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Jenkins native honored for work with the deaf

Jenkins native Brian Fleming received the Distinguished Service Award presented by the Southeast Regional Institute on Deafness at its annual conference last year.

Fleming is a rehabilitation counselor for the deaf and hard of hearing with the Georgia Department of Labor’s Vocational Rehabilitation program in Augusta, Ga. He was recently featured in The Beacon, the publication of the Department of Labor.

“From his first day as a rehabilitation counselor . . . it was evident that Brian’s life work is to make a difference to persons who are deaf or hard of hearing,” said the article.

“And he does that in so many ways, by devoting time well past office hours to ensure each client receives the services needed to become employed; by volunteering for statewide and national committees to advocate for and improve services to people who are deaf; by speaking to agencies and individuals to educate them about the deaf culture by working part time as a deaf mentor with Georgia PINES (Parent Infant Network for Educational Services) to provided familycenter home intervention for children with sensory loss and multiple disabilities; and by sharing his personal story of overcoming obstacles and living his dream.

“When Fleming was five years old and only spoke about 20 to 30 words,” the article continued, “professionals misdiagnosed him as autistic. His parents and sister knew better, however, because when he could not communicate, the precocious child drew pictures.

“Fleming’s parents consistently fought for educational opportunities and speech therapy for him traveling long distances from rural Jenkins, Ky., to get the appropriate services. Fleming attended local schools, both public and private, but when he reached high school, his parents knew he had outgrown the educational system in Jenkins. He was enrolled at the Kentucky School for the Deaf in Danville, learned American Sign Language and flourished in an environment where he communicated and associated with other deaf students for the first time in his life. Fleming graduated valedictorian of his class and later earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Gallaudet University and a master’s in rehabilitation counseling from the University of Tennessee.”

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