OXFORD, Miss. – Communication therapy has been an important focus for Rheagan Vaughn ever since her son Swayze was diagnosed with autism. For many children with the disorder, communication impairments can be an obstacle.
“We’ve been blessed that Swayze is on the high-functioning end of the spectrum,” said Vaughn, of Oxford. “But there are parents in this community who have children on the other side of the spectrum, and they need help too.”
After being involved in a number of national fundraisers for autism, Vaughn wanted to do something different. “I decided to find something local to support,” she said.
Early this year, the University of Mississippi’s Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders established the Hearing-Impaired Literacy and Language Laboratory. The program focuses on pre-school-level students with problems in speech, hearing and literacy. In its first year, the program achieved a number of positive results, such as children speaking for the first time. This success can be attributed to sessions between students and a staff of language-speech pathologists.
The program captured the attention of Vaughn after she learned it could help autistic children in areas of communication and literacy.
“What I specifically like about this program is that parents can sit and watch their children during lessons,” she said.
With an initial gift of $600, Rheagan Vaughn created the Swayze Vaughn Fund in dedication to her 7-year-old son. Vaughn hopes the Oxford community will contribute to the public fund and help the cause.
The Swayze Vaughn Fund will have a direct impact on the program, said Lennette Ivy, chair of the communication sciences and disorders department.
“(The fund) will help by providing whatever is needed,” Ivy said. “If we need any educational materials, we can utilize these resources.”
Ivy also suggested that the fund could help Oxford-area residents affected by autism.
“We could create support groups for parents of children with autism,” she said. “We could also bring in professional speakers and trainers. There are a number of things we can do with this fund.”
In the spring of 2015, Rheagan Vaughn hopes to organize an autism awareness walk in Oxford with the proceeds going directly to the Swayze Vaughn Fund.
“Every fundraiser I work from now on will benefit the Swayze Vaughn Fund,” she said.
Individuals and organizations interested in contributing to the Swayze Vaughn Fund can send checks with the fund noted in the memo line to the University of Mississippi Foundation, P.O. Box 249, University, MS 38677. For more information, contact Michael Upton, development director, at 662-915-3027 or firstname.lastname@example.org.