Health Team

School, technology overcome children's speech problems

Posted February 2, 2009 2:17 p.m. EST
Updated March 9, 2009 5:12 p.m. EDT

— For children, speech developmental delays create communication barriers and can impair their learning ability for years to come.

The Frankie Lemmon School in Raleigh is the oldest preschool and kindergarten for special-needs children in Wake County.

One of its specialties is helping children with developmental delays that affect their speaking ability.

"Early intervention is the key for every child," Executive Director Janet Sellers said.

In her 30 years with the school, Sellers said, advances in assistive technology have made a huge difference in helping children reach their full potential.

"We send more children now into regular kindergarten class than we used to in the past," Sellers said.

During circle time in a kindergarten-grade 5 class, Seth Baldwin used a device called a DynaVox to help him overcome apraxia. The condition causes his brain to fail to reach the muscles used to produce words.

Yet with the DynaVox device, Seth can communicate, either signing or picking his way through thousands of possible phrases on a touch screen.

Teachers designed the circle-time activities to let the children use their machines and newly learned communication skills.

"At circle time, they sing songs, so he can say, 'I want to sing "Five Green Speckled Frogs,"'" Seth's mother, Darla Baldwin, said.

She credited with the Frankie Lemmon School and its technological tools for helping her son make major progress. He got on track to get into a regular kindergarten class in public school this fall, she said.

"He has blossomed here and flourished in ways that we would have never guessed and that would never have happened anywhere else," Baldwin said. "It's the best place in the world."

The Frankie Lemmon Foundation will hold the Triangle Wine Experience this weekend to raise money for the school.