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Released March 5, 2004


HATTIESBURG -- Jacob Alford, 4, has 'found his voice' thanks to The University of Southern Mississippi's Children's Center for Communication and Development.

A student at the center since he was 5 months old, Alford was diagnosed at birth with a condition that consists of deficient psychomotor development. He was therefore referred to the center so that his developmental growth could be monitored. The early intervention services that Jacob has received include special education, occupational and physical therapy, and speech-language therapy. During the past four years, Jacob has spent a significant amount of time developing effective communication skills.

Since verbal communication continues to be the biggest barrier to overcome, other means of communication have been taught, such as gestures, signs and picture symbols. Recently, Alford was evaluated to determine whether he would be a candidate for special communication equipment, and he demonstrated great success using the device during testing. With this device, Alford now has a 'voice.' He can tell his teachers or family "I want my drink" or "I love you."

"The Children's Center has helped so many children from our county and around the state. They are a blessing sent from God," says Alford's mother, Josie Alford.

Though Alford could sign these concepts before, the reality of his ability to audibly 'say' these words made him beam with excitement. He is now almost five years old, and help from the center will continue. He will be transferring to his local school in Lawrence County in the fall. With help from his speech pathologist from The Children's Center, Alford, his parents, and his teachers at his new school will learn how to use his new communication device so that he can effectively communicate with others in his environment.

Alford's success at the center is not unique. After several years of intervention at the center, Hannah Southerland made her successful transition into the Lawrence County public school setting. She, like Alford, uses a communication device to verbally interact with others. "The teachers at The Children's Center saw so much in Hannah and built on that and made it possible for her to be where she is today," said Southerland's mother, Tina Southerland.

Both Alford and Southerland's families are currently supporting The Children's Center in a one-time major fund-raising campaign. The center is selling raffle tickets for a donated Browning B-80 12-gauge Ducks Unlimited shotgun still in its case. Monies received from this raffle and generous donations will be combined to help the center raise $350, 000 to modify building space to make it appropriate for their very special children, graduate students, families, and trainees. These modifications will allow The Children's Center to continue to make a difference in the lives of the children it serves and the thousands of children who will ultimately be served by the graduates and practitioners who receive training for this very special population.

If you would like to help, raffle tickets may be purchased from either family or at Office Machine Center and Lawrence County Sporting Goods. To give a tax-deductible donation, contact The Southern Miss Children's Center for Communication and Development at (601) 266-5222.


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April 20, 2004 4:09 PM