It’s the early 1950s. You’re a new parent and filled with all of the excitement and emotion of your new baby. You sing to him and talk to him in whispers while rocking him to sleep. You dream of what life will be like from this point forward and all the things you’ll share together. Fast forward six months, and you get the news that your perfect baby has profound, permanent hearing loss. You refuse to accept what doctors tell you is the new reality – that you’ll need to send him to a special school in a distant place where he will be relegated to a sign language community; that you’ll need to learn sign language in order to communicate with him at all; that he’ll live in a small and quiet world. You think, “This can’t be the only way.”
That mom was Libba Matthews in Jackson, MS. She took matters into her own hands and started a school right there in her home. She taught her son Keith to read lips and to speak verbally so that he could live a large and colorful life and join mainstream society, largely unhindered by his lack of hearing. The school in her living room became Magnolia Speech School and has been growing ever since. As technology has advanced, so has the mission and scope of Magnolia. The unique goal of Magnolia is the opposite of student retention. Rather, we want to empower children to “graduate” to mainstream classrooms with their typically-developing peers as early as possible.
To illustrate, meet Dempsey
Price and Laurel had two healthy, typically-developing children when they welcomed their third child. They soon entered uncharted territory when Dempsey was diagnosed as profoundly deaf. With a great team of doctors, Dempsey received cochlear implants at the early age of 10 months old and started receiving services from Magnolia Speech School. Now he is almost 3 and is as active and chatty and boisterous as any precious two-year-old you’d imagine. He is quickly catching up with speech and language development and is on track to join typically-developing peers in mainstream classrooms. He will have the same opportunities for education, career, hobbies, and relationships as his siblings. He is a shining example of Magnolia’s mission statement “to enable children with hearing loss and communication disorders to develop their full potential through spoken language and literacy.”
Why am I sharing all of this with you? Magnolia operates as a not-for-profit that depends on private donations. The actual average cost to educate a child at Magnolia is $28,000/year and I likely don’t need to explain that this is not attainable for the vast majority of families. Believing that speech and oral language are every child’s birthright, children are not denied admission based on financial status. Aside from operational budgetary needs, the school’s location is less than desirable and is arguably becoming a safety liability. I’m proud to share that we have already purchased and paid for land in an ideal location to serve the students who come to Magnolia from near and far. We’ve raised over $8million of the $10million needed to build a state-of-the-art facility, maximally conducive to unlocking the potential of our students.
shows what is to come – If only Libba Matthews could see this incredible legacy that grew from her tenacity and determination to give her child limitless potential! Considering that 9 out of 10 deaf children are born to hearing parents, Magnolia offers an option unlike anything else for moms and dads who refuse to change those dreams whispered in the rocking chair. This new building allows us the opportunity to create new revenue streams and more ways to provide services to more families, creating long term financial sustainability.
Join Magnolia in empowering these children and their families to blow the doors wide open on possibilities for their lives; not only by teaching them to speak and to read, but also by enriching their lives with the music and the sounds all around us that the hearing world all too often takes for granted.
Grace Sturdivant, Doctor of Audiology
Magnolia Speech School Board Member
Owner OtoPro Technologies