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Bill Aims To Help Children With Speech Problems

By Jeffrey Hess | Published 13 Feb 2013 11:37pm | comments

Thousands of Mississippi children with speech and language disorders could soon be able to choose where they want to go to school. MPB's Jeffrey Hess reports the Mississippi house has passed a bill to screen for speech problems and let those students transfer to schools with proper training.

Thousands of Mississippi children suffer from speech disorders like stuttering, difficulty producing certain sounds and other impairments.

As a young student, Representative Nick Bain of Corinth was one of those children with a speech problem.

"I can tell you hopw frustrating it was not being able to tell someone just wanting something to eat," Bain said.

Bain says he was six years old before he was able to be understood.

"I can still remember how frustrating that was and I can remember my mother looking at me and saying 'don't give up. Keep going. One day you are going to stand in front of a microphone in front of a group of people and they are all going to hear your words'," Bain said.

House Bill 896  is intended to screen for these problems and allow  students to transfer to schools that might be better able to treat their disorder.

Representative Toby Barker of Hattiesburg says the bill is similar to a law approved last year that extended testing and limited school choice options to students with dyslexia.

"The good thing about getting these students help on the front end is that it only goes through grade six. But if you get that child corrected before grade six, you can usually introduce them back into the regular public school setting at or above grade level," Barker said.

The students could choose to transfer to another district or a private schools with a specialized speech program, with their state money following them.

Some expressed concern that this bill will only help a limited number of students because it does not expand speech programs in public schools, and there are only three private schools in the state with these specialty programs.

The bill passed the house 111-to-7.

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