A New Hope for the Deaf


ANN KIRKE and I went to school and college together. Last summer I watched the struggle between Ann and her seventeen-year-old boy, Tom. Tom is deaf — 44 per cent loss in one ear, 60 in the other. When Tom was four, Ann suspected it. Now, when he is seventeen, she is certain of it. It has taken her as long as that to be certain of it: constant testing that she knew was not adequate, constant local treatment, constant assurances that Tom was ‘getting better.’

No one Ann Kirke or I knew had a deaf child. No one seemed to have accurate practical information. Doctors continually misdirected Ann. Even the psychiatrist she went to knew almost nothing about the attitude of the deaf child. No psychologist had written a good book on it — sure sign of public apathy and ignorance! If there was no one Ann could talk to, how could she work out her relationship with this boy?

A child gradually comes to accept his handicap because he lives with it. Young Tom Kirke was living with his deafness, but Ann wasn’t. She could not accept Tom as he was. She continually tried to ‘make it up to him.’ All summer I watched her do things for him that it would not have occurred to her to do for an unhandicapped boy.

Tom Kirke is a natural-born lip reader. For years he fooled his teachers and his friends. Now Tom was advancing. Tall, angular, earnest, he was getting life into his hands again, making his adjustment — pale, tight-lipped, but making it. Whereas Ann would gladly have evaded the whole issue, done anything rather than admit her own son was deaf.

As the summer ended I realized that unless Ann forced herself to change her attitude she would plunge her family into ruin. The very fine relationship between her and her husband faltered. I saw a whole family breaking up.

Because of the problem of young Tom Kirke I became ‘ear conscious.’ Ann had said again and again that hearing tests given by schools, doctors, even otologists, often were not accurate or adequate; that unless doctors had seen thousands of ear cases it was impossible to judge the extent of deafness or health of an ear; that every child in the United States should be thoroughly tested by methods established after the most careful clinical research.

On the strength of this I took my own twelve-year-old son, Jimmy, down to the Otological Research Laboratory of the Johns Hopkins Hospital to be tested. There has never been any indication that Jimmy’s hearing was not normal. Our state, Pennsylvania, has passed a law making ear tests for school children mandatory. Yet when Jimmy came to be tested on the great 1A Western Electric audiometer, with its vast range of sounds, he didn’t hear the high frequencies. Next to the high frequencies, those almost intangible squeaky sounds, lie voice tones. Deafness progresses by involving one octave after another toward the low end of the scale. If ever you are to hear those shrill sounds it is when you are a strong boy of twelve. Modern otologists say that impairment of any tone indicates trouble.

Patches of lymphoid tissue lay close to the opening of Jimmy’s Eustachian tube on each side. This tiny passage leads from the middle ear to the pharynx, opening high up in the wall of the nasal chamber. Air comes through the Eustachian tube to one side of the eardrum, and through the auditory canal to the other, neutralizing pressure so that vibrations are the same on both sides of the drum membrane. Block this Eustachian tube, making unequal pressure on the eardrum, and you have impaired hearing.

Jimmy had his tonsils and adenoids removed. He now hears the faintest squeak of a high frequency. If the tissue recurs, he will be treated with radium. Jimmy will be all right. But I kept thinking of young Tom Kirke. I had learned that there were 10,000,000 deafened people in the United States. What if they had been properly tested and adequately treated at Jimmy’s age? Dr. Edmund Prince Fowler’s report states that there are 3,000,000 deafened children in the United States. Ann Kirke had told me she was isolated. I didn’t believe it. I wanted to find out what was being done for ears, for children.

I found a whole other world whose existence I had never so much as suspected.


The 1939 report from the Otological Research Laboratory at the Johns Hopkins Hospital, given by Dr. Samuel Crowe and his associates, is dry and specific. ‘If young school children were examined once a year and lymphoid tissue around the Eustachian tubes treated with radiation, there is the possibility of lessening the number of deaf people by 50 per cent.’

The Otological Laboratory is testing the possibilities and the use of radium. Not cure — prevention. Dr. Crowe and his associates are making a survey of 1500 children from the ages of eight to fourteen, reëxamining, testing, and treating them several times each year, to prove that deafness in younger children can be prevented. Fifteen thousand children and adults with some type of hearing disorder have passed through their hands in fourteen years.

