Woods Flourishing at Hampshire despite Hearing Impairment

Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL), September 8, 2016 | Go to article overview

Woods Flourishing at Hampshire despite Hearing Impairment


Hampshire football player Trevone Woods is thriving in a communication-reliant sport though he can barely hear a word.

Mostly deaf since birth, the 16-year-old Aurora resident scored his first varsity touchdown in the fourth quarter of last Friday's 54-14 victory over Burlington Central, a moment that deepened his comfort level at his new school.

"I feel wonderful," Woods said through sign language interpreter Jodi Burlison after Tuesday's practice. "This is the right team for me. I have goals to be a better player. I have so many goals. I feel really good being on this team."

A reserve running back and defensive back who wears a cochlear implant, Woods loves football. He said he'd like to play in college someday, maybe even the NFL. "I like to play physical," he signed. "I like to hit people. It's a lot of fun."

The sturdily built, 5-foot-11, 183-pounder is allowed to think big after transferring to Hampshire for his junior year of high school, a critical step in his education.

Since third grade, Woods had been enrolled at the Illinois School for the Deaf in downstate Jacksonville, where he also played football the past three years. He lived in the dormitories during the school year and returned home each summer.

Woods said his mother, Tammy Smith, felt it was time for a change in educational environments. She opted to send him to Hampshire in Community Unit District 300, which is in the second year of a three-year cooperative agreement with the Northwestern Illinois Association (NIA), a not-for-profit organization whose "purpose for existing is to provide special education services across 10 counties in the northern Illinois region," NIA regional director Jon Malone said.

According to Hampshire principal Brett Bending, approximately 25 hearing-impaired students are part of the 1,607-student population at his high school, where the NIA rents two classrooms for specialized instruction. Otherwise, hearing-impaired students attend mainstream classes, accompanied by an interpreter hired by the NIA and paid for by participating school districts.

Each weekday Woods makes the hourlong commute from Aurora to Hampshire in a NIA-furnished bus. He takes two specialized classes for the hearing-impaired as determined by his instructors: World History and English. The rest of his schedule is mainstream with an interpreter.

The NIA also supplies sign language interpreters for extracurricular activities, including football. The main interpreter assigned to Hampshire football is Laurie Eder. She attends games and most practices. Burlison fills in on Tuesdays. Woods is adept at reading lips, but both interpreters make sure he doesn't miss a thing by translating what Hampshire coach Mike Brasile and his assistant coaches say.

Of course, practice is one thing. Communicating within the sometimes chaotic sideline environment of a Friday night football game can be difficult for those with all five senses. Thus, not everything goes perfectly. For example, at one point last Friday night, Brasile repeatedly called to Woods' teammates to get his attention in the huddle so the interpreter could relay an individual blocking assignment.

In-game communication "is the biggest adjustment," Brasile said of coaching a deaf player for the first time. …

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