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For Their Future 40 years and Still Growing

Expansion plans: Page 8

Technology for Tots

How children with special needs are able to communicate now more than ever: Page 12

Tulsa Treasure, Global Impact

How the Little Light House is changing the way the world views children with special needs: Page 14

The Race Against Time

What is happening to the 100+ children waiting to enroll? Page 6

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Making Your Neighborhood More Beautiful

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For Their Future 40 years and Still Growing Expansion plans: Page 6

Technology for Tots- The AT Wave

How children with special needs are able to communicate now more than ever: Page 12

Tulsa Treasure, Global Impact How the Little Light House is changing the way the world views children with special needs: Page 14

The Race Against Time

What is happening to the 100+ children waiting to enroll? Page 5 Expanding For Their Future 1

In this Issue: Little Light House History and Programs - Page 4 Race Against Time: The importance of early intervention - Page 6 Expanding for their Future: LLH Expansion PlansPage 8 Technology for Tots - Page 12 The Gift of Voice: How one child found his voice Page 13 Tulsa Treasure, Global Impact: Training and Outreach Page 14

Special Thanks to: Thank you to Jenny at Jenny White Photography for all photos Rhonda Holland for all graphic design (918)640-0570 Tulsa People Magazine for distribution of this magazine

Thank You to Lawn America for Making This Magazine Possible

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Celebrating 40 years of hope for children with special needs Little Light House Founder and CEO, Marcia Mitchell, thanks Tulsa for 40 years of milestones and miracles, and announces that it’s only the beginning.

Though it was four decades ago, the memory remains clear as the weather was on that beautiful autumn morning of October 3, 1972, when five little tykes with special needs crossed the threshold of the first tiny facility that housed the Little Light House. It was humble beginnings for sure... a small white frame house, a wooden sign with red hand-painted letters and a newly painted interior all done on less than a shoe string budget. For the families entering the doors it was the first ray of hope!

Forty years later, the Little Light House is now referred to as an international model. Now located at 36th and Yale in a 22,000 square foot facility, we have a vision for a 60,000 square foot expansion, tailor designed to meet the needs of our “special kids”.

As I reflect back on our growth over the past 40 years, I am overcome by the remarkable benevolence of the greater metropolitan Tulsa community. Through their generous hearts we’ve been able to offer state of the art, highly individualized services to children with special needs, all on a tutiion-free basis, year after year.

I am amazed and humbled by the power of God and His ability to take a dream and transform it into a local ministry with a global impact, as he has done with the LIttle LIght House. This 40 year journey has blessed me beyond expression, and I look forward to all God has in mind for the Little Light House and the thousands of precious children who will benefit from its services for generations to come.

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A History of Milestones and Miracles The Little Light House at 40 years One might say the Little Light House is all about milestones and miracles. The center has been dedicated to bringing both about in the lives of children with special needs since its inception in 1972. Interestingly, the center has had a few milestones and miracles of its own. A little over four decades ago, founder Marcia Mitchell and her husband learned their baby had a visual impairment. Being an educator, she recognized the need for early intervention, so she, along with another mother of a child with special needs, began to search Tulsa and surrounding areas for a developmental program that could address their needs. But it was to no avail. No such programs existed. At the end of their search, a pediatrician challenged them with the daunting words, “Ladies, if you want this center, you’ll just have to build it yourselves.” Mitchell says, “We had nowhere else to turn except to God, and so with a dream and a prayer we dared to believe God for a 20th century miracle.” Five months later, they had their miracle. They named it the Little Light House (LLH).

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Since that time, the developmental center has provided state-of-the-art educational and therapeutic services to hundreds of children, all on a tuition-free basis. One of the hallmarks of the LLH is its highly individualized services. This has been the case since its inception. When a child is enrolled, parents meet with a diversified professional team to assist in customizing a plan which will help their child reach his or her maximum potential. This professional team is made up of physical therapists, occupational therapists, speech pathologists, an assistive technology professional, a low-vision therapist, a nurse and teachers representing a wide range of specializations. With all these fields of expertise operating under one roof, there is a constant flow of communication between the professionals. “A strong professional team is essential to the success of our students,” says Julie Wilson, Physical Therapist and Director of Therapy at the LLH. “The therapy team flows in and out of the classrooms to work with the children as well as to train volunteers and staff, creating an environment in which our children flourish and reach miraculous milestones.”

