What is the backstory of your business?
The Memphis Oral School for the Deaf was founded in 1959 by the late Mr. and Mrs. John Tayloe. They were the parents of a child born profoundly deaf. At the time, the only nearby oral deaf education program was in St. Louis, Missouri, and having the desire for their child to learn spoken language, enrolled him in the program 5 hours from his family. The Tayloe's made it their goal to create a local oral deaf program so that families in the Mid-South could have access to intervention and early childhood education focused on developing spoken language. With the help of the Exchange Club of East Memphis, deaf children in the Mid-South began receiving services to develop listening and spoken language skills.
In the fall of 1974, the Memphis Parent's School for the Deaf and Aphasic underwent a name change, becoming Memphis Oral School for the Deaf. This change helped to further emphasize a program teaching oral communication skills. In 1986, MOSD moved into the Boling Center for Developmental Disabilities, located within the UT Medical Center, as emphasis grew on early intervention, parent training, and early childhood education.
MOSD is one of 37 OPTION programs of its kind in the world and the only one within 200 miles of Memphis. It is the only program that offers specialized listening and language therapy for children birth to 2 years of age and is the only school in Shelby County with a primary focus on developing listening and spoken language skills for children who are deaf and hard of hearing.
MOSD professionals have more than 200 years of combined experience in the fields of Deaf Education, Speech-Language Pathology (as well as Auditory Verbal), and Audiology. Audiologists, highly skilled speech language pathologists and oral deaf educators focus on the individual needs of each child. MOSD also employs the only bilingual Auditory-Verbal therapist in our region, helping to diversify our outreach among Hispanic populations. Our highly skilled and qualified staff believes the opportunity to build a spoken language foundation for every deaf child promotes success and independence. Recognizing that there is a direct correlation between a child’s ability to hear and cognitive development, MOSD collaborates with statewide partners to help identify and serve children with hearing loss as soon as possible in life and supports the EHDI 1-3-6 model for identifying hearing loss and enrolling children in intervention.
The mission of MOSD is to Empower Deaf Children to Listen, Learn and Talk. No sign language is used. With early identification, proper amplification, and early intervention, even the most profoundly deaf children can gain the listening and spoken language skills comparable to their hearing peers. Our goal at MOSD is to serve every child who is deaf and hard of hearing in the Mid-South early in life so that they may mainstream into kindergarten with their hearing peers and lead an independent life.
Tell us your role in the business: first-person
I am Lauren Hays and I serve as the Executive Director of MOSD. I became the MOSD Executive Director in March 2018 having previously served MOSD as Development Director since 2016. I understand the importance of community support in our efforts to serve children with hearing loss from all over the Mid-South. Ending a 10-year professional career in television, I aim to increase community support through my established Mid-South networking platform and hope that everyone will come to realize the life-long impact MOSD programs make in the lives of children who are deaf and hard-of-hearing. I am actively engaged in the Mid-South community and am a graduate of Leadership Germantown, Class of 2018. I am passionate about raising community awareness about MOSD programs and reaching parents of newly diagnosed children with hearing loss. Most importantly, I am the mother of a child who is deaf and hard of hearing who graduated from MOSD. I am excited to give hope to other MOSD parents since I have experienced the miracle of my child talking every day. I am proud to be an advocate for MOSD to spread the impact of MOSD programs to the community.
What are the biggest challenges?
Every year in Tennessee, 1 of every 333 babies from all ethnic groups and socio-economic levels, is born with permanent hearing loss. It has been clearly proven over the last few decades that with early identification, appropriate and aggressive audiological intervention, and immediate training by skilled professionals, even the most profoundly deaf children can develop and effectively use hearing to learn to listen and talk.
The cost to provide high quality early childhood education at MOSD is more than $50,000 per child annually. Children receive 30 minutes of daily speech therapy, 30 minutes of aural habilitation (listening therapy), on-site audiological support and intensive classroom instruction. The MOSD Preschool is accredited by the Tennessee Department of Education and serves children ages 2-5. Students who are amplified early and begin our programs as an infant are able to progress at age-appropriate rates similar to a child with no hearing loss. MOSD staff believes that every deaf child should be given the opportunity to build a spoken language foundation for a successful and independent future, especially for children born into poverty that might already be vulnerable to future limitations. The ultimate goal is for each child to enter kindergarten with their hearing peers, never needing to rely on a sign language interpreter.
