La Reina senior was born deaf, but she carries a big stick for school’s lacrosse team
The La Reina student stresses about her homework for Advanced Placement classes. She manages publicity for the Associated Student Body on campus. She’s a tenacious defender for the Regents’ lacrosse team. She even dabbed as she walked offstage after a play during the school’s Renaissance Festival.
“Of course Kiley would do that,” said Nathan Wendt, head coach of the La Reina lacrosse squad. “That’s exactly her personality. She doesn’t care what you think about her. She’s one of the funniest, most creative, down-to-earth people I know.”
Most people don’t even notice the cochlear implant in Gallant’s right ear.
Gallant was born deaf. Her mother, Susan Gallant, said the family didn’t know Kiley’s hearing was impaired until the youngster was 1. Doctors compared her hearing to someone standing next to a jet engine on full blast who only hears a whisper.
Unlike hearing aids, which amplify sound, cochlear implants provide sound signals to the nerves in the brain. With the help of the implant, Gallant is able to hear and understand about 70 percent of information from her environment.
Susan was concerned, just like any parent would be, but Kiley’s come a long way.
“She’s surpassed every expectation I’ve had for her,” Susan Gallant said of her daughter. “She’s done remarkably.”
Kiley Gallant, 18, surprised her mother when she expressed interest in trying out for the school’s lacrosse team. They watched YouTube videos to learn about the sport.
“I was afraid something would happen, but luckily (the implant) is insured and she hasn’t had any problems so far,” Susan said. “It’s worked out well and she loves the game. I’m happy she has a sport she can do with her peers.”
“She’s always loud and in the face of the defender,” the coach said. “When we don’t have her on the field we wonder what’s gone wrong with our defense. The defense loves her. They get mad when I take her out.”
Gallant, who played volleyball as a freshman, has found her niche with the lacrosse team.
She only struggles to understand her teammates when they have their mouth guards in because she reads lips for clarity. Teammates are supportive: They remove their mouth guards to talk with Gallant.
As the only deaf student at La Reina, Gallant said she’s learned to cope with her restriction.
“I don’t see my deafness as a disability,” she said. “I’m just as capable as any of these girls at playing well on the field. I just have different challenges.”
She accepts who she is. She’s deaf, but that does not define her.
“I have a couple of friends that are deaf or hard at hearing,” she said. “They stay negative. It’s really hard to stay angry for so long. It’s something you can’t change. I have an implant, but I’ll never stop being deaf. I think I’ve accepted it and moved on. It’s a part of me and who I am.”
Gallant, who maintains a 4.1 grade-point average, thrives in the classroom. The only hard part is if classmates are chatty or the teacher has their back turned while writing on the whiteboard. Gallant usually occupies seats in the front of class to soak up as much information as she can.
She’s also a member of the Regent Ambassadors. She speaks with parents of potential La Reina students to tell them about the perks of being a La Reina student.
She’s weighing her college options now. She’s leaning toward Rhode Island School of Design, Emmanuel College in Boston or Rochester Institute of Technology. She wants to become an art therapist or psychologist.
Gallant enjoys listening to music in her free time, although jamming to her favorite ’80s music isn’t as easy as pressing play.
“I make sure that I listen (and read) the lyrics first,” she said. “Once I kind of get a feel of the words, I can listen to the song and I can kind of make out the beat and the lyrics.”
She said her favorite song is “Enjoy the Silence” by Depeche Mode.
Gallant doesn’t have to live a life shrouded in complete silence, thanks to medical advances.
She plans on using her experience to motivate other deaf people.
She said the parents of deaf children are the ones that usually need more support.
“I want to help parents that have recently found out their babies will be deaf,” she said. “It’s really hard for parents when they first find out that their child is deaf. Once they see someone like me who’s doing well in school and really excited about everything, I think that will help them get inspired. That’s something I really look forward to.”
Email Jonathan Andrade at firstname.lastname@example.org.