One of the book's main characters, John Singer, is deaf.

"It just seemed to click," said Crocker, who also is a professional artist. "From the loneliness of John Singer to what I see here with children feeling so isolated, I wanted to show that somehow. But I wanted it to be subtle."

Because deafness often is a hidden disability.

"Deaf people don't have crutches or wheelchairs," Crocker said. "I wanted to show they look like other kids, but there still is a difference."

Crocker explained why she chose Charlie, a seventh-grader, to pose as the deaf child in the drawing. "Well, he's cute, for one thing," she said with a laugh. "Charlie's hair also is short, and I wanted the hearing aid to show because there wouldn't be any other way to tell he is deaf in the drawing."

Asked what he thought about being in the artwork, Charlie smiled and signed, "Proud."

Anthony selected the four other seventh-graders to pose as the hearing students in the drawing, representing a cross section of the school's demographics: Serene Alexanderson, Darrell Beckley, Chad Liscar and Katie Powell.

When the drawing was unveiled, the adults in attendance oohed and aahed.

"Art communicates on many levels," Anthony said. "Without using words, art can communicate feelings."

Hearing folks should include deaf people as much as they can, Crocker said. "It doesn't really matter what you're talking about. They can gesture if you don't know sign language. They just want to feel like everybody else."

Charlie's mother, Mary, said, "That doesn't happen enough. There's not enough awareness."

© Columbus Ledger-Enquirer, GA