HUNTINGDON, HUNTINGDON COUNTY, Pa. (WTAJ) — We use words every day. While cooking dinner, reading books and to talk to our family and friends.
However, what if you were not able to express yourself? For children who are non-verbal it’s frustrating for not only them, but their loved ones.
Just ask Anita and Matt Young from Huntingdon County.
“You never knew what she wanted,” Matt, referring to his daughter, Mia, said. “There were days where there were a lot of fits. It was one of the most frustrating things you are ever going to do because you can’t help her.”
Mia, who has autism, was non-verbal for the first couple years of her life.
She wasn’t able to communicate her wants and needs until she started using a communication device in school. It helped her to formulate phrases and expressions.
“Finally being able to have her even at first through a device tell us what she needed or how we could help her was amazing,” Matt explained.
Thanks to Variety’s My Voice Program, which has a mission to provide a communication device to eligible children living with a communication disorder, the Young family gets one for home. Soon, just before Mia turns 4, words start flowing.
“It gives you the opportunity to see who your child really is,” Anita explained. “The humor about them, the silliness. Those are memories as a family you make and I think that is impactful.”
Charlie LaVallee is the CEO of Variety the Children’s Charity. A success story like Mia shows him the importance of fighting for children to have a voice at all times.
“It is not enough to have it at school,” LaVallee said. “We have the chance to use technology to really help our kids grow at a faster pace and assimilate like Mia, who is now speaking.”
LaVallee is making it his mission to get these devices in the hands of anyone who needs one.
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“I think if we look at her and we think of all the other kids like her, how can we not do this,” LaVallee asked. “How can we put this on the back burner? Let us not wait until they are 16. Let us start now when they are 3, 4 and 5.”
Mia, who is now 7-years-old, barely uses the device anymore. Instead, she uses her own voice.
“She can play with her brother, she can interact with her family, she interacts with her friends, her grandparents,” Matt said. “That is a goal we always had and now it’s coming true.”
Communication is fundamental to a full life and the Young family hopes their story reaches other families so every child can find their voice.
“Charlie has the right resources,” Anita said. “Let us get it to the right people. Let us get the word out. Let us have families know about this.”
If you know someone or an organization that’s making it matter in our community, send an email to email@example.com or reach out on Facebook.