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Little Lighthouse Shines Big Light on Kids with Special Needs

Jackson, MISS— Playing with a purpose. Individual goals. Little Lighthouse has a unique approach for developing the minds of Mississippi’s children with special needs.

When you walk through the doors of Little Lighthouse, you hear the sounds you hear at every daycare.  Children clapping, playing, toys going off, teachers leading the class in songs and crafts; but the difference at Little Lighthouse is that every single kid has a unique need for their development.

“We serve special needs children from birth to six years old,” says Tammy Tadlock, Special Events Coordinator at Little Lighthouse, “it doesn’t matter the diagnosis as long as there’s a developmental delay. We are there and willing to help a family.”

Little Lighthouse provides personalized instruction for kids with special needs when they’re in their early developmental years. When therapy is required, this is a pivotal time. With medical bills, therapy and medications, parents of children with special needs have expenses other parents may not have to deal with. Little Lighthouse understands that.

“We are tuition free,” says Tadlock, “there are a lot of expenses for parents. Their child’s education shouldn’t be one of them.”

The curriculum at Little Lighthouse is much different that your typical pencil and paper lessons.

“We play with a purpose,” Tadlock says. When News Mississippi was at The Little Lighthouse, the kids in one room were playing with piles of shaving cream on the table. Tadlock says it is more than just a mess.

“It’s a sensory exercise. They get to touch the shaving cream, see it, smell it,” then Tadlock chuckles a little, “some even try to taste it, but we stop that.” It is a scene not much different than your typical kindergartener curious about the flavor of Elmer’s.

The classes at Little Lighthouse are not divided by age, but by the needs of the children and their individual goals.

“The therapists help with placement,” says Tadlock. But every class has one thing in common. They learn sign language. “Verbal and non-verbal kids learn sign language. It helps them communicate before their words come.”

Chelcie Wilbanks drops her daughter Mackenzie off every day at Little Lighthouse. 3 year-old Mackenzie has a rare disorder called Genitopatellar Syndrome.

“Her right brain hemisphere can’t communicate with the left,” Wilbanks says. Mackenzie is currently learning to use her hands for finding and feeling things at Little Lighthouse.

With no federal funding and providing free tuition, grant money and fundraising are essential to the school.  Little Lighthouse has a goal of $50,000 dollars to meet a year—this year an anonymous donor says he’ll match what they raise.

“We would like to expand and have satellite schools,” says Tadlock, “we could better serve the whole state. I had a student once that was brought here every day. A two hour commute one way.”

If funding is raised, expansion is possible. But more equipment is a necessity.

“We need Ipad tables, so the kids can’t harm the Ipads,” Tadlock says they were gifted with several Ipads loaded with educational programs for the kids.

“We also need light tables,” says Stephanie St. John, lead teacher at Little Lighthouse, “They light up in different shapes and colors and teach our seeing impaired children how to notice new things.”

News Mississippi is proud to help Little Lighthouse. You can learn more about Little Lighthouse and how you can help here

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