#GiveBR Part 2: How you can give a child a voice!

Last week we introduced you to our 2017 #GiveBR campaign, and what the funds raised will support – our “talker” learner program.

This week, we share a story from one of our parents about her daughter and the success she’s had using her “talker.”

Five year old Ella has been at Emerge for three years. When we first met her, she had been diagnosed with a rare neurological disorder and was unable to speak on her own. Our Director of Speech, Meg Sprunger, introduced Ella and her family to an Alternative and Augmentative Communication (AAC) device, more commonly referred to as a “talker.” Below is a message from Ella’s mom on how the use of a talker has transformed her daughter’s life and given her the ability to communicate.

We hope you enjoy reading this sweet testimonial and support us for #GiveBR so we can provide more of these life changing devices to the children at Emerge who need them most.

My daughter Ella is a vibrant girl – bursting with thoughts, questions, feelings, ideas, memories, dreams, and hopes. Without a way to express them, she is cut off from the world –from me, from the rest of her family, from her peers – and cut off from herself.

Many times I saw the world treat Ella as though she didn’t exist because she couldn’t speak for herself. So many people assumed she didn’t have thoughts, or that she didn’t understand anything going on around her. Others, meaning well, spoke for her.  “You must like green!”  Actually, she doesn’t like green, but she couldn’t say that purple was her favorite color. I never knew why she was crying in the middle of the night, why she was excited, or what was hurting her. When I asked if she wanted chocolate or vanilla ice cream, she had no way of telling me that in fact she wanted strawberry.  I never knew if someone had done something mean at preschool. I didn’t know if she ever had dreams at night. She had never said “I love you.”

When my daughter received her diagnosis and it was clear that she might never be able to speak intelligibly, we knew we had to do something. We had to give her a way to communicate.  We have to give her a way to live.  We were desperate, so we purchased a mini-iPad and an app that seemed promising, but we didn’t really know what we were doing.  When we met with Meg Sprunger at The Emerge Center, we got on track with the talker.

The first ‘conversation’ I ever had with my daughter was when she was three and a half. It was six months after we got her talker and she began ‘talking’ to me about food.  She asked me, “Can I have more oatmeal, please?” Then she said, “I love you.”

About two years after Ella started using her talker, she spoke to me for the first time in her life about a dream she had. Just one year before I had no way of knowing what she wanted for breakfast, so to hear her talk about dreams was incredible!

Before Ella had a talker, she was a passive observer in her own life. She was limited to choosing between two things offered to her. Her frustration built to raging temper tantrums.  Before Ella had a talker, we had never had a conversation.  Never a back-and-forth exchange about anything. Before Ella had a talker, she could never ask me a question, never tell me something that I wasn’t already asking about.  She couldn’t introduce a new topic, talk about the past, or talk about the future.

By the time Ella was being evaluated for school services, she had already been using her talker for months and the evaluators saw how she should continue using her AAC device and the same application at school. Without the talker we would have undergone months of school testing, months of trying out devices and programs – months and months of continuing to fall behind and become socially and academically isolated in school.

Today we’re able to hear about all of Ella’s thoughts, questions, feelings, ideas, memories, dreams, and hopes.