This sheds light on why there is such an overwhelming demand for LLH services. Currently the center is at maximum capacity with more than 100 children on the waiting list. These children will likely wait two to three years to be admitted. Some will reach the age of ineligibility before they make it to the top of the list. Recognizing the need for space to serve more children, the center is raising funds for a major expansion to its existing facility. When the expanded facility is at maximum potential, it will accommodate more than double the current enrollment. For more information, see page 8.

Widespread Interest In addition to accommodating an ever increasing number of families requesting LLH services (see page 5), the developmental center has become a training hub to thousands of students and professionals seeking insights and stateof-the-art techniques in working with children with special needs. These visitors are coming from Tulsa and from all over the globe. In the last 12 months alone, the LLH has trained more than 1,000 college students and 10 international

Expanding for their future - The LLH currently serves 64 children daily and has over 100 on their 2-3 year waiting list. interns from China. Requests for training pour in from all over the world. Many are from individuals living in nations with limited resources who want to increase their knowledge in this field. By exposing students and professionals to the potential of children with physical and mental challenges and by equipping them for more effective interfacing, paradigms toward this population change both on a local and global level, giving thousands of children with special needs greater opportunities. For a complete story on the outreach training programs, see page 14.

medical expenses, the LLH has always provided tuition-free services. Its sole support has always come from the Tulsa community and surrounding areas.

Community Involvement

“We have never had just one large donor in our back pocket that we always knew would pull us through in times of need. For the past 40 years we have walked by faith, and time and time again God has provided by touching people in Tulsa to give generously for our children” says Jean Winfrey, Executive Director. Four major annual fundraisers make up the rest of our budget. In addition, we have a significant amount of help from volunteers.

The fact that our city can boast of having this Tulsa treasure is greatly to the credit of the Tulsa community. To avoid adding more burden to the parents who in most cases already have incurred significant

“We couldn’t survive without our volunteers,” says Molly Smith, Director of Development. “Volunteers provide the hands that our shoestring budget doesn’t always allow us to employ, and because of them

our students are receiving one-on-one attention in the classrooms daily. Volunteers allow the students to achieve their goals faster than they would if it were only staff members in the classroom.” The LLH hosts eight Community Luncheons a year. Anyone wanting to learn more about the center is welcome. Guests are treated to a complimentary lunch, a tour of the facility, and a brief presentation about LLH programs and developments. Reservations may be made by contacting the LLH at 918-664-6746. *Note: Mitchell’s book “Milestones & Miracles,” which chronicles the miraculous development of the Little Light House and the children it serves, is available in paperback and hardback through the Little Light House.

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Lily - #54 Waiting since December 8, 2011

Jay’ Lynne Waited 2 years and 9 months

Ethan - #72 Waiting since August 29, 2011

Over 100 Waiting... These are a few of the many children waiting to reach the top of the LLH waiting list. The LLH believes that the earlier children receive services, the more likely they are to develop to their maximum potential. With a two to three year wait due to limited capacity, that potential is in jeopardy. The next few pages describe a solution that can provide hope for their futures.

Wyatt - #48 Waiting since November 15, 2011

Olivia - #85 6 Expanding For Their Future Waiting since May 31, 2012

Jentry - #100 Waiting since August 31, 2012

Race Against Time Over 100 children are at home waiting to receive Little Light House services, and the wait could be affecting them for life.

Eliana - #56 Waiting since January 17, 2012

While 64 students attend school at the Little Light House (LLH), more than 100 children are waiting to be enrolled. The typical wait time for each child is two to three years. For some children this wait can be more devastating than for others, especially for those with certain vision impairments.

Importance of Vision Therapy

Charles Waited 2 years and 11 months

The importance of getting children into the program early is monumental, since there are certain conditions that put the child more at risk while waiting for services. One such condition is a neural-visual impairment known as Cortical Visual Impairment, or CVI, which can actually improve if treated very early in life. CVI is the top reason for visual impairment in school-aged children in the western world. The LLH has a certified low-vision therapist who works on identifying and developing programs for children with CVI. “[With CVI] the infant’s brain has had injury that makes it unable to properly process what the eye is capable of seeing. This neural disconnect between the eye and brain can be rerouted through the uninjured brain with therapy, which enables the child to comprehend what his orher eye is seeing. There is a window of time that is best for improvement to be made, and that time often falls while a child is still on the LLH waiting list,� says Sherry Gurney, Low Vision Specialist.

