The remarkable 8-year-old dog is Benson—he’s the service pooch and best buddy of the remarkable human with him, whose name is Ron Morrow. Ron is a well-known and well-liked professional photographer; and also photographs events for TOPS.

Benson, who is somewhat of a ‘babe magnet’ when he and Ron are working, is Ron’s diligent sidekick.

Ron Morrow was born deaf during an era where the concept of ‘main streaming’ children with disabilities of any type was just being formulated. At age 5, Ron was enrolled at the then-fledgling Deaf Oral School here in Lexington (now the Lexington Hearing and Speech Center) and it was there that he experienced hearing his first sound. Ron recalls, “I still vividly remember that wonderful noise—every day of my life!”

Ron’s parents wanted him to continue to be main-streamed into the world, not sheltered because of his hearing disability. Resultantly, Ron attended public school, and the Kentucky School for the Deaf; where he learned to both speak, and to sign. After high school, he was hired by the United States Post Office, where he worked for 30 years while concurrently ‘honing’ his unique talents; becoming an amazing photographer, and making friends. Very much like his buddy Benson, Ron ‘has never met a stranger’, and loves to travel. These two have been on cruises, to Palm Springs and they’re best buddies with members of UK’s Women’s Basketball Team.

My recent meeting with Ron and Benson at a local coffee shop was a surreal experience. Interviewing him was a joy. Ron is articulate (even without the sign language translator who came along ‘just in case’); his vocabulary is vast, his smile is perpetual, and his outlook on life is extraordinary.  Benson agrees, as do the myriad of other “Ron Fans” whose lives he’s touched.


At birth, children are born with five distinctive senses: those of touch, taste, smell, sight and hearing. However, not all babies are blessed with all five of these senses being functionally operative. As a result, there is a genuine need for intensive special attention to be provided to each child, so that they can be both mainstreamed and welcomed into a hearing world where they can be provided with every opportunity to flourish.

Here in Central Kentucky, the Lexington Hearing & Speech Center has as its primary mission the role of teaching children with hearing, speech and language delays to listen, and to talk.

Marcey Ansley, the organization’s Executive Director, recently escorted me on a fascinating tour of the organization’s sizeable and impressive Lexington campus.

Our  ‘first stop on the tour’ was in a classroom where a group of 4 to 6 year old children happily listened to a St. Patrick’s Day story, read by the classroom teacher. Each child was totally focused on the classic Leprechaun tale; half of the class members wore hearing devices, and the other kids did not need to; but from the smiles on their faces, each youngster thoroughly enjoyed and happily reacted to the tale of the story. 

Ansley noted: “Each of our 13 classrooms blends children with hearing and speech challenges with their ‘hearing’ peers—and to relate to each other as being equals. It’s amazing to watch and listen as the students accept each other as what they all are – kids who enjoy learning and making friends.” With a smile of pride, she noted that since 1960 the organization has been successful in overcoming communication challenges which have facilitated being accepted by others—not only those with hearing and/or speech challenges, but also being understood and accepted in the hearing world.

A proud history

LHSC was founded in l960 by a small group of parents from our Central Kentucky community who together approached Mr. and Mrs. J.L. Frankel to ask for both assistance and guidance in establishing a program to teach speech skills to children with hearing impairments. 

Mr. Frankel, an amazingly talented and generous local architect who had been deaf since birth, and his wife, Edie, who also had a hearing loss, dedicated their lives to active community participation for the hearing impaired. With the Frankel’s help, fundraising began in earnest, building space was graciously donated by Temple Adath Israel, a teacher was hired, and the Lexington Deaf Oral School opened with 6 students.

Ansley noted, “Our board and staff quickly acknowledged that we could, and we should, expand our mission at the same time, thereby filling a real void in the community. How? By offering early education and early intervention services to children with hearing and speech/language delays and eventually to all children. The response from the community was back then, and continues to be today—very positive. Our goal is that all students be ready to learn at ‘big school’.

Successful fundraising and a growing interest in the concept of teaching essentially deaf children to communicate had enabled the fledgling organization to expand its outreach annually. In 1971, more programming and additional services were added to the curriculum, and the official name of the school became the Lexington Hearing & Speech Center. 

In 2011, having significantly expanded their services and the ever-increasing number of enrolled children, the LHSC organization proudly ‘migrated’ to the 70,000 square foot brick school building on Henry Clay Boulevard (formerly the J.R .Ewan Elementary School).  From day one, this amazing facility has supported the continued growth and expansion within all the Center’s programs. 