In some children the entire range was affected; in others the loss lay in the high frequencies, the shrill sounds. But that is the first indication of either middle or inner ear deafness, in adults as well as children. With one great difference; in children this condition is just beginning, scarcely noticeable, whereas in adults the structural changes that cause hearing impairment are established. There is little chance, in spite of advertisement and ballyhoo, to do much for the deaf older person. It’s too late. The harm is done.

‘Deaf,’ I learned, is a loose term. As used by the layman, it usually includes children with a 20 per cent hearing loss, those with 40 per cent, those with 40 to 60 per cent, as well as those with from 60 to 90 per cent.

The findings for 1939-1940 of the Otological Research Laboratory are that, out of 1500 children tested, over 40 per cent regarded as normal showed a hearing loss in the high tones, and three quarters of the group had nasopharyngeal conditions that are a potential menace to hearing.

Children are tested every day at the Johns Hopkins laboratory. Brought from six schools, three public and three Catholic, all of them have had their ears tested at school, or by their local family physician. They supposedly have normal hearing.

There was Betty, the eleven-year-old, brought in from a Baltimore Junior High School. This was her third visit. Her former tests showed pronounced ‘dips’ in both ears; in the left, at the high frequency charted by otologists as 4096 double vibrations per second. That is close to the voice range. Betty settled herself back in her chair, snugly. The room was soundproof, the young doctor who administered the test was a well-known authority on ears and children. His hands moved the dials skillfully, testing certain high frequencies again and again to make sure Betty was being accurate.

I remembered Ann’s tales of tests given Tom Kirke by other doctors — tests given in small offices with the trolley roaring by outside, with the doctor’s secretary fumbling at the controls of the audiometer, or perhaps the doctor himself asking Tom if he ‘heard the watch tick.’ Here in this laboratory the doctor sat before the control board of the 1A audiometer. The machine was big, higher than his shoulder. On the other side, Betty, earphones clamped tightly to her head, held fast to the punch button. The doctor twirled his dials, and when Betty heard sound, either high or low, loud or soft, she punched the button, releasing it when sound faded.

Next Betty was tested by the voice audiometer. This is shaped like a victrola, operating in much the same way. A record revolves on a disk, a voice repeats numbers through the earphones. The voice is quite loud at first, gradually fading, sinking to nothing. Recklessly Betty repeated, ‘Forty-four, sixty-seven,’ absolutely confident she was hearing correctly. Most children are.

Upstairs in the nose and throat clinic the doctor examined Betty’s nose through his nasopharyngoscope. He beckoned me to look. Down the tunnel of the instrument and then out into light: adenoids pressed against the red of her nose, outlined like mountains. The Eustachian tube opening on one side was completely covered.

Betty badly needs treatment. She would be a lost child deaf. Fortunately there is radium to shrink these adenoids and prevent lymphoid cells from growing.

Betty was given radium. The treatment takes approximately five and a half minutes. The radon applicator was inserted up her nose without anæsthesia and without pain. Three quarters of the children with less severe hearing losses treated with radium are benefited. I saw charts with hearing losses as high as 55 per cent cut down to 15.

Twenty thousand requests have come to the Board of Health in Baltimore from school doctors for the removal of tonsils and adenoids in public-school children. Using every facility, 2500 children were operated on. Nothing whatever has been done for the remaining 17,500.

Seventy-five per cent of all adenoids that are removed in very young children recur, says the otologist. To keep back the lymphoid tissue by radiation treatment is to tide a child over that period when, for some undiscovered reason, the tissue grows so virulently. Radium reaches the area at once. Fifty per cent of X-ray is absorbed by the skin and never reaches the area most in need of treatment; therefore it is necessary to give an excessive amount of X-ray to check lymphoid tissue. Whereas radium is quick, practical, and effective — like a miracle.

Under the auspices of the Rockefeller Foundation, at a cost of some $25,000 per year, the Otological Research Laboratory of the Johns Hopkins Hospital is evolving a method of testing children and treating them for the prevention of deafness. Information is being compiled here that may change the lives of thousands of children — and parents, too.

Other clinics and laboratories are working on prevention, by testing high frequencies in children, experimenting with vitamins, making surveys of families to determine biologic deafness. There are clinics where women can take their children to be properly tested, and perhaps prevent a hearing handicap — in New York City at the Manhattan Ear, Nose and Throat Clinic, and at the Presbyterian Medical Center; in Minneapolis at the University of Minnesota Medical School; in Boston at the Children’s Hospital; in New York State at the University of Rochester; in Illinois at the St. Louis Central Institute. Outstanding work is being done at the Abington Hospital Otological Laboratory, Philadelphia. There is Dr. Isaac Jones at the University of California, and Dr. H. Marshall Taylor at Jacksonville, Florida.

