Magnolia Speech School & UMC team up to better serve deaf childr - - Jackson, MS

Magnolia Speech School & UMC team up to better serve deaf children

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JACKSON, MS (WLBT) - Magnolia Speech School has officially merged with the Communicative Services Department at the University of Mississippi Medical Center. The goal is to completely follow through with services to hearing-impaired children -- UMC on the technical end of hearing, and Magnolia on the application of that technology.

There's a reason Magnolia Speech School is called a 'Speech School.' There's a whole lot of speaking going on, even though the students are all hearing-impaired.

Interacting daily with her students, Mary Alford has been teaching hearing-impaired children at Magnolia Speech School for 13 years.

"I love my job," she says. "It's great, especially with the babies, getting to hear those first words."

It's a gift that not every hearing-impaired child in the state has access to, something that could change beginning at a child's birth.

"One month have them screened. Three months, identify the hearing loss and by six months, have them in a treatment of some sort," said Dr. Ian Windmill, chief of Communicative Sciences at UMC.

Windmill and Magnolia's executive director, Anne Sullivan, have formally collaborated to work together to first restore as much hearing as possible and then learn how to use it to the highest potential.

"We can provide technological treatment and medical treatment very well, but there's more treatment than that necessary -- what I refer to as intensive communications treatment," Windmill said. 

There are a couple of obstacles in accomplishing that, however. One is identifying these hearing-impaired children early so they can begin treatment. Sullivan says the partnership with UMC will help greatly with that.

The second challenge is reaching those needing the service.

"We actually have parents driving from Greenwood, Meridian, McComb every day of the week, and we don't want them to have to do that," Sullivan said. 

Both Sullivan and Dr. Windmill say the plan will better serve hearing-impaired children in Mississippi by getting them in the mainstream quicker.

It's a step young Courtland Collins is about to make into public school. Blind since birth, the toddler exchanges simple communication with his teacher, Mrs. Alford, while describing a photo. 

"We are riding a tractor. Courtland, did you ride a tractor? Who did you ride with?"

"Daddy's tractor," Collins responds.

"Parents come in with very little hope. We're able to say hey, we can get your child where they can hear. Get them to talk and hearing those first words is priceless. It makes my job worth every minute of it," Alford said. 

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