Waiting List Services Children and families on the waiting list are able to receive education through monthly parent meetings and a program called FLIP, the Family Learning Intervention Program, but the children would be much better served enrolled full-time in the program.

Gabriel - #36 Waiting since August 29, 2011

The following section provides a plan of hope for the LLH children that dramatically cuts the waiting list and increases the enrollment by more than double what the center is currently able to serve. With such a demand for services in Tulsa, the expansion of the LLH is critical to making sure each child has the chance to develop to his or her maximum potential.

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Expanding For Th Planning for a building that will show the world just how valued Tulsa’s special children are. Year round, children with special needs come to the Little Light House (LLH), where they receive the benefit of highly individualized educational and therapeutic programs designed to help them develop to their maximum potential. This year some will take their first steps, others will learn to read Braille, and some will learn to communicate through technology and surprise those who said they would “never” achieve any of those milestones. While these children are receiving stateof-the-art, tuition-free services, more than 100 children are at home waiting for their chance to enroll. Most will wait two to three years before enrollment, and others will reach age 6 before they have a chance to be enrolled, rendering them no longer eligible for LLH services. The burden of such a large and constant waiting list prompted the board of directors to begin the process of researching expansion possibilities. The first challenge was availability of land space where the LLH was currently located. Through a God- orchestrated process, the church that shared the corner with the LLH became available for purchase and demolition, preparing the way for the dream. Architect Mike Hughes was selected to design the plans for the expansion project. Being the parent of a child with special needs (and a LLH alumni), he understood the needs of LLH students and the special accommodations that would need to be a part of the plans. Founder and CEO Marcia Mitchell formed a “dream team” made up of teachers, therapists, administrators and parents. She charged them to dream big regarding what the ideal teaching facility would look like for these children. She wanted a facility that would not only meet their needs but send a message to the world regarding the value of these children. The dream team spent much time in prayer, and its meetings were charged with excitement and enthusiasm as ideas flowed. Extensive research went into the process, addressing issues such as the ideal floor plans for children with autism and how hallways could be designed to help teach blind children how to navigate independently. (Continued on page 10)

8 8Expanding Expanding ForFor Their Their Future Future

heir Future

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Nursing Student at ITT Tech, looks forward to the building expansion and the 2nd floor observatories.

Architect Mike Hughes and his team worked extensively with the Little Light House dream team, and incoroporating their ideas, developed a unique plan, each element designed specifically with special-needs children in mind.

Basic Design and Layout - The Fibonacci Sequence - The LLH started to see a steady increase in the number of children with autism being enrolled and placed on the waiting list. This growing population played a contributing factor in the building’s basic design and layout. The design is centered around the Fibonacci sequence, which produces a “divine proportion,” or curvature, which is the way our galaxy or a nautilus shell is naturally derived. This design is a naturally occurring sequence that helps children with autism and those with vision impairments feel more secure in their surroundings. “The curvature of the building naturally dampens the reverberation of sound,” says Hughes. “Sudden sounds and flutter noise created by long linear corridors are known to frighten students with hearing sensitivity and autism. The curve will also appear to reduce the corridor length and aid students who may have difficulty with visual perspective.”

Spacious, interactive classrooms - The addition of eight

large classrooms, when at maximum capacity, will allow the LLH to more than double its enrollment. These classrooms will be twice the size of the existing classrooms and will accom-

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modate the children’s wheelchairs and other equipment. With the new, spacious environment the classrooms will house the necessary equipment, more students and more volunteers while still complementing the nature of classroom activities. Classrooms will also be equipped with the latest technology, including smart boards and sound-amplification devices for teachers. The devices are imperative for children with sensoryprocessing disorders to be able to focus on the teacher’s voice.

