April 19, 2014  

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Children’s Center Opens Classroom for Hearing Impaired Children on Gulf Park Campus

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Haley Rishel, left, teaches about the weather to four year old students Collin Gonzales, center, and Azlynn Costenbader at The Children's Center for Communication and Development at The University of Southern Mississippi’s Gulf Park campus in Long Beach. Rishel is an early oral interventionist at the center, which provides deaf education and early oral intervention services for children who are hearing impaired and age five years old or younger. (Southern Miss University Communications photo by Charmaine Schmermund)

Children who are hearing impaired and are age five years old or younger are the focus of deaf education and early oral intervention services offered by The Children's Center for Communication and Development at The University of Southern Mississippi’s Gulf Park campus in Long Beach. The Children's Center is a clinical program in the Department of Speech and Hearing Sciences at Southern Miss.

Serving as a satellite program of The Children’s Center, the deaf education and early oral intervention program serves children in Mississippi’s southernmost counties. The goal of the program, which provides auditory-verbal intervention and deaf education, is to develop listening and spoken language skills so infants and children with hearing impairments can maximize their potential both educationally and socially.

“We are excited to work with families, local school districts and the state's First Steps program to bring our comprehensive services directly to the six southernmost counties,” said Sarah Case-Price, the center's director.

Developed to benefit not only the children and families the program serves, both undergraduate and graduate students at Southern Miss are learning from the training and observation available in the classroom.

“The Children's Center has worked for almost four decades building its best-practices-model for serving young children with disabilities,” said Case-Price. “Our model programs give university and college students a chance to learn through observation and to learn through hands-on practicum.”

The program at the university’s Gulf Park campus is set up as a classroom designed to educationally appeal to preschool age children. Additionally, the classroom is equipped with an FM soundfield system for optimal teaching of young children who are deaf or hard of hearing. Infants and toddlers are served by the program’s teacher, and the center's transdisciplinary team, when needed, will visit homes, daycares, hospitals, or other community settings.

The Children’s Center's family-focused approach helps family members learn techniques to support their child's early listening, speech and spoken language skills. Families also learn to manage their child’s hearing technology.

Another benefit for children enrolled in the program is the access students have to appropriate audiological services. Through a loaner bank developed in the university’s Department of Speech and Hearing Sciences, infants and young children with hearing loss are able to have their hearing levels assessed, hearing aids evaluated, ear mold impressions taken, and are provided with backup loaner hearing aids and cochlear implant technology as needed.

“Children who benefit from this kind of early intervention are often mainstreamed into their local school in regular education classrooms with appropriate support,” said Haley Rishel, the center's early oral interventionist who is based at the Gulf Park campus.

The Southern Six, a consortium of special education personnel from school districts across the southern counties of Mississippi, have provided a forum for the presentation and discussion of this expansion of services through the Children’s Center. 

“The Southern Six consortium has confirmed both the need and the anticipated benefits of our services for young children in their districts with hearing impairment,” said Case-Price. “Being at Southern Miss’ Gulf Park campus gives us another way to serve children, train university students, work with professionals, and serve Mississippi communities.”

For more information about the Deaf Education and Early Oral Intervention program at the Southern Miss Gulf Park campus, call 601.266.5222 or email childrens.center@usm.edu.