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Free assistance available for children with speech problems

by Gail Marsh

STAFF WRITER

Parents who suspect that their child may be having difficulty learning to talk or understanding the spoken word can receive a free evaluation and treatment at a speech clinic in Monongalia County.

The Morgantown Childhood Language Disorder Center is one of two clinics in the state operated by the Scottish Rite Masons, a worldwide fraternal order. Services are available to any child, regardless of the family's ability to pay.

The Scottish Rite of Freemasonry of the Southern Jurisdiction of the United States initiated the program in the 1950s to help children with speech and language disorders. Today there are 128 clinics, centers and special programs throughout the country, including those in Charleston and Morgantown.

"We want to get the word out to parents that there are services for children in this area who may be having trouble speaking or learning," said Ron Sprouse of Clarksburg, a Scottish Rite Mason who recently joined the board of directors of the Morgantown center.

The center, located in Granville just outside of Morgantown, has been in operation since 1996.

Ingrid Davis, the center's speech/language pathologist, said she usually sees about 16 children a week, and about four of those children come from the Fairmont/Clarksburg area.

The children range in age from pre-kindergarten to school-age, with the youngest about 2 years old, Davis said.

Children often come to the clinic by physician or pre-kindergarten screening referrals, but parents can also choose to bring their children in for an evaluation.

"By the time a child reaches 2, they should know about 50 words that they can use in two-word phrases. At that point, a pediatrician will be asking about the child's ability to talk, or a parent will just feel that something is wrong," Davis said.

An evaluation may include testing a child's receptive and expressive language skills, or testing how well a child understands and expresses himself. The speech pathologist will look at how well a child can make sounds and will check a child's mouth structure, tongue and teeth development.

Once the child is evaluated, the clinic will offer speech therapy services to help overcome any speech or related learning problems.

To learn more about the Morgantown Childhood Language Disorder Center or to make an appointment for an evaluation, people can call (304) 599-0304.

Staff writer Gail Marsh can be reached at 626-1447.

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