RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK, N.C. (WNCN) – Having a personal conversation, sending a text message, or making a phone call are things that most people do several times a day without a second thought. But, for some, tasks like that can be nearly impossible without help.
New Voices Foundation is a North Carolina nonprofit organization that helps children who can’t communicate due to a disability learn news ways to communicate, usually using devices.
It is also the CBS 17 3-Degree Guarantee Charity for January 2019.
Since 2007, New Voices has provided assistance to students in several counties and school districts in central North Carolina. Most of the children have severe disabilities affecting their ability to speak and move independently. While the school districts can provide a lot of the support and tools, New Voices fills the gap in several different ways.
CBS 17 chief meteorologist Wes Hohenstein was able to see first-hand how students benefit from New Voices Foundation. McDougle Middle School Students Meg and Mimi have severe disabilities that prevent them from communicating normally, but that didn’t stop them from going on a school field trip.
Talking about the field trip after the fact took on a different form thanks to some specialized communication tools.
Helping the students use those tools were specialists Ms. Durkee and Ms. Stalker. While school districts provide a lot of the equipment students need, as well as the teachers and specialists, learning how to use and teach those tools is something extra.
Kara VanHooser is a speech language pathologist with Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools.
“When we need augmentative or alternative communication tools for a student, we can’t just hand it to them and think everything is fine and they’re ready to use it,” she said. “They need to learn how to communicate with that tool.”
That’s one of the place where New Voices Foundation contributes. They have provided more than 1,000 hours of training to educational professionals as well as over $300,000 in resources, materials and equipment. New Voices has also been involved in more than 100 community events bringing awareness about children who struggle to communicate and learn.
In addition to all the training, New Voices will also provide specialized communication equipment when students graduation from school districts. The goal is to help make these students productive citizens of the community.
Disabilities can include cerebral palsy, brain injury, autism and any neurological impairment.
Sandy McMillan is the executive director of New Voices Foundation. She also has a daughter who uses a wheelchair and augmentative communication device. While Sandy’s daughter is now a college graduate, she appreciates the partnership New Voices has with the community and school districts.
“I’m very proud of our relationships with our school districts that we support and trying to fill any gaps that exist to help these children,” McMillan said.
For more information about New Voices Foundation, visit their website newvoicesnc.org or call 919-659-5961.