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Deaf & Determined

December 10, 2010, 10:14 PM by Katie Janssen

HARRISBURG, SD - Imagine being trapped inside your own body; able to think but not communicate clearly. A KELOLAND teen who was born deaf, is now going blind, and is also autistic faces that every day, but his teachers say his biggest handicap is being a teenage boy who's trying to finish high school.

Jorden Curran has made some huge strides in the past few months, thanks to the Harrisburg School District.

Seventeen-year-old Curran learns the same geography lesson as his classmates; he just gets his information a bit differently. He relies on his intervener, Lynda Nix, to be his eyes and ears, because his own are failing him.

"I've got just small holes I can see through and I don't know why,” Curran said. “I've got Usher Syndrome and it's a genetic thing. I don't know why but I ended up with it."

Curran was born deaf, but started losing his vision at age twelve. Eventually, he'll go blind.

"I'm a little frustrated with it, maybe a little bit sad even and sometimes angry because of it," Curran said.

He communicates using American Sign Language, among other things.

"Very expressive; body language, sign language, and he's very clear about communicating his wants and needs," said Nix, Curran’s intervener.

Curran came to Harrisburg after the district took on students who used to be served by the South Dakota School for the Deaf, which closed its main campus. Just before Harrisburg, he attended the Minnesota State Academy for the Deaf or MSAD in Fairbault but was having a hard time.

"Last year I was a junior and going to the deaf school,” said Curran. “I felt lonely there, kind of sad. I'd call my mom and tell her that I'm sad and I don't know why. I'd lost some weight and I was feeling pretty down."

Currran's family, who lives in Flandreau, decided that home was the best place for him so he now commutes to Harrisburg every day.

Curran is the only deaf high school student at Harrisburg; the other students are at the middle school and elementary school levels. Nix says he's changed so much since the beginning of the year and matured as a student.

"I think he feels comfortable here, I think he feels equal,” said Nix. “I don't believe he sees his disability as a barrier."

Curran gets good grades and is mainstreamed in two classes: geography and business writing. It’s no easy feat considering his first language isn't English; it's sign language. Nix says the biggest adjustment has been socialization, but kids have been good to him.

“Some of the kids, the girls are very nice. I'm very popular with the girls, do a lot of flirting with the girls," Curran said.

But plenty of boys are friends, too. Dallas Stewart knows sign language and has no trouble striking up a conversation.

"I'm nice to him, treat him as if he was like me,” Stewart said. “I picture myself in his shoes and be nice to him."

But Curran won't be in Harrisburg much longer. During Christmas break he and his family are moving to Fairbault, and Curran will again attend MSAD.

"I prefer being around more deaf kids, and there's no deaf kids here," he said.

Nix says where Curran came into Harrisburg scared and overwhelmed, he's become a young man with confidence and is now ready for whatever's next, maybe eventually college.

"He's got hopes and dreams,” she said. “He may need to modify them a bit but I really believe he'll be employable. He just has to figure out what it is he wants to do. He's a very determined young man and will succeed."

Curran has a younger sister who also has Usher Syndrome.

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