Schools are slowly realizing their responsibility in the prevention of deafness. The towns of Lowell and Worcester, Massachusetts, maintain their own clinics where the ears of school children are tested as part of the regular school system. Alameda, California, is working towards prevention, and Winnetka, Illinois, is doing outstanding work in testing children.

There are 24,000,000 school children in the United States. The Otological Research Laboratory at Johns Hopkins says that 40 per cent of the 1500 tested by them were found to have a hightone hearing loss. What was happening to the great bulk of American school children?

After prolonged study the American Society for the Hard of Hearing has published a report on hearing conservation in the United States. They found that California, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Oklahoma, Indiana, New York, Pennsylvania, and Washington have laws that provide for the examination of the hearing of school children, compulsory in the last four states. In 1939, 1,871,031 children were tested in the United States. Out of these 6.9 per cent showed a hearing loss, 9363 were advised to see an otologist, 7281 were benefited by treatment.

In the state of California 155,000 children were tested, otological care was recommended, in some instances parents were interviewed. Excellent testing was done in New York City, where the ratio of impairment was high: 13.2 per cent. Ratios differ. In Los Angeles and Boston, 7 per cent were found to have a hearing loss; in Jersey City, 9.2 per cent; in Detroit, 4.6 per cent. These are the roughest sort of figures. It is impossible to be accurate when the method of testing varies, when different kinds of audiometers are used and tests are not rechecked. In some cases tests were given by the principal of a school who was unable to give the test adequately or interpret it intelligently, or by a classroom teacher who had never seen an audiometer before, or by an overworked nurse who was expected to learn as she went along.

Nevertheless, nearly two million children were tested. Over seven thousand had their hearing improved by treatment, or restored to normal. But on the basis that 6.9 per cent of all those tested had hearing trouble, and that 1½ per cent of these were deaf enough to need lip-reading lessons or be sent to schools for the deaf, then 300,000 children in this country should be taught to read the lips. But, adding the 20,500 children now in schools for the deaf and the published report that 17,808 children received lip-reading lessons in the United States, then approximately 40,000 children in America are now being taught to read the lips, instead of 300,000.


When Alexander Graham Bell opened his School of Vocal Physiology at 18 Beacon Street, Boston, he advertised that he was prepared to give instruction in ‘lip reading, the art of understanding speech by watching the mouth, with practical methods of teaching the art to those who are deaf.’ Mr. Bell had vision and a fiery enthusiasm. Ordinarily, in the first schools for the deaf, children were not admitted until they had reached the age of ten. Mr. Bell believed that the education of deaf children should begin as soon as possible. Today, in certain schools for the deaf, children are admitted when they are only three years old. Education of the deaf has advanced since the Bell School of Vocal Physiology. Today there are 66 residential state schools in the country and 128 day schools for the deaf maintained by local and city government. There are also 20 denominational and private schools.

The Pennsylvania School for the Deaf, outside Philadelphia in Mount Airy, is one of the largest residential schools in the country. People in Philadelphia refer to it as the ‘Deaf and Dumb Asylum.’

Asylum? Inside these gray stone buildings 537 boys and girls who are totally deaf, or whose loss of hearing is so great that they cannot continue in regular school, are housed, fed, and clothed. They are educated academically, physically, and morally. Here they are allowed to come at the age of five, sometimes making strange unintelligible sounds, using gestures, and here they can stay until they are twentyone. When they graduate they are equipped with a trade, from their vocational school, and an adequate pre-highschool education. It takes them twelve years to complete nine grades, and it is a long, grueling process.

In large bright classrooms, children who cannot hear a sound, who face a terrifying abyss of silence, who can’t possibly realize that when you move your lips sound comes, are taught to speak, to read lips. Sir William Wilde, the famous Dublin surgeon, father of Oscar, said this: ‘For wealth men have risked their salvation; for fame men have perilled their existence . . . but to me the patient instructor of the deaf and dumb deserves a reward which nothing earthly can bestow.’

Slowly, painfully, the deaf and speechless child is taught to be as other children. He is taught which vibration indicates high pitch, low pitch. His hand is placed on the teacher’s throat as she speaks. ‘Ball . . . book . . . orange . . . spoon.’ He picks up each object to show that he understands. For whispered sounds, like h and sh and f, the teacher breathes on the child’s hand, so that he may feel the breath and imitate. Patiently, kindly, with utmost cheerfulness the deaf children are taught to speak.