147: Current enrollment in the Early Learning Center (ages 6 weeks thru Kindergarten).

1100: Families served through its Audiology and Speech Language Therapy Program. Of this number, 25% are adults who are receiving services through the Center’s audiology program for hearing and healthcare speech/language programs.         

66: Counties served (both children and adults). Also shares a strong partnership with the University of Kentucky’s ENT Office.

LHSC Programs

Hearing and Hearing Device Services for all ages: Testing, middle ear evaluations, hearing device evaluations and consultations.

Pediatric Cochlear Implant services: Speech perception assessments, implant consultation and education, auditory and verbal therapy.

Speech Services: Language evaluations, listening & spoken language therapies, parent education & support, early intervention collaborations.

Training Opportunities for School Systems: Information on Cochlear implants, amplification devices (FM systems, sound fields, hearing devices, etc.). 

LHSC’s Early Learning Center offers language enriched educational programs:

Early childhood Day School: for infants through 3 year olds.

Dedicated preschool and kindergarten programs for children with hearing loss and communication delays:

Preschool classrooms for community children; 

Full day kindergarten program;

Specialized language stimulation summer camps.

Lexington Hearing & Speech Center’s Developmental Milestone Check List 

(NOTE: If you think your child or a child in your care may have hearing or language issues, first have them evaluated by your health care provider).

Birth to 3 months: “Coo’s and gurgles”; is startled by loud sounds;  makes eye contact briefly.

4 to 6 months: Babbling begins; smiles in response to speech being heard; looks in response of his/her name being spoken.

7 to 9 months: Uses a wide variety of sound combinations; understands “no”, “bye-bye”, etc. Shouts to attract attention.

10 to 13 months: Uses consonants and vowels in vocal play. Closes mouth without drooling; may pronounce a first word; will give toy or other object back in a play environment.

18 months: Uses all vowels and consonants in jargon; basically unintelligible, with the exception of a few (3-20) recognizable words; follows simple one-step commands; says “all gone” and asks for “more”.

2 years of age: Words are approximately 65% intelligible; uses approximately 50 words recognizably; uses two-word phrases; refers to self by name.

3 years of age: Speech is approximately 80% intelligible; uses 500 words; comprehends up to 900 words; can ask a simple question; will listen to 20 minute stories.

4 years of age: Becoming very intelligible in connected speech; uses and comprehends 1000-1500+ words; carries on long detailed conversations;
combines 4 to 5 words in a sentence.

5 years of age: Most consonant sounds used consistently and accurately; combines 5 to 8 words in sentences; classifies things according to form, color or use; tells long stories accurately; counts two or more objects.  

Across several decades, this organization has been helping Kentucky children to overcome hearing and speech impairments. The not-for-profit organization uses the listening & spoken language approach for children with hearing loss. Those who develop spoken and written skills are armed with abilities they need to communicate effectively. According to Ansley, “When a child with hearing impairments leaves LSHC for “big school”, he or she will do so with the skills they will need for a lifetime of learning.”

LHSC is recognized as Kentucky’s leader in listening and spoken language communication approaches and education. The organization offers language enriched classroom activities, individualized education plans and parental involvement, which all come together to provide a positive, profound and productive learning experience. 

For additional information on LHSC and its commitment to caring, please contact: Marcey Ansley, Executive Director, or Allison Kerschbaum, Family Service Coordinator at 859-268-4545 v/TTY.  

Summer Language Stimulation Camps

If you are a parent of a child 3-6 years of age and you’re looking for an amazing specialty summer camp for children with hearing loss or speech language delays, consider enrolling him or her in the LHSC’s Language Stimulation Camp! Sessions begin the week of June 1, and will be offered on a first-come basis, thru the end of July. Camp times will vary from 8:30-11:30 am, or 12:30-3:30 pm- Monday through Friday.

Campers are required to be receiving audiology and/or speech language help, not necessarily through the LHSC. These Language Stimulation Camps are a collaborative program between the organization’s education, Early Learning center, and Speech/Language Therapy Programs. Camp leaders include preschool teachers with certifications in deaf/hard-of-hearing and early childhood education, and are licensed and certified through the Commonwealth of Kentucky and several LHSC speech-language pathologists.

Registration is limited in each camp session. If you are interested in having your child participate in this fun summer session, please contact Allison Kerschbaum, [email protected], or Ken Smart, Education Director, [email protected] or call 859-258-4564 v/TTY .


Posted on 2015-05-25 by Mary Ellen Slone