Larry and Laura Homan with their grandson Louis
Learning excites 3-year-old Louis Homan, and that excitement makes his parents happy and his grandparents proud. Every day is a little brighter since he started attending the T.K. Martin Center for Technology and Disability at Mississippi State University.
Larry and Laura Homan of Fulton are grateful for the advantages their grandson Louis has gained through the nationally recognized center and its Project IMPACT program. Short for Insuring Mississippi Parents and Children Tomorrow, the program is housed within the center and serves children from birth to age 5. It is based on a team approach that combines the skills of administrators, speech therapists, occupational therapists and special education teachers.
In appreciation of the strides the center has helped Louis achieve, a gift from the Fulton-based couple will assist with renovations for four Project IMPACT campus classrooms. Once renovations are complete, one of the refurbished rooms will be named the Laura Kilpatrick Homan Classroom in her honor.
A 1967 Mississippi State alumnus, Larry Homan holds a bachelor’s degree in industrial arts education. Laura Homan graduated in 1969 with an education degree from nearby Mississippi University for Women. He is the president and CEO of the forest products company known as Homan Industries, and she is the company’s secretary and treasurer.
“Our family didn’t initially realize the T.K. Martin Center was nationally recognized as a place that would benefit Louis, but we have been very fortunate in having him there,” Larry said. “It is a privilege and our responsibility to help shine light and make others aware of the great work of the center that helps Louis make marvelous progress in speech development.”
The Homan family learned of the center’s reputation when Louis was around age 2, and thanks to the efforts of dedicated personnel, the outlook for Louis remains bright. He recently marked a complete year with Project IMPACT, having been enrolled by his parents, Kim and Clay Homan of Starkville.
When Louis was born in 2014, Kim instinctively knew there was something amiss with her child and followed her intuition.
“As a baby, Louis didn’t coo or gurgle as other babies did. He cried a little but that was the only sound that came from his small mouth,” Kim recalled. “I knew I had to follow my heart and find out why.”
The family’s pediatrician referred Louis to Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee. Once there, genetic testing was performed to pinpoint his issue. The formal diagnosis revealed 16p11.2 deletion syndrome, a disorder caused by the deletion of a small piece of chromosome 16 at the p11.2 location. It typically causes a developmental delay and intellectual disability. For Louis, the formal diagnosis unfolded as delayed development in expressive speech.
“Every parent struggles emotionally with children who need help, and T.K. Martin is a miracle for children and families to pursue their hopes and dreams,” Kim said.
From 8 to 11:30 a.m., four days a week, Louis happily attends school at the center with teacher Leslie Earnest and speech pathologist Christan Toney. Once inside his Project IMPACT classroom, he uses a special tool to help him develop speech patterns. The speech-generating device, known as Accent 800, costs around $7,000. Once purchased, center personnel provide instruction in its use, as well as parent training.
The device helps Louis build vocabulary by enabling him to use a unique and consistent motor pattern, paired with an auditory signal and a visual response. This method of intervention helps him learn to produce natural speech. Over the course of a year, he has worked his way from sounds to forming well over 100 words. He now possesses some three and four-word phrases, and a few with five words as well.
“Every parent struggles emotionally with children who need help, and T.K. Martin is a miracle for children and families to pursue their hopes and dreams.” ~Kim Homan
“It has been heartwarming to hear Louis make speech sounds and words as time passes. This is great progress to reach this point, and we are very pleased,” Kim said. “Because of the efforts of faculty at T.K. Martin, Louis is on a path toward greater achievement, and the classroom renovations aided by his grandparents will help children like him and those with other disabilities in the future.”
The entire Homan family has great confidence in Mississippi State and its impact on groundbreaking educational endeavors. Kim is a 2001 elementary education graduate who taught locally at Sudduth Elementary, and Clay, who earned a business degree in 1995, is the Bulldog’s head men’s golf coach. Along with Louis, the couple have two other children, son Henry, 5, and daughter, Ivy Frances, 8.
“The T.K. Martin Center is a blended family right here on the MSU campus,” Kim said. “They care and go the extra mile to help students. They show compassion and continue to impact Louis in ways that will help him progressively develop over time.”
Since the center opened, adults and children from families across Mississippi have benefited. The multiple programs and services the center offers year-round help to ensure that people with disabilities benefit from technological solutions and advances in the field of assistive technology.
“We are especially grateful to Larry and Laura Homan for their generosity to the T. K. Martin Center’s Project IMPACT program,” said center director Janie Cirlot-New. “Their gift will help provide state-of-the-art facilities that will allow us to offer the highest level of intervention and instruction to students in the project.
“The renovations of our Project IMPACT classrooms will also allow more flexibility in how we support MSU students and prepare them to serve children in their future careers,” she added.
For more information on supporting the T.K. Martin Center, contact Trish Cunetto, director of development for the College of Education, at 662. 325.6762 or email@example.com.