By MATT CRANE
The crowd gathered at Starkville Rotary Club’s weekly meeting was treated to an inside look at the work underway at the T.K. Martin Center for Technology and Disability.
Elizabeth Williams, a student worker at the center during her collegiate career, said she was excited to visit the club and speak on behalf of Project IMPACT and the strides the center makes for early intervention in children with disabilities.
“Children are very unique and may develop at different times,” Williams said. “It’s important that we identify children at a young age and get the services they need.”
Williams said Project IMPACT started in 1999 serving children birth to age 5, and focuses on three key reasons behind early intervention.
“First we want to enhance a child’s development early on because the years we have them are very formative, and it’s a time when they are most rapidly growing,” she said. “Next, we want to be able to provide support and assistance for the families because it can be very stressful and it’s important that these families know they have support.”
Williams said the last component was maximizing the child and family’s benefit to society.
“We want to serve them now, so we can see more of them in the future,” she said.
Williams said the project works with both children and families, and the center performed over 300 assessments last year for children from neighboring counties with a variety of disabilities.
“There’s not one kind of child that comes to our group,” she said. “We’re serving kids from all over, and it’s quite a commitment by the parents. And we’re humbled by that.”
While home care and assessments are part of the program’s mission, Williams said children going through classes and sessions at the center are given proper individual care in the classroom.
“Our classes range from about six to eight students in each class, which is incredibly important to get them individual care,” she said. “We’ve seen better results from these smaller, shorter classroom sessions.”
Williams said the project hosted a fundraiser which raised over $20,000 to continue to benefit the children of the surrounding areas.
“We receive money from the Department of Health and Department of Education,” she said. “The fundraiser helped us so much because it gets harder and harder with budget cuts for a small program to survive and be the best that it can be.”
Williams said the T.K. Martin Center works closely with departments on the Mississippi State University campus and is thankful for the relationships it has established.
“We’re incredibly fortunate being on the MSU campus,” she said. “I’m always amazed by the students who spend their time with us.”
Williams said an exciting aspect of her job is seeing the spark in a child’s eyes when teachers and families can see things change.
“We want people to know about us so that we can help, because we don’t want any children to fall through the cracks,” she said. “We just want to make a difference.”
For information about the T.K. Martin Center for Technology and Disability, visit http://www.tkmartin.msstate.edu  or call 662-325-1028.