All of us at GiGi’s Detroit are so excited to launch the Amina Grace Speech and Language Therapy Program here this fall. This free on-on-one speech therapy program is one of the main reasons several of our founding Board Members wanted to open a GiGi’s Playhouse here for Metro Detroit families.
Before we get into what the Amina Grace program is about, we’d like to first address the tremendous need and benefit of this program for our participants and their families. For most children with Down syndrome, speech therapy is a necessity to help them learn to communicate. For some children speech comes easier, but they still need to work on clarity, articulation and comprehension. And for other children with Down syndrome, they may receive an added speech diagnosis like Apraxia of Speech, that makes it even more challenging for them to learn to communicate.
On top of this, insurance plans vary greatly in the benefits available to children with Down syndrome. Some families may have access to 60 speech therapy sessions a year, while others are only provided 8 speech therapy sessions per calendar year. What this means is families might pay out of pocket for additional private speech, while other children only receive the limited services provided through their school.
My own daughter was diagnosed with speech apraxia at the age of 4 ½. Even getting that diagnosis proved to take a long time because so often children with Down syndrome are passed over in evaluating for any other speech conditions because of their initial diagnosis of Down syndrome. But getting a complete diagnosis and picture of what is causing your child’s communication challenges is critical in getting them the support they need.
We had already been paying for weekly private speech therapy sessions for two years when she received her speech apraxia diagnosis. (Our insurance only covers 8 speech therapy visits per year.) So once we confirmed there was more going on, we increased her supports – adding in additional private speech sessions with targeted methods to address speech apraxia. We also sent her to a speech therapy preschool for three summers run by one of the local hospital pediatric speech therapy departments. Over the course of seven years that added up to a significant amount of money. And I think about the families who can’t afford that and their child struggling to learn to communicate and it amplifies the need!
Introducing the Amina Grace Speech and Language Program
The GiGi’s Playhouse Amina Grace speech and language program provides youth, teens and adults with greatly expanded opportunities to evolve and refine their speech and language skills. Effective enunciation, clarity of speech, word order and message meaning are paramount to fostering greater self-confidence, comprehension, problem-solving, school readiness, social skills, independence, and overall quality of life.
- Increase clarity of speech and enunciation through a hierarchal approach of repeated exposure and practice of target sounds, focusing on accurate placement of oral articulators.
- Improve word order and message meaning through focused exercises targeting various parts of speech, including: verb tense, word choice, sentence completion and more.
- Increase comprehension through the use of various visual models and tasks targeting functional level-appropriate targets.
- Increase self-confidence through positive reinforcement and various forms of appropriate supportive methods, including: verbal, visual and tactile.
- Improve school and social readiness through activities and goals geared towards preparing participants for skills required within their age-leveled school grade, thereby, increasing their chances of improving social skills of blending with classmates.
- Increase independence and overall quality of life through confidence-building activities, self-help skills and a positive-reinforcing approach to therapeutic targets.
Having done years of private speech therapy with my daughter, I was thrilled to see some of the wonderful tools that come with the Amina Grace Speech and Language program. Some very well know speech resources like Talk Tools® to help with improving speech production using bubbles, whistles, straws and other oral motor tasks. Talk Tools can help build new oral motor plans which increase speech production, as well as improve strength and coordination of the speech articulators. Another great resource are Kaufman Cards, which were developed by local Speech Language Pathologist Nancy Kaufman of the Kaufman Children’s Center in West Bloomfield. The Kaufman program helps children with motor-speech difficulties, such as Apraxia of Speech, approximate functional, real words.
Critical Funding Awarded
The funding for this program came through a grant awarded by the Detroit Auto Dealers Association Charitable Foundation through the Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan. We are so grateful they believe in the importance of this service in helping our participants achieve more with their communication skills!
We have partnered with the Speech Pathology Department at Wayne State University and have hired a Speech Language Pathologist to provide 20 Participants with 1 hour of FREE speech therapy per week for 11 weeks during the Fall Session, which runs September 22 through December 8. This is such an incredible financial value for parents since the program is completely FREE, while also providing critical communication development opportunities.
Registration opens Monday, August 23 for participants!
Learn more and register your child for the Amina Grace Speech and Language Program here.