In kindergarten they learn their own names. ‘I am Billy.’ They recognize their names on cards; later from seeing the teacher’s lips move. Their sense of touch must be developed by progressive sense training. They are taught to match shape to shape and color to color. To distinguish pitch through vibration they twang a guitar string, raising their hand for high, lowering it for low. They are given tongue exercises to develop the muscles, to make them conscious of the part their tongues take in speaking.

Deaf children are enormously eager. Their eyes cling to the teacher’s face. When they are little, deaf children cannot hear or understand many of the things that are told them; they have to find out for themselves, explore. In a classroom they are very active. The noise is terrific.

From class to class their lip reading and speech improve, slowly, laboriously. Dumb? No one is dumb! They are taught useful things that relate to the life they wall live: simple mathematics, how to make change and keep a budget. They are instructed to express themselves and to tell what things look like. With great importance they say, ‘The leaves are yellow and brown.’ They must be taught how to write a letter home to their parents.

After they have reached a certain age they begin to learn a trade. Here, at Pennsylvania, the boys learn printing, carpentering, harboring, tailoring. The girls learn sewing, laundering, cooking, typing.

The greatest single improvement in the life of the deaf boy or girl is the ‘hearing aid.’ Earphones that are plugged into the child’s desk are hooked up to the microphone in the centre of the room which the teacher uses. Some of these children have enough hearing to distinguish what is actually said through the hearing aid, others distinguish sound in bulk, others simply know there is sound. In this school, 35 per cent of the children can be reached by hearing aids. The fact that they now hear sound has heightened their intelligence and morale. Because their ears are trained to expect sound, their yearly auditory tests may improve.

Educators of the deaf quarrel as to the methods of teaching children. Alexander Graham Bell believed deaf children should be taught in the same classes as children who were only hard of hearing, or even with children who had no hearing loss whatever. Undoubtedly a child who has even a great hearing deficiency must not be treated as the totally deaf child. At the Pennsylvania School they are put in separate classes.

These cheerful, handsomely equipped schools for the deaf do not seem institutional. Parents of deaf children fear the residential school. But let the deaf child languish at home, let the parent say, ‘We can’t bear to part with Johnny — he’s our only boy,’ and you have a boy whose intelligence disappears like water draining into sand.

Naturally, the child who has only partially lost his hearing, who has a high IQ, who is enterprising and tough, can and should stay in regular shool. But he must receive special handling, be given lip-reading lessons, wear a hearing aid if possible, and be properly tested frequently to make certain he is not getting deafer. Many public schools are doing splendid work with small classes of deaf children. But the danger is ever present that the regular school may slide over the deaf child, become used to him, or make an exception of him. In the end he is labeled ‘queer,’ ‘backward,’ ‘retarded.’ The New York State Board of Charities reports a high percentage of deafness in delinquents, sometimes four to ten times as many deaf delinquents as hearing delinquents. The most pitiful of these cases are the boys who, besides being judged delinquent, are also classed as feeble-minded. One youth of twentyfive was found in an asylum for dangerous delinquents. He could not be made to understand and he could not speak intelligibly. He had committed no crime. His attitude was considered menacing. But he had done nothing wrong. He was only deaf.

There was also the deaf boy who was kept in public school until he was sixteen. His mother insisted that although he was ‘slightly’ deaf he spoke beautifully, wrote perfectly. I saw him. His head jutted forward, his mouth hung open. He uttered strange, unintelligible sounds. The words he wrote made no sense whatsoever.

And there was the deaf boy at the Pennsylvania School who said, ‘They called me Sleepy Joe. They wouldn’t let me play football.’ Now he’s on the School team, proudly sports his letter. Deaf children are good at sports, being quick and sure. Scouts make their own uniforms in the vocational school. They print their own Mount Airy World, a handsomely bound magazine filled with good articles and pictures.

The school is largely supported by the state. It also has a private endowment of about $25,000 a year. The term is from the second week in September to the middle of June. Children go home for the holidays, take occasional week-ends.

The Pennsylvania law says that if ten deaf children are found in a district a school must be formed and those children specially educated. As this is not possible, the state sends the deaf child to the state residential school, and pays $620 per capita per annum. The Pennsylvania School boasts three private pupils whose parents pay approximately the same fee as the state.

