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Worried about your child's speech? Cleveland program with free therapy can help

Cleveland Hearing & Speech Center offering no-cost evaluations and therapy sessions for ages 0 to 5
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Posted at 6:05 PM, Feb 14, 2023

CLEVELAND — For years, we have been reporting that Cleveland has one of the highest poverty rates and lowest literacy rates in the country.

Now, we’re going to tell you about a first-of-its-kind program in the nation for kids ages 0 to 5 that is helping set the foundation for success

When we first met Ashten Ace, he was a bit shy as you might expect a 4-year-old surrounded by strangers and cameras to be.

But it only took a few minutes before he warmed up, letting his sweet, playful personality shine through.

And it’s only been a few months coming to the Cleveland Hearing and Speech Center in University Circle that has resulted in Ashten’s language development.

His grandmother, Tami Jones, decided to bring him in when she noticed he struggled with enunciation and expressing himself.

“He’s doing very well, he’s progressed a lot,” she said. She sits in on each of his weekly sessions.

In 2022, the center received a $150,000 grant from The Cleveland Foundation to create Project ELLA — which stands for Early Language and Literacy for All.

Executive Director Dr. Jennell Vick said so much of a child’s language is developed in the first 1,000 days of life— through play and conversation and reacting to a baby’s babbles.

“And so many young caregivers and family members aren’t aware how important it is to do that back and forth— even before a baby has first words,” Vick said.

The best part — access to Project ELLA is totally FREE.

You can get your child evaluated aged 0 to 5 and get therapy sessions without costing you a cent.

Because the motto here is: “Don’t wait, evaluate.”

“Speech therapy never hurt anyone, it is always helpful,” said Linda Lange, a speech language pathologist.

Lange said the weekly therapy sessions are meant to help parents and caregivers learn.. just as much as the kids.

“Thirty minutes once a week is just a tool to help parents do what they need to do all week,” she said.

And Project ELLA isn’t just contained within these walls.

They partner with preschools, daycares and organizations to go out into the community teaching parents, caregivers and teachers what to look out for and how to help.

Daja’ Newton spearheads that part.

“We do screenings on the children right there at those sites and also provide trainings to staff and families,” Newton said, adding that they often help teachers set up their classrooms and teaching methods for language development success.

For Ashten, the improvements are impressive already.

He’s wrapping up his weekly therapy sessions at the end of the month after achieving all his goals.

In 2022, Project ELLA assisted 243 families. They’re hoping to expand that to 275 this year.

For more information or to get your child evaluated and into speech therapy, click here.