Class hadn’t started yet, so Ross leaned across his desk and whispered,
“What’s your name?”
The new boy ignored him.
Ross tried again. He tapped the boy on the arm. When the new boy looked
over, Ross smiled and asked more loudly, “What’s your name?”
Again, the boy just glanced at Ross, then stared down at his desk. The boy
shuffled his feet nervously and chewed his fingernails.
This is weird
, Ross thought. How hard is it to at least tell me his name?
Ross was a bright and friendly student in the Year 6 class at Amaroo
School, and it bothered him that the new boy seemed nervous and unhappy.
Something was wrong—and Ross was determined to solve the puzzle.
He got up, stood in front of the new boy, and said, “What’s your name?”
The new boy looked frightened and shook his head. H e touched his ears,
shook his head again, and looked anxiously at Ross, hoping he would
Ross realized what the problem was. The new boy was deaf!
Ross grabbed a piece of paper and wrote, “What’s your name?” He showed the
paper to the boy, who smiled now and wrote, “Isam.”
Ross was delighted. He wrote, “Hello, I’m Ross. Where are you from?”
But before Isam could write any more, the teacher came into the room and
“We have a new student with us today,” Ms. Middleton announced. “His name
is Isam, and he has come from a school for those who are deaf. He can’t
hear anything, but that doesn’t mean he can’t learn. He has an interpreter
who will talk to him in sign language and help him with his classwork.”
A woman came in just then and sat down with Isam. Ross watched in
fascination as she ”talked” to him with her hands. Ross had seen people
talking in sign language on TV, but he’d never met anyone who used hand
signals to speak.
At recess, Ross grabbed his notebook and pencil and signaled for Isam to
come with him. They went out to the playground and started writing notes to
“What’s your favo rite sport?”
“Where do you live?”
“Did you come to school by bus?”
The boys chatted through writing, but it was frustrating.
“Look at that bird over there,” Ross wrote. “We’re not supposed to feed it,
but we do sometimes.”
He handed the note to Isam, who looked around for the bird, but by this
time the bird had flown away.
“It’s crazy ,” Ross said to his mother that night. “We really can’t talk
well like that. It takes too long. I want to learn Auslan [ the Australian
sign language] . Do you think I could have lessons ? Please?”
His mother was surprised but delighted that Ross wanted to help his new
friend. “I’ll see what I can do,” she promised.
She and Ross talked to Isam’s interpreter, who laughed with delight at the
“Sure thing.” The interpreter beamed at Ross. “That will be great if you
can learn to talk to Isam. He’s a bit shy, and it’s taken him a while to
agree to come to a normal school. I’m proud of you for wanting to help
Ross learned fast, and soon the two friends were happily ”chatting ”
“This is great,” Ross signed to Isam. “We can say anything we like, and no
one else knows what we’re talking about.”
The boys laughed—until they noticed Ms. Middleton look ing at them.
“Watch out,” Isam signed. “The teacher is watching.”
“Better get our books out,” Ross signed. “Want to come to my place after
“Sure. I’ll catch your bus, and Mum can pick me up from your place, ” Isam
Ms. Middleton approached the boys.
“I’m so glad to see you helping Isam with his work, Ross,” Ms. Middleton
smiled. “That is, if you really are helping him with his work, eh, Ross?”
Ross grinned and winked at Isam.
“It’s a bit of a problem,” Ms. Middleton sighed to one of the other
teachers after school that day. “I don’t know what those two are up to
because I can’t hear them when they ‘talk’ behind my back, and I can’t
understand Auslan, so they could be talking about anything and I wouldn’t
Her friend laughed, but they both agreed that Isam was lucky to have found
a friend who would take the time to learn how to communicate with him.
“I’m going to nominate Ross for the Fred Hollows Humanity Award,” Ms.
Middleton exclaimed. “I think he deserves to be recognized for what he has
In September of 2016, Ross Kelly received the Australian N ational A ward
that is given each year to a Year 6 student who shows outstanding care and
compassion for others. Ross was asked to nominate a charity to receive a
$5,000 donation. H e chose an eye health education project in Cambodia.
“My family thinks it is pretty cool that I am learning sign language, and
I’m teaching them as well,” Ross says. “My little brother is learning it
now and keeps asking Isam to teach him new signs.”
Isam is happy too. He has become more confident and recently joined Scouts
so he could be with Ross. He is extremely grateful to have found a kind
friend like Ross.