Sensory stimulation room - Special-needs children often have challenges perceiving sensation, making it hard for them to organize and understand what’s going on around them in a large, crowded room. Frequently, children need to be taken into smaller, quiet, light-controlled rooms for special therapy sessions and to work on individual goals. This quiet environment allows a child to concentrate free of the distractions they might find in the typical classroom environment. The sensory stimulation room will accommodate all of these needs. Theater-style observatories - With such an extensive college and university training program (see page 14), all of the classrooms at the LLH have become, in a sense, a “classroom” to students studying education, nursing, social work, and other degree programs. One of the most exciting and unique elements in the building’s design is the addition of four large observatories housed on the second floor. Each observatory will

allow students to meet with their instructors while looking down on two LLH classrooms. A sound system will allow the college students to listen to all that is going on in the classrooms below. Through this process, university students can learn how to work effectively with children with special needs by observing, without interrupting the children’s learning environment.

Activity center - Training conferences for parents, teachers, therapists, and doctors are held at the LLH on a regular basis, but at very limited availability (see page 14). The new activity center will accommodate more than 400 attendees. These conferences allow the entire LLH teaching and therapy staff to stay current on the latest technology and techniques while at the same time offering the benefit of the training to other professionals and parents in the area. These conferences also serve as a revenue stream for the LLH and ultimately make a difference for children with special needs throughout the region. Sensory garden - One of the unique aspects of the expan-

sion project is the inclusion of a sensory garden. The garden will offer a safe environment for the blind, hearing impaired, and children with physical limitations to explore nature. It will also provide experience for all of the senses while including adaptations like Braille, magnifying-glass screens, textured touch-pads, water features, and scented and edible plants.

With a wheelchair-accessible design, this garden will provide a stimulating opportunity for children to gain learning experiences outdoors.

Celebratory Lobby - The architectural renderings allow for

a new and enlarged lobby that will celebrate the children of the LLH in more ways than one. They will view a water wall, a tour of the LLH’s history, a tree house chapel, and a spacious area for guests to gather. The lobby will also serve as a prefunction area for meetings and conferences. The LLH has hosted visiting delegations from all over the world, and often these delegations come from countries where children with special needs are not given the opportunity to go to school, receive medical care, or in some cases, even live. The lobby is designed to make visitors stop and appreciate just how valued and loved children with special needs are in Tulsa. The lobby also provides a glimpse of the sensory approach used to reach and teach children with disabilities.

The entire expansion is a $25 million project that includes the new addition plus renovation of the existing facility. With the help of the Tulsa community and the surrounding area, this dream can become a reality that will positively impact children with special needs in Tulsa, the United States, and around the globe. To learn more about the project visit

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Technology for Tots How children with special needs are using technology like never before A wave of technology has been sweeping the world, impacting businesses, education, entertainment, and every area of life. When it comes to techniques to work with children with special needs, the impact there is no exception. By using technology, these students are able to read, play, learn, and communicate in ways never possible before. The Little Light House (LLH) is not only keeping up with the times, but it is helping to pioneer the practice of using assistive technology in the lives of its students.

Megan Faylor is the Assistive Technology Professional at the LLH and has been working with special needs children for 10 years. “Children with special needs

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often have trouble doing things that typical children can do easily. Reading, playing with toys, eating lunch, participating in class, and even talking are all things that can be made easier for our students with assistive technology,” Faylor says. “My passion is seeing children with special needs participate fully in their school day, from reading to communicating. Many of our children have never been able to turn the page in a book, but with the use of iPads they are able to read independently. I love watching a child explore a communication device for the first time seeing their eyes light up as you react to something silly they have said. The children we work with here at the LLH are capable and eager learners, and it is my delight to foster

that spirit through the use of assistive technology.”

The degree of challenges that the students at the LLH face is far and wide, but whether it’s through the use of iPads, motorized wheelchairs, adapted spoons, or communication devices, there is a device that can give each child the opportunity to participate in class and at home as their typical peers would. Faylor and the rest of the LLH staff is committed to putting these tools into the students’ hands. Through grants, research, and help from the community, that dream is becoming a reality.

