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Jay Matlock is achieving academic excellence at Motlow College without the benefit of hearing much of what goes on in the world around him.
He attends classes with an interpreter who creates a more complete classroom experience by signing what the instructor and other students are saying.
Jay registered with the Office of Disability Services at Motlow before attending classes and requested assistance from an interpreter skilled in Signed Exact English (SEE).
According to Sonya Hood, director of disability and testing services, the department provides a variety of accommodations based on the individual needs of the students.
“Accommodations may include front row seating, reduced distraction environment for exams, extended time for exams, reader for exams, or recorded lectures,” said Hood.
She encourages prospective and current students who find these services beneficial to contact the office.
“By using SEE and transliterating it tremendously helps his English skills, sentence structure and word knowledge,” said interpreter Carla Powell. “Mastering those skills contributes to his ability to succeed in the amazing manner that he is here at Motlow.”
Dr. Judith Russell thinks Jay isn’t the only one who is benefiting from his education at Motlow. She said, “We have all learned new things with Jay being in our Honors British Literature class. He and Carla have helped us learn specific aspects of sign language and how to generally communicate better with each other.”
According to his family, Jay was born deaf due to a lack of oxygen during delivery. His family first suspected he couldn’t hear when he was three weeks old. However, it took 16 months and many doctor visits before he was officially diagnosed. He was fitted with hearing aids as a toddler and had the awareness of sound for the first time.
He learned sign language at the Hamilton County Speech and Therapy Institute in Chattanooga. He received speech therapy at Vanderbilt University to learn to communicate verbally.
His sister, Dr. Robin Matlock Baker, was 14 years old when Jay was born and took on the role of being his advocate for hearing, education and life. While Jay was learning to communicate, his sister was beginning college. Because of the family’s experience, she decided to become an audiologist.
When Jay was eight, he had cochlear implant surgery. After the initial healing, he experienced what he calls, “a life changing day” — he could hear for the first time. His world expanded from the awareness of sound to the distinction of tones.
Jay graduated from high school in Franklin County in 2009. On the same day, his sister received her Doctor of Audiology degree. After high school, Jay attended the Rochester Institute of Technology in New York, a college with a large student body and a substantial deaf population. After hailing taxicabs and surviving in a big city for almost two years, he decided to return home and attend Motlow College.
“I thought Motlow would be a better fit for me,” said Jay. “The class sizes are smaller and I hoped there might be more one-on-one with the instructors. It is exactly what I had hoped for and more. Not only do the instructors take the time, the students even help you.”
According to his sister, Jay has had a phenomenal transformation since attending Motlow. She believes he definitely made the right choice.
“As his family, we think Jay may have learned some important life skills in New York but as far as education, Motlow has far exceeded all of our expectations. We are very proud of his new-found confidence and maturity he has gained since becoming a student at Motlow.”
Jay said his family has always told him he could do anything a hearing person could do. It might require more effort, but he could do it.
“I have never wanted to sit at home and draw a disability check. I want to work.”
After graduating from Motlow in May, he plans to attend Tennessee Technological Center in Shelbyville to obtain computer certifications. Ultimately, Jay would like to attend a university that offers programs in computer networking, information technology, software design and aviation.