Pam first noticed something different about her son, Joshua, when he was 18 months old. Though he was a perfectly healthy baby, she knew he was unlike other kids in his age group.
“We were in play groups with other kids around the same age,” she recalls. “When we went to their houses, Joshua would play with their toys but never showed any interest in the other kids. They would play with each other, hopping around from one toy to another. But Joshua would focus on one toy the entire time. The other kids were starting to form words or to have some semblance of communication with their parents, and Joshua just wasn’t.”
Like many new parents, Pam, and her husband, Joe, chalked these differences up to Joshua’s unique personality and speed of development. They assumed Joshua’s desire to play with one toy for hours at a time or his avoidance of eye contact was just his quirky behavior, and nothing to be too concerned about.
At their son’s two-year checkup, however, the pediatrician suggested Joe and Pam have Joshua evaluated, and after several appointments, interviews and therapy, a specialist at the Cleveland Clinic diagnosed their son with moderate autism.
The path to Joshua’s success was not always an easy one. He would often refuse to meet with his speech therapist, and Joe and Pam would wonder if things were really getting better for their child. The couple persisted, and, thanks to years of aggressive speech and occupational therapy, their son was given a real chance to have a healthy, thriving childhood and a bright future.
With a background in marketing and media, Joe and Pam understand the importance of communication. They saw how frustrated Joshua was when he couldn’t express his basic needs to his own parents. The couple wanted to help other families get the services they needed to help their own speech-challenged children, and thus the Orange Effect Foundation was born.
Today, Joshua attends a mainstream high school and sings in the school choir. He is no longer receiving classroom assistance, and is enjoying life as a teenager. He is a regular speaker at the Orange Effect Foundation’s annual golf tournament, serving as an ambassador and champion of his parents’ phenomenal efforts.
As a mom to a son with a mild speech delay, I can attest to how important speech therapy is for our family. Thanks to a terrific early intervention therapist, and now an incredible preschool therapist, our child has made tremendous progress. However, I also acknowledge how lucky we are to live in a state where such services are provided to us at no cost, regardless of income or insurance. If we lived just one state over, our family would likely have to pay out of pocket for these services, or have had to go through intense screening of our insurance and finances to see if we even qualified for any sort of assistance.
Often, a family’s insurance will only cover 20 sessions of speech therapy per year, Pam explained over email. If a child needs speech therapy once or twice a week for a year, many families are left struggling to find the means to pay for those additional sessions. On top of that, communication devices can cost upwards of $7000, and, as Pam noted, most insurance companies will only cover the cost if there is a severe diagnosis. And, while many schools do have devices available in their classrooms, they are not meant for at-home use.
The Orange Effect Foundation helps alleviate some of the financial burden of speech therapy services and equipment by accepting grant applications from qualifying families. After working extensively to verify the information provided, the foundation awards an average of $3000 (paid directly to the speech therapists and technology companies) to each accepted family.
For families, like those of a young girl named “Maya,” the Orange Effect Foundation can be a lifesaver, Pam noted. At age 4, Maya could only make vowel sounds and was frustrated and withdrawn by her inability to communicate. Maya’s family faced expenses of more than $11,000 to pay for her speech therapy, so they turned to the Orange Effect Foundation for help.
The Orange Effect Foundation awarded $3,360 to Maya to fund 48 sessions of speech therapy.
Speech therapy has improved her quality of life and that of her family. The once shy Maya is now happy, social and outgoing.
Getting the speech services they need as early as possible can be a lifesaver and life-changer for both children and their families. Blogging for Better is proud to support The Orange Effect Foundation as our featured charity for the month of April.
Portions of this article were taken or paraphrased, with permission, from The Orange Effect Foundation Blog. Sincere thanks to Pam, Executive Director of The Orange Effect Foundation for all of her amazing contributions to this article.