There are excellent public day schools for deaf children. There is the famous Horace Mann School in Boston, the Detroit Day School for the Deaf. Public School No. 47 in New York City is the largest day school for the deaf in the country. Work is done also in regular public schools. Lip-reading classes are provided for slightly hard-of-hearing children.

Schools for the deaf vary. Some are good, some backward. This is true of any public-school system. Amounts expended on schools range from $365,000 a year to $1510. Improvements include everything from the purchase of a new hearing aid in the Florida School to the addition of an entire Vocational School Building, at a cost of $213,737, in Louisiana.

The United States has 2854 teachers of the deaf. Their salaries range from about $800 with maintenance to $2000 without maintenance, and in some districts go as high as $3800 a year.

The average student in the public school for the deaf cannot afford to go to college or even to high school. He is interested in earning a living. But the boy or girl who is in a better income group, who is alert, whose mind is as quick as lightning, can go to college. There are totally deaf students today in universities. There is also a college for the deaf—Gallaudet College in Washington, D.C., with 160 students. In 1938 the Johns Hopkins University awarded a degree of Doctor of Philosophy to a graduate of the Clarke School for the Deaf who had been totally deaf since childhood. A totally deaf boy got his Ph. D. from Harvard after two hours of oral examination.

In 1877, after receiving special instruction, one totally deaf student in the United States passed the necessary examinations and was admitted to a high school with hearing pupils. In 1899, two were admitted to regular high school and two actually went to college. In 1917, four deaf students went to college and six to high school. In 1939, six went to college and thirty-two to high school. These were the totally deaf who depended entirely on lip reading. In all, since 1877, one hundred and sixty-seven deaf students have gone to colleges and universities, and four hundred and ninety-nine to high schools.


I had seen nothing but public schools for the deaf. What was being done in the expensive private schools? How were the children of more privileged parents being educated? I remembered that Tom Kirke went to a regular private school with hearing children, where no one had the slightest notion of his difficulties. Tom wanted to go to college. Given the determination to use his intelligence to its fullest capacity, this could be accomplished. It meant an almost insupportable amount of work for him. If the program proved too stiff, perhaps a private school for the deaf would be possible.

After many letters had passed, and my credentials as a worthy, socially eligible woman had been minutely examined, I was admitted to one of the most exclusive schools for the deaf, in a most expensive neighborhood, where twenty-five privileged children are taught to ‘take their rightful place in life.’ They are housed, with hardwood floors and spiral staircases, and fed from stainless-steel kitchens, all for the sum of $1650 a year — without extras. Taken with extras, the amount is closer to $2200. The place, I was told, was ‘just like home.’ It certainly did not look like a school.

The students are drilled and trained relentlessly, for they must be equipped with a high-school education. All their time is devoted to study. They will, perhaps, be brokers or publishers or designers or artists. The girls are to ‘have an interest.’ Most important of all, they are to marry hearing people. They are taught to have their own characteristics, never the characteristics of the deaf. The wealthy are paying fat sums for this process of education, and are evidently satisfied with the results.

It was difficult to obtain accurate information about the number of students entering colleges from this school. No one seemed able to remember, or willing to find out. ‘The greater proportion of students . . .’ What did that mean? A report from the Volta Review shows that this school has sent twelve students through college.

Grade for grade, the best public school for the deaf can compete with the private school. But the average publicschool deaf student has no use for a higher education. He is not being educated to be ‘interested in something.’ He spends hours of his day in vocational school. He must earn his own living, take his place in the world. There is no wealthy indulgent parent behind him.

Private schools and some state schools are undoubtedly sending students to college. But the problem of the pupil who comes from a higher income group needs discussing, airing. There is, in the school I saw, a deadening atmosphere of exclusiveness. These deaf pupils were ‘set apart.’ I was not told the names of any of the students, except in a whisper.

If these boys and girls could see what I had seen they would realize that the deaf world is not hidden in careful exclusion, but lies in big modernized schools.


In Washington, Baltimore, Boston, teachers spoke constantly of the Clarke School in Massachusetts and New York’s famous progressive school for deaf girls, the Lexington School. Few schools compared with the Lexington, they said. Here was the finest example of teaching I had ever seen — children perfectly adjusted. Visiting every classroom, I never saw a ‘queer’ child. It was difficult to believe I was in a school for the deaf. There were absolute confidence and understanding between teacher and pupil — a rare thing in any classroom. They were gay, these attractive young women teachers, many of them graduates of Smith, Bennington, Columbia.

