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11-year-old helps pass new law

Ledyard - When Rachel Kane testified in March before the General Assembly's Education Committee, she knew it was a worthy task.

The 11-year-old jumped at the chance to share with lawmakers in Hartford how she has managed to learn and excel in school despite the hearing loss in both of her ears.

She spoke passionately in favor of legislation that aimed to create a Bill of Rights for the state's deaf and hearing-impaired students.

The bill was passed earlier this year as part of the education reform legislation. It requires that deaf and hearing-impaired students in schools across the state receive a proper plan, support and devices for hearing assistance to aid in their educations.

"It wasn't hard because I knew what I was doing was the right thing," Rachel said. "I was saying something I knew was right."

Rachel took another trip to Hartford on Friday to be with Gov. Dannel P. Malloy as he signed the education reform bill into law.

Malloy handed Rachel the first pen he used to sign his name on the legislation. She will add it to a collection that already includes a citation from Sen. Edith Prague, D-Columbia, and Rep. Tom Reynolds, D-Ledyard, for her efforts in helping the bill become law.

Rachel was born in November 2000, a couple of months after the state began requiring hearing tests for newborns. The tests helped doctors discover her impairment, which her family believes may have gone undetected until she was 4 or 5 years old without the early testing.

Now Rachel is a student at the Integrated Day Charter School in Norwich, where her teachers use a microphone that works with an FM transmitter to connect to her hearing aids. Speakers at school assemblies also use this technology.

Rachel has worked with her teachers and her audiologist to learn how to hear more. For instance, she learned to sit with her back to the wall during lunch to help drown out the noise in the cafeteria.

Rachel's mother, Sharon, said the Kane family has come to realize deaf and hearing-impaired students in towns outside of Ledyard, which pays for her daughter's education even though she attends school elsewhere, often go without similar care. That's a big part of why they became involved in the effort to help other students receive the same quality attention and technology.

"When we were standing around (on Friday) waiting for the governor to sign the bill, senators and representatives told her that she was instrumental in getting the bill passed," Sharon Kane said. "It's very important what she did."

Rachel said her visit to the governor's office made her feel "powerful." As for the future, she said she has dreams of becoming an author or creating illustrations for books.

"I think our school has done really well," she said. "I was the first and only kid with hearing loss. I haven't been treated any differently."


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