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Confidence boost

Tae kwon do lessons with family help deaf girl overcome bullying

Tae kwon do lessons with family help deaf girl overcome bullying

October 06, 2006|by TIFFANY ARNOLD

Noelle Robinson and her classmates were being tested by instructors at the All Star Karate and Kickboxing Gym in Hagerstown.

To earn a red belt, Noelle, 11, of Hagerstown, had to break a board by doing a swiveling back kick on one leg. She watched as a few of her fellow purple belts were unsuccessful on their initial attempts at breaking the board, but Noelle wasn't nervous.

Her parents told her through sign language that her turn had arrived. Noelle has been deaf since birth. The move required power, precision and, most of all, confidence, instructors explained to the tae kwon do class on test day.

Noelle shattered the board on the first try.

"She's definitely become more confident," said her stepmother Kimba Robinson, 38.

Noelle has mastered confidence since she started taking tae kwon do with her stepmom, dad and 5-year-old little brother, Howie, more than a year ago, her parents said.

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"Noelle had been saying for years that she wanted to learn (tae kwon do)," said her father, Doug Robinson, 36. "We thought it would be something we could do as a family."

Now a sixth-grader at the Maryland School for the Deaf in Frederick, Md., Noelle said there was a boy who used to pick on her after class, tugging at her book bag and calling her names. "I'm not sure why he did it," she said in sign language, with Kimba Robinson interpreting.

But after taking tae kwon do, she had the courage to do something she would have otherwise avoided. "She stood up to a certain bully," her father said.

It happened late in the previous school year. She didn't fight the bully, but she let him know to back off," Doug Robinson said.

Kimba Robinson said the lesson in confidence carried over in other aspects of Noelle's life. "When I take her to the grocery store and she has to go to the bathroom, I would say, 'There's the woman at the counter, ask her where it is,'" Kimba said. "What happens if something happens to me and she has to take care of herself?"

Last year, Noelle got a cochlear implant, which allows her to hear and interpret noise in a different way. Last month, Kimba said, Noelle heard Kimba laugh for the first time.

"I was in my room laughing at something," Kimba said. "Noelle came in the room and said, 'You were laughing, weren't you?'"

Noelle said in sign language that, despite her disability, she would never want people to feel sorry for her.

"She's just a normal kid," her father said.

Noelle said she enjoys drawing, playing soccer and watching Elvis movies - particularly "Blue Hawaii." (FYI: Her parents happen to be avid Elvis fans). Scary movies are a close second. Her dream job is something involving animals, especially dolphins, her latest fancy. "I love animals," she said.

Her favorite hobby, though, is tae kwon do.

Noelle has earned the red belt, three levels away from the black belt, the top color.

"I like it because it's fun, because I can protect myself against bullies," she said. "I want to learn how to kick high and be a good fighter. I want to get a black belt."

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