Gift of a Voice How one boy found his voice at the Little Light House The Little Light House (LLH) believes that every child should have the opportunity to develop to his or her maximum potential. For Keith Boyd, that opportunity included giving him a voice. Children have an uncanny ability to tell their parents what they want and need, often more times than the parents want to hear. Whether they have complaints, requests, or demands, children will not hold back to get what they want. Kids learn to express their desires at an early age through the easiest form of communication for adults to understand: words. For parents of non-verbal children, reliable communication is often a dream without hope of realization. One of the primary goals of the LLH staff is to help children communicate, often in some very creative and technological ways. Keith Boyd is a graduate of the LLH and uses a device to communicate that he learned to use while he was a student in the program. The device is highly advanced. So advanced, in fact, that Keith doesn’t have to lay a finger on it to make it work. Keith has cerebral palsy. The LLH team knew that Keith’s mental faculties were just as advanced as those of his typical peers, but because of his physical limitations he was simply unable to express himself. While at the LLH, Keith was given a computer that attaches to his wheelchair that requires only the use of his eyes to operate. When Keith looks at a picture or word, his device calibrates with his eyes and speaks for him, giving him his own voice. By putting communication devices in the hands of children like Keith, the LLH is helping to drastically impact their futures for life.

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Tulsa Treasure with a Global Impact For years the Little Light House has been called a Tulsa Treasure, but in recent years they have started to see just how treasured they really are. In the 1980s, founder Marcia Mitchell discovered a neonatal pediatrician volunteering in one of the Little Light House (LLH) classrooms. Curious to know why someone with such credentials was serving as a volunteer, she approached the doctor, who responded, “I was invited to one of your community luncheons and led on a tour as you typically do for your guests. When I looked through these observation windows, I saw kids just like those I’ve pulled the plug on. I’m here to give back.”

“It was then I knew” explains Mitchell, “as we expose doctors, nurses, teachers,

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therapists and other professionals to these children, allowing them to see their potential of our students and recognize the value of their lives, we can change attitudes of those who interface with these children and dramatically impact the way professionals respond to children with special needs. In so doing, we improve their quality of life.”

Today, more than 1,000 students are being trained at the center each year. They represent 16 colleges and universities in the Tulsa area and 36 degree programs in all. “These are the professionals that the children will see when they

visit the doctor, go to therapy, or need a social worker in their public school. If we can impact the views and skills of these professional students and allow them to participate in developing the potential that our students have, then the quality of care that children with special needs will receive outside our doors will be improved,” says Julie Wilson, physical therapist and Director of Therapy at the LLH.

The LLH also hosts professional conferences twice a year that provide CEUs and offer cutting-edge training to therapists, teachers, doctors, and other

professionals. These conferences focus on a variety of topics relating to children with special needs.

Around the country- As word of the LLH has spread across the nation, parents have actually moved from other states, leaving jobs and families, coming to Tulsa to seek services at the LLH for their child. This movement prompted LLH officials to respond to requests to replicate its program in other states. In 2006, the first LLH Affiliate opened in Jackson, Mississippi, and two years later LLH Denton, Texas celebrated its opening.

Across the world- Many might be surprised to learn the impact the LLH is having on children all over the world. The LLH has responded to invitations to conduct seminars in eight nations, most of which have limited or no resources available for such training. In many instances the countries previously have held the view that special children with disabilities have no value. Countless numbers are allowed to die, be hidden away or exploited. “We’ve seen the paradigm of parents, caregivers, doctors, nurses and administrators dramatically change as a result of these conferences,� said Founder Marcia Mitchell. Such conferences

have prompted appeals from individuals from other nations to request permission to come to Tulsa, at their own expense, to train at the LLH for periods ranging from a few months to two years. Over the last decade the LLH has trained international interns from seven nations. These interns have then returned to their homelands and impacted the lives of countless children with special needs in their part of the world. To see how the new building expansion plan will facilitate and grow these programs, see page 8.

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Get I n v o l v e d Help our children reach their maximum potential! Become a volunteer today! Volunteers make all the difference!

The Little Light House is a Christian Developmental Center providing highly specialized education & therapeutic services to children with special needs. Remarkably, all services are provided on a tuition-free basis. We are seeking men, women, and youth who desire to make a difference in their community. There are a variety of opportunities available including Administrative, Classroom, Grounds, Gym, Lunchtime, Reading, and Special Events Volunteers. Practicum, Internship, and Observation opportunities available for students. No previous experience is required. Training is provided and flexible schedules are available. 16 Expanding For Their Future

Visit our website at For Application & additional information, please contact our Volunteer Coordinator at (918)664-6746

Expanding For Their Future  

Little Light House Expanding For Their Future

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