This year has been one of the most challenging chapters of our school’s history. The unprecedented global pandemic disrupted our traditional teaching methods and created a significant amount of fear in our educators. Through the engagement and support of our MOSD Board of Directors, we developed protocols and procedures to help us navigate safety concerns. We promptly learned to overcome and adapt to the challenge by creating teleintervention strategies for delivering classroom instruction, speech therapy, and aural habilitation virtually. MOSD recognizes that virtual learning is unavoidable in some scenarios during the pandemic, but an optimal learning environment for a child with hearing loss is to gain instruction in-person. MOSD has made every effort to remain open following CDC guidelines to provide these essential services in a safe manner.
What are the biggest rewards?
Taking part in the miracle of giving the gift of sound and speech to our students is just one of the incredible rewards for our teachers and staff. Many of our students do not speak at all when they begin attending MOSD and when they graduate, they are carrying on full conversations. Taking part in this journey alongside our families, empowering parents to be their child’s best advocates, and strengthening the family as a whole is also extremely rewarding. Helping each child reach their fullest potential and go on to enter mainstream kindergarten is the greatest reward of all.
How does your business give back to the community?
MOSD gives back to the community by teaching children to listen and talk without the use of sign language or interpreters. This saves the community millions of dollars as children are able to mainstream into kindergarten without the need for costly special education.
MOSD is proud to say that in our 60-year history, we have never turned a family away because of their financial circumstances. We serve children from all socio-economic backgrounds and have a diverse student population.
If your business is in Germantown, why did you select Germantown?
Prior to moving to Germantown, Memphis Oral School for the Deaf was located downtown for twenty years. As our school continued to grow, we started searching for a property that we could purchase so that the school could have its own building. Thanks to a personal connection between the school’s director at the time and a member of Kingsway Church, we were fortunate to have the opportunity to build our school on the property of Kingsway Church.
In March 2007, MOSD found a permanent home in Germantown, Tennessee. An 8,700 square foot facility was constructed specifically designed with acoustic elements to create an optimal listening and learning environment for hearing-impaired children. The Assisi Foundation committed $250,000 towards the success of MOSD in the new Germantown location and generously supported our capital campaign in 2019 to help MOSD become an independent entity. MOSD purchased the property at 7901 Poplar Avenue in June of 2019 - a milestone in our school’s 60-year history.
Has your business received any recommendations or awards?
Germantown Chamber of Commerce selected us as the Non-Profit of the Year in 2015.
How has being a Chamber member helped your business?
Being a member of the Germantown Chamber of Commerce has helped MOSD strengthen our relationships with the community and with other businesses. We appreciate the hard-working staff at the Chamber for providing this opportunity for us to share MOSD’s story with the community.
Is there anything else you would like to add about your business?
To help sustain our mission, MOSD relies on foundation support and donations from the community. We host two major fundraisers each year, our SpeakEasy Gala in the Spring, and our Golf Tournament in the Fall. We also host several smaller fundraisers throughout the year to ensure that we can continue providing the high-quality early intervention services and education that our students need. For more information about how you can participate in our fundraisers and support MOSD, please visit our website at www.mosdkids.org or call our Development Director, Lindsay Larson, at (901) 800-1003.
Memphis Oral School for the Deaf is bringing you a full month of auction “May Mayhem” to celebrate 10 years of the SpeakEasy, presented by Pickler Companies. Bid online ALL month of May on the best auction items in town featuring hot air balloon rides, autographed Grizz gear, and short weekend getaways. Then join us on Saturday, May 22nd at 6:30 pm for a live virtual event featuring music by Nick Black. You will have a chance to win a great prize and become a Hearing Hero to help deaf children learn to listen and talk at MOSD. The best part? It’s FREE FOR YOU to join in on the bidding fun! Sign up to bid TODAY HERE and learn more about our organization at www.mosdkids.org.