USW Helps Two Children Find Their Voices

For families with nonverbal children, tools that help facilitate effective communication provide vital lifelines—but they can also be prohibitively expensive.

Today, the USW in partnership with Variety the Children’s Charity and their “My Voice” program, presented two union families with high-tech devices that will help their children express themselves.

“This is something that we can do that really changes the lives of our members and their families,” said USW International President Leo W. Gerard.

The devices are modified iPads outfitted with a communication app selected by each child’s speech pathologist. With the push of a button, the child can express his needs and desires: everything from food requests, to clothing preferences, to how much pain he or she may be experiencing.

“It’s basic, but it’s a part of life—a little thing that’s a big thing,” said Variety CEO Charlie LaVallee during the presentation ceremony at the USW International Headquarters in downtown Pittsburgh.

Vinnie Beavers, age 15, has a seizure disorder that has limited his mobility and robbed him of much of his vocabulary. The USW worked with Variety in the past to provide him with a bike and an adaptive stroller. He now has the communication device.

“We appreciate the USW for what they’ve done and can’t say enough about Variety,” said Vinnie’s father, Keith Beavers, vice president of Local 1138 in Leechburg, Pa.

Tyler Winfield, age 5, also struggles to communicate. His mother, Jennifer Winfield, said that he can imitate sounds, but cannot talk on his own. “This is amazing,” she said. “We had a picture card system before, but it gets too frustrating. This he can customize. He sets it up how he needs it.”

Tyler’s father, Nathan Winfield, is a member of the International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Workers (SMART).

Gerard said that the union has pledged to provide ten such devices to families who need them. “I can’t think of anything more precious than giving a child and that child’s family the freedom that comes with being able to ride a bike or go in a stroller or use a communication device,” he said.

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