"Life in Tulsa is hectic for single mom Laura Jones and her son, Manuel," Dacia Harris writes over at the OCPA blog.
Like any six-year-old, Manuel enjoys playing outside and learning to ride the new bike he got for Christmas. In the evening, they read stories and Manuel is starting to pick out words.
When Manuel was born early he spent a week in the NICU, so Laura took 12 weeks off from her job as a special education teacher at a local public school, where she works with kids who have a hearing loss. After Manuel failed his newborn hearing screening, Laura thought, "No … I work with kids that have a hearing loss. My child doesn’t have a hearing loss. He just failed it because he was in the NICU." The family went back for two more hearing screenings to confirm the diagnosis, and when he was four months old Manuel got his first set of hearing aids.
Today, Manuel’s receptive and expressive language skills are on par with any other kindergartner. But instead of attending the local public school—where he would be in a larger class with more distractions and background noise—Manuel receives funding from the Opportunity Scholarship Fund to attend Happy Hands Education Center, a center for families with children who are deaf or hard of hearing and children who have other communication disorders. These scholarships are made possible by a 2011 measure passed by the legislature and signed into law by Gov. Mary Fallin.
"It was nice to know that there was something that could assist me as a single mom," Laura says. "Happy Hands doesn't turn anyone away due to inability to pay, but that there was another organization that would contribute to help Manuel's education was a blessing."
Hear more from Laura and some other grateful parents in this brief video: