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Ole Miss helps children with language disorders prepare for kindergarten

“Early intervention is the best intervention,” said Amanda deVere, Undergraduate Instructor and Clinical Supervisor.

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — The University of Mississippi is doing its part to help children entering kindergarten.

The Communication, Sciences, and Disorders Department is focusing on youth who struggle with language.

The commitment takes just two days a week for two hours.

“Early intervention is the best intervention,” said Amanda deVere, Undergraduate Instructor and Clinical Supervisor.

Kids with language disorders prepare for kindergarten.

“Some children are not doing well. They do not have normal language skills. They will have difficulty learning in school because everything is language based,” said Dr. Vishakha Rawool, Department Chair.

That is where the University of Mississippi’s Speech and Hearing Clinic comes in.

Dr. Rawool and deVere help run the Preschool Language Group program.

“It kind of started with… individual intervention with children who were really lacking in social skills, in turn taking skills, in emotional regulation, in playing appropriately with objects and things like that,” said deVere.

Now with a bigger space, they can reach more children.

“Everything we do with the two hours we have the kids is based on a theme. We apply it or generalize it to everything the child does,” said deVere. “We tie that to a language theme. We read about it. We sing about it. We role play about it. We do puppet shows about it.”

It is a structure that also requires Individualized Education Plans, or IEP. Without IEP, students can find navigating language challenging.

“They do not have enough language skills that has made an impact on learning, on socializing because we socialize by speaking with other children, on development because we express our emotions through language, and general education and behavior,” said Dr. Rawool.

Last year was a struggle due to COVID-19.

“Early interventionists were not able to go into the homes,” said deVere. “It was kind of rough coming back from that because those children not only had not received the early intervention services, but in addition, they hadn’t been to playgrounds or to church or to restaurants.”

However, the clinic did bounce back.

“The response has been overwhelmingly positive from our families, for our clients. Most everyone that we have worked with has transitioned into regular education kindergarten. Two of our most recent graduates are entering school, not even with an IEP,” said deVere.

It is an accomplishment that also doubles as a reward.