Crystal Charity Ball Grant To Callier Center Gives Nonverbal Children a Voice
Five-year-old Morgan Tucker is a friendly child with an infectious personality, but by the time she was 3, she could only say “hi.” Morgan, who has STXBP1 (syntaxin binding protein 1) encephalopathy with epilepsy, a genetic neurodevelopmental disorder, is considered nonverbal.
In 2017, Morgan was referred to The University of Texas at Dallas’ Callier Center for Communication Disorders, where she received individual speech-language therapy and was later enrolled in a pilot program that helped her learn how to communicate using an augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) device.
“For almost two years, Morgan has used assistive technology to communicate, and now she uses well over 100 words to communicate through her tablet,” said Mandy Tucker, Morgan’s mother. “The services that Morgan has received through the Callier Center have been unmatched by any other therapy in our area.”
Callier’s innovative pilot program is about to expand exponentially, thanks to a nearly $1 million grant from the Crystal Charity Ball (CCB).
The CCB selected the Foundation for the Callier Center and Communication Disorders to receive $997,996 to benefit Callier’s Pediatric Special Connections Project. The gift will enable the Callier Center to evaluate children’s needs for AAC devices, provide diagnostic and therapeutic intervention, and establish Dallas’ first AAC Device Loaner Bank for Children. Approximately 750 children ages 2 to 17 will be served through the project.
“The Crystal Charity Committee clearly understands the difference that Callier makes in the community, and we are thrilled to partner, once again, with such an outstanding beneficiary.”
Ola Fojtasek, Crystal Charity Ball charity selection researcher
“It is a privilege to advocate for the Callier Center and this compelling project that will give children who cannot speak a voice,” said Emilynn Wilson, president of the Foundation for the Callier Center. “On behalf of the trustees, I extend our deepest gratitude to Crystal Charity.”
The Crystal Charity Ball grant is the largest gift Callier has received since the establishment of the Lena Callier Trust, through which Callier was founded in 1963.
“The Crystal Charity Committee clearly understands the difference that Callier makes in the community, and we are thrilled to partner, once again, with such an outstanding beneficiary,” said Ola Fojtasek, Crystal Charity Ball charity selection researcher, who championed Callier’s project.
In Dallas County, nearly 3,400 children are unable to communicate verbally. Through the use of AAC devices, children who are low-verbal or nonverbal can communicate. These devices may be as simple as a picture board or as sophisticated as a medical-grade tablet that speaks for a child when a button is pushed.
“Much like a wheelchair supports someone who is unable to walk, a communication device provides a voice for a child who is nonverbal,” said Melissa Sweeney, director of speech-language pathology clinical operations at the Callier Center.
Callier speech-language pathologists will evaluate children, select an appropriate device for each child, provide device training to children and caregivers, give supplemental support to parents and families, and offer training to special education school staff and community speech therapists.
“Together with the Crystal Charity Ball, we will make a profound difference in the lives of nonverbal children in Dallas County, as well as countless others through our extended outreach,” said Dr. Thomas Campbell, the Ludwig A. Michael, MD, Executive Director of the Callier Center and the Sara T. Martineau Professor.
The CCB has committed to raise $7.87 million throughout 2020 for eight beneficiaries including Callier. In 1967, the Crystal Charity Ball funded Callier for the first time, prompting an enduring relationship with the center that, with this grant, will result in $3,346,376 of total support.
Media Contact: The Office of Media Relations, UT Dallas, (972) 883-2155, [email protected].