May 26, 2019  

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Burgess Cherishes Opportunity to Work with Hearing Impaired Kids

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Dawn Burgess, a new teacher at The Children’s Center for Communication and Development at The University of Southern Mississippi, works with Charles Crowe, left, and Kiera Ysais. (Office of University Communications photo by Van Arnold)

Dawn Burgess spends most of her time working with hearing-impaired toddlers at The Children’s Center for Communication and Development at The University of Southern Mississippi. But the educational process does not end when those youngsters leave the classroom

Burgess, who joined the center to fill a newly created position last August, places just as much emphasis on parental involvement as she does in teaching sessions with the children.

“I implement the strategies and techniques of the Auditory-Verbal Therapy approach which provides early intervention to children with hearing loss by maximizing listening in order to understand speech and to talk,” said Burgess. “One of the guiding principles of this approach is parent participation. Parents are the key figures in their child’s life, so it is important that the parents are involved in their child’s therapy.”

Burgess is currently working with a pair of two-year-olds – Kiera Ysais of Purvis, Miss., and Charles Crowe of Bay St. Louis, Miss., both of whom were born deaf. Jennifer Crowe said making the three-hour round trip twice a week is well worth the payoff her son receives at The Children’s Center.

“Gosh, he’s really starting to talk a lot now,” said Crowe. “She (Burgess) is just awesome. You can tell she really likes working with these kids and they just love her.”

In fact, so much so, that Glenda Ysais has to corral her daughter’s enthusiasm for attending the special classes.

“She’d come every day if she could,” said Ysais. “Whenever I tell her she gets to see Miss Dawn today, she’s ready to go. The thing that really seems to help with Kiera is that she’s getting a lot of one-on-one instruction here. And the days she’s not here we work quite a bit at home because the teacher has provided some instruction for us as well.”

Margaret Buttross-Brinegar, director of The Children’s Center, said Burgess’ position grew from a direct need in the Hattiesburg community to provide auditory-verbal early intervention for children from infancy through age 5 with hearing loss.

“Developing a new class for these hearing-impaired children was a natural next step for the center’s 38-year history as one that has pioneered special education services for our youngest students in Mississippi,” said Buttross-Brinegar.

Burgess, a Yazoo City, Miss., native, earned her undergraduate degree in deaf education at Southern Miss in 2004 and her master’s degree in early oral intervention at Southern Miss in 2010.

Burgess notes that the Auditory-Verbal teaching method involves maximizing the use of hearing in order to learn language and emphasizing the importance of listening rather than watching. Subsequently, optimal hearing technology (hearing aids, Cochlear implants, etc.) plays a vital role and must be worn consistently during the process.

Teaching hearing-impaired children represents so much more than an occupation to Burgess, who defines her role in much broader terms.

“I become more than just a teacher to these children and families,” she said. “For me it is about working with parents helping them develop the skills they need to create ideal environments so that their children can develop listening and spoken language and become independent contributing members of the society we live in.”

The Children’s Center, a United Way agency, opened its doors in 1974 and currently serves approximately 80 children from the South Mississippi area. The center provides a trans-disciplinary team approach to the assessment and treatment of communicatively and developmentally challenged children (birth to 5 years).

For more information about the Children’s Center call 601.266.5222 or visit