Most teenage athletes can’t stand hearing their coaches scream. Aaron Kirkland welcomes this sound.
“We were told that he would never speak, that’s actually what we were told. When he was 11-months-old, that his hearing loss was too great…” said Jonell Kirkland, Aaron’s mother.
When Aaron was barely a year old, doctors diagnosed him with hearing loss. First it was moderate, then escalated to severe to profound.
“They said, ‘Oh it’s horrible, he will never speak, he needs to go to a special school, AIDB, and that’s going to be the end of the story,’” said Jonell.
The Kirklands knew there had to be another option. They went to more doctors appointments, got second opinions, and eventually met Speech Pathologist, Dianne Steensland.
"He had no speech. He had just gotten his hearing aids. He had no speech. He didn't know what to do with his hearing aids because even though the hearing aids were put on, he didn't know how to listen or hear or what he was hearing," said Steensland.
Aaron and Steensland started with three weekly therapy sessions.
"The child has to be committed to follow through and that is why you see so few like Aaron," said Steensland.
Now Aaron is down to one session every other week. Aaron will be the first to admit, it wasn’t an easy road.
"I felt like I was out alone and nobody will ever be able to understand me. Now that I’m in my high school years, it’s starting to get better. I feel like I have more confidence in myself,” said Aaron.
Aaron is now 16-years-old and excelling in both academics and football at Houston Academy in Dothan. He dreams of being an orthopedic surgeon.
"I don't really ever think of him as being hearing impaired because he just doesn't stand out from anybody else. You know he comes everyday and works hard and gives tremendous effort. He is really an inspiration and leader to our other kids,” said Houston Academy Football Coach Jimmy Addison.
"We have always taught Aaron that you have a lot more abilities than you have disabilities, so we never have use that term. We never even told him he had a disability or talked about it at all in our house until the last few years,” said Aaron's mom.
Aaron receives no special treatment. He’s just a regular kid, who gets yelled at like everyone else if he doesn’t do enough reps.