Here, as in the Pennsylvania School, there is no tuition charge for pupils appointed by the state. Last year all but two pupils were state appointments. The fee for pupils who are not residents of New York State is $600 for boarding pupils, $375 for day pupils.

The progressive method of teaching the deaf, which is used at Lexington, is harder than the old method, educators say. The teacher must be quick and imaginative. She cannot rely on her handbook.

The exceptionally bright girl, or the pupil who has the advantage of more residual hearing, advances steadily from class to class at Lexington, without regard to semester or age, but depending on ability.

Every classroom in the primary department and a number in the upper departments are equipped with the new Reger-O’Connor hearing aid. With this equipment each child speaks through her own microphone, thus hearing her own voice at close range, instead of through a microphone in the centre of the classroom. This is of infinite importance, as the child then has a chance to distinguish her words, the pitch of her voice.

The Lexington School takes deaf children as young as two. Here little girls of two and three are frequently as advanced as those five and six years old. They have had no time to form any bad habits — even a parent handicap. One child of three had been in the school less than a year. She had been taught by the new progressive method — ‘whole word with meaning,’ instead of the single sound approach. She has a vocabulary of 150 words and sentences. She speaks ten words clearly and can recognize five words through the hearing aid, although she has an almost total loss of hearing.

Teachers College, at Columbia, sends its students to the Lexington School to study this method. Thirteen of them sat watching a lip-reading lesson. Already, before their course is completed, every one of them is placed in a position at a school for the deaf.

Meeting the problem of the deaf child academically is one thing; meeting it vocationally, quite another. Trying to place the handicapped person in a job is a constant struggle. The employer faces added risk. I knew of one vocational school that placed 75 per cent of its boys and girls, but the percentage of placements ought to be higher.

The attitude of the worker is everything. I had seen girls in vocational schools apathetic, slow, discouraged. I had read reports stating that many vocational students do not follow the trade learned in school; they feel there is no opportunity for the deafened to get ahead.

The Lexington Vocational places more than 75 per cent of its students, with salaries ranging from $12 to $30 a week. The graduate worker from here is considered better trained than the worker from the regular vocational school. Classes are much smaller for the deaf, with only ten or twelve students, whereas classes in the regular vocational school have from forty to fifty students. Hard-headed manufacturers sit on the Board of the Lexington Vocational and oversee all work being turned out by the school. It must meet factory requirements.

The school is equipped with power machines identical with those used in a cotton-goods factory. These the deaf girl is well able to manage. Actual production at Lexington is on a factory basis. The students have made 75 skirts for the Red Cross. They clothe 93 of the children in their own school, fitting many of them individually; coats, dresses, and hats are turned out smartly, with the newest gadgets.

They are taught handicraft, millinery, tailoring, sewing, electric soldering (for work in airplane factories), bookbinding, printing, cooking, and homemaking. They learn to budget, to select meats and vegetables, and to know what the wellbalanced meal consists of.

Five hours a week are devoted to a course in vocational adjustment. Deaf people are sometimes stubborn, suspicious, quarrelsome, for the deaf person is shut into himself, even more so than the blind. He is not as dependent, therefore does not appreciate the attitude of the hearing person as easily. The worker must be fully instructed, therefore, on labor unions, industrial legislation, employers’ attitude; also how to get ahead, how to sell himself. When the deaf worker gets a job he must make his work so good that it will pave the way for other deaf people.

Two hours a week the deaf girl is taught personal hygiene — how to give a shampoo, how to dress smartly but simply, the technique of make-up.

When these girls graduate from the Lexington School they are not good deaf people, but good citizens who are deaf.


I had discovered deaf people. I knew what to tell Ann Kirke. I knew what to tell Tom. The problem he faced, being seventeen and adolescent, must remain his own problem. He could not share it, even discuss it with Ann. Parents belong to childhood, symbolize the silver cord children struggle so violently to break. Thoreau said, ‘My friend dwells in the eastern horizon. There he sails all lonely under the sky. . . . But thoughts go out silently from me and belay him. . . . I have a neighborhood to his.’ Tom and Ann were bound by kind — yet wonderfully free.

Ann must see what I had seen. She must bring herself past the point of fear and accept Tom Kirke as he was. She would find a whole new world. Not to be feared — to be sung about! She was not isolated, but had ten million people for company. A goodly company.