Different sound

T he projectile voice

of a daycare

provider often is used to get the students attention.

Some are defiant while others move quickly to respond. At a year old, future Klahowya student Arletta Meeker provided neither reaction.

“The daycare provider didn’t feel she was responding the way her daughter did at the same age,” said Meeker’s mother, Lorie.

The provider broached a new concept with the Meekers — deafness.

“We took her up to Western Washington University and had her tested,” said Lorie, adding that the process was prolonged because it’s difficult to test hearing in a young child.

Once the tests concluded that Arletta was deaf, Western Washington helped Lorie and husband Paul with the next step.

“They put us in touch with (infants) to age 3,” Lorie said. “They work on speech and communication. That helped us.

“Washington provides (deaf students) with the ability to start school at age 3. They need every bit of help they can get to keep up. Fortunately, she was diagnosed early.”

Lorie and Paul learned sign language to aid the learning process and to communicate with Arletta.

“We wanted to communicate with her, so we learned sign,” Lorie said. “We talked with deaf adults and they said that was the right choice.”

A choice by Arletta later in life would provide her mother with a new perspective.


Lorie acknowledges that she was an academic during her adolescence with little understanding of athletics.

“I never participated in sports,” Lorie said. “I didn’t see the point.

“Now I do with her. She has motivation to maintain her grades and it has helped her to find some people with similar interests because she’s somewhat communication isolated.”

Laura Periot, a freshman on the Eagles’ junior varsity team, has learned some sign language in an effort to communicate with Arletta. Periot said Arletta has plenty of personality despite her quiet nature.

“Just being around her is a story,” Periot said. “Once in a while, she’ll put out her foot and trip you.”

Periot has fallen victim to Arletta’s antics while performing a layup drill.

“She got me a few times,” she said. “It was embarrassing, but funny at the same time.”

David Tracewell, an English and video production teacher at Klahowya, also has noticed Arletta’s antics.

“You don’t expect that from her because she is like her name, very meek,” he said. “She’s kind of sneaky. It’s easy to recognize that she’s just another teenager.”

Despite being “sneaky” with her pranks, Tracewell said Arletta’s honesty is refreshing. Arletta produced a video on her life for his class, one that Tracewell said was balanced between positive and negative aspects.

“(It’s amazing) how honest she is,” he said. “She went back to her old school and showed some of the additions she didn’t like.”

The presentation also differed from others because Arletta didn’t use soundtracks or any audio.

“Sometimes it would seem limiting if you just had to do visuals, but she doesn’t get down about anything,” he said.

Even on the basketball court where Klahowya finished the regular season with a 1-19 record. The Eagles likely will play their final game of the season Friday against Foster or Orting barring an upset.

That will just mean another transition for Meeker — to softball season.

“I like to play sports,” Arletta said through an interpreter. “I play many different positions on the softball team and it’s kind of easier (to communicate).”

That’s because softball has its own form of sign language through signals from coaches to the athletes.

Lorie hopes Arletta, a junior, will have an easier time communicating from away the softball fields in the future, though.


Arletta carries a 3.2 grade-point average and gained recognition as a seventh-grader at Klahowya by winning Girls Athlete of the Year.

“That was because of her academics,” Lorie said.

Lorie said Arletta is looking to attend the National Technological Institute for the Deaf in New York or Gallaudet University in Washington, D.C., a liberal arts school with all deaf students.

“I would like to see her (go to one of those schools) because she would get a better education by interacting directly through professors,” Lorie said. “But the decision will be hers.”

Lorie said Arletta always has been independent despite being deaf. She said the Department of Licensing forgot to provide an interpreter during Arletta’s driving test, but that didn’t deter her.

“I just showed the instructor a few signs and off they went,” Lorie said.

While training for the test at school, Arletta’s interpreter decided to play a joke on her.

“The first time I drove, my interpreter wore a football helmet,” she said.

Lorie said hearing-impaired drivers actually are better on the road because they’re more focused.

“She likes the radio off when she’s driving,” Lorie said.

Arletta carries around a cell phone to send text messages in case of an emergency, which provides solace for her mother.

“We always worried when she was little if Arletta could yell, ‘Help!’ ” Lorie said.

Arletta is interested in broadcasting and may try hearing aids and speech classes again to communicate better with her peers.

“She took speech class until seventh grade, but she never liked it,” Lorie said.

Hearing aids also can be problematic because they amplify sounds, but don’t necessarily make them clearer, which can lead to a raspy sound, Lorie said.

A lack of sound never has stopped Arletta before, though. A future in broadcasting may provide viewers with a difference sight — an aesthetically pleasing one.

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