Back to School: Greenfield student with hearing loss graduates to mainstream school

  • Ally Deso, 14, of Greenfield, receives a hug from Lila West, a teacher at Clarke Schools for Hearing and Speech. Contributed photo

  • Ally Deso, 14, of Greenfield, poses for a photo in front of her locker at Hampshire Regional High School, where she starts as a freshman next week. Contributed photo

  • Greenfield resident Ally Deso gets ready for her first day of school by packing her backpack. Contributed photo

Staff Writer
Published: 8/30/2019 6:43:01 PM

GREENFIELD — Fourteen-year-old Ally Deso of Greenfield is nervous for her first day at Hampshire Regional High School.

But, as a recent graduate from Clarke Schools for Hearing and Speech, she said she also feels prepared to be more independent.

Ally has profound, mixed hearing loss. She wears a hearing aid on her left ear and a CROS device on her right ear, both of which help her to access sound.

High school poses changes for Ally, like a bigger school and class sizes.

“There are two different floors she’ll have to travel between,” said Ally’s mother, Tammie Deso. “She’ll have to manage her own schedule with multiple teachers, where she used to have the same class at Clarke for six to eight weeks.”

Ally will also have a locker for the first time, too.

She was also one of five eighth-graders who are deaf or hard of hearing to graduate from Clarke’s kindergarten through eighth-grade program at Leeds Elementary School in June. The milestone marks the students’ transition to mainstream schools, with all five opting to attend ninth grade at Hampshire Regional, which has a deaf and hard of hearing program.

“It’s like a school within a school,” said Tammie Deso. “There’s a teacher of the deaf who works and supports students. There will also be students from Clarke who Ally already knows.”

“Clarke’s itinerant teaching service puts an experienced teacher of the deaf at a school several times a week to offer assistance to both the student and the teacher. For many students who are deaf or hard of hearing, this personal attention is critical to success,” said Clarke’s Chief Communications Officer Rachelle Ferrelli. “The itinerant teacher’s expertise on hearing loss and its effect on the learning process ensures that any challenges the student is facing are noticed and addressed immediately.”

Deso spoke to how Ally learned basic skills to help her listen, talk and advocate for herself in school and in life.

“Clarke laid a strong foundation. Ally is a strong girl,” Deso said. “They helped when she was dealing with medical issues. The teachers had microphones that would go right to her hearing aids, and it was like she was being spoken with one-on-one. They’re amazing.”

Claire Troiano, director of mainstream services and educational administrator of Clarke’s kindergarten through eighth grade program, got to know Ally during her 12-year tenure with the school, and is confident that she’s ready for the next step in her education.

“Ally is a quiet giant. She’s small in stature, with a quiet, shy voice, but she is a force to be reckoned with,” Troiano said. “She has a strong will, knows what she wants and will work tirelessly to achieve her goals.”

At Clarke’s recent “Honor’s Day,” Ally received four awards: a language award for poetry, the Shirley Minshall Hewlings Award for creative writing, the Pratt Award for excellence in academic achievement and the Bill G. Blevins prize for character, loyalty and service.

Ally said she’s excited to get involved with different extracurricular activities, like the Human Equality and Intersectionality Alliance.

“I’m a little bit nervous,” Ally said, “but I think once I get established and the pieces are in place, it’ll be good.”

Ally said that while she’s going to miss Clarke, she’s excited for the future, including going to college.

“I think what will get me through high school will be my good sense of humor,” she said. “I got that from my parents. And my sarcasm.”

Reach Melina Bourdeau at 413-772-0261, ext. 263 or


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