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Mama Lere - Mission and History

Our Mission

As a part of the National Center for Childhood Deafness and Family Communication (NCCDFC), the Mama Lere Hearing School at Vanderbilt Bill Wilkerson Center serves children with hearing loss, their families and the community. Our goal is to maximize the child’s listening potential and communication skills so that he or she can communicate independently and effectively. We have the unique ability to provide all hearing health care services in one facility. We strive to provide best practice and proven service delivery in the areas of listening and spoken language intervention, speech-language pathology, audiology, occupational therapy, educational evaluations and individualized learning plans.

Family Centered Services

  • Our priority is the best outcomes for each child and that we care about them genuinely as individuals.
  • We are here to provide families with unbiased information related to communication options.
  • We are here to provide specific expertise in auditory learning and spoken language development.
  • We are here to help children and their families to integrate listening and speaking into their daily communication and interactions.
  • Our open-door policy welcomes and encourages you to call or visit any time.
  • Workshops, seminars, parent-teacher conferences, special events, and family support group meetings are held throughout the year.
  • An annual survey allows you to rate and comment on all aspects of the program.
  • Daily, weekly, and monthly formal and informal communication takes place through weekly journals, bulletin boards, newsletters, and conferences.
  • We encourage you to share your ideas and concerns about MLHS please contact the director- Marcus Hayes.
  • You are welcome to join your child for lunch or snack. Please contact your child's teacher to schedule a time.


  • We believe in providing best practices that are evidence-based, with a focus on pre-    literacy, natural communication interactions, and seamless transition.
  • We commit to timely intervention, follow-up care, and training of children, parents and outside sources.
  • We believe our integrated classrooms create natural listening and learning opportunities for all children with and without hearing loss.
  • We commit to prompt and vigorous audiological management to maximize the child's listening potentials.
  • We commit to continually assessing and evaluating children's listening, language, speech,  and cognitive development throughout all our programs and to modify our program(s)  when necessary to meet the child's specific needs.

Continuous Learning

  • We value working at the Mama Lere Hearing School where we gain experience, expertise and continuing professional education.
  • We have a professional obligation to engage with other providers, schools, community programs, and share expertise.
  • We are committed to expanding our knowledge base to ensure the best services to the patients and students we serve.


  • We value strong relationships with community providers.
  • We encourage frequent communication across disciplines and departments.
  • We value teamwork and professionalism.
  • We share core beliefs, goals, and commitment to children while bringing multiple perspectives as our strength.
  • We are committed to providing support services to help facilitate the inclusion of children into their natural environment and/or regular educational program.


In the early 20th century, Dr. Wesley Wilkerson practiced medicine as an eye, ear, nose and throat doctor in Nashville. He was most concerned for his pediatric patients with hearing loss and was frustrated with the lack of intervention services for deaf and hard-of-hearing children, who were expected to live at home or in an institution and have very little independence as adults.

In the 1940s, Dr. Wilkerson attended several conferences where he heard Mrs. Spencer Tracey speak about her son, a profoundly deaf child who had, with early intensive intervention, learned to speak. He became determined to create a place where any child with hearing loss could come to learn to speak and communicate in order to have a much better chance at education, employment and a normal life. In 1949, Dr. Wilkerson organized a board of directors and chartered the Tennessee Hearing and Speech Foundation.

Two years later, in 1951, the Foundation opened the Bill Wilkerson Center, named in honor of Dr. Wilkerson’s son who was killed in World War II during the Battle of the Bulge when he volunteered for dangerous duty as a forward observer.

In the 1960s, the center expanded the scope of its mission to treat very young children with hearing loss. Working on the newfound belief that children learn language at a more rapid rate as toddlers and preschoolers, the center opened a demonstration project to train parents to provide ongoing language stimulation in the home environment.

In 1966, the Bill Wilkerson Center launched its first official early intervention program for children with hearing loss. This program proved to be so successful, enabling many children to be mainstreamed at age six, that the center began plans for construction of a permanent facility to house the Parent-Infant Training Program. Families came from across the southeast to participate in the program.

The new “parent teaching home” was generously funded by the Justin and Valere Potter Foundation and was dedicated in 1972. It was dubbed “The Mama Lere Home” in honor of Mrs. Potter whose children and grandchildren called her “Mama Lere.”

When the center moved to its new home in 2005, the decision was made to continue using the historic name “Mama Lere” for the hearing school, in honor of the Potter Foundation and its support of the center’s mission to create a place where children with hearing loss could come to learn to listen, speak, read and sing. In 2006 the Mama Lere Hearing School welcomed it’s first class of preschoolers.