For 40 years, the Northeast Georgia Speech Center has been helping residents find their voice.
The center focuses on speech and hearing issues for all ages, but primarily works with preschoolers, according to Diane Brower, center executive director and speech pathologist.
“Early intervention is really key. Over the last 40 years, research and technology have changed so much, and it is allowing us to be able to catch these issues earlier,” Brower said. “It is easier to correct problems early on, before (the client) gets used to making habitual errors.”
Center staff members assist clients with a variety of concerns — including stuttering and issues related to a cleft palate.
And after being on located on Spring Street in Gainesville for nearly 30 years, the center recently relocated to a larger facility at 604 Washington St. in downtown Gainesville.
Although the center’s growth is restricted by self-imposed class-size numbers, the larger facility will allow the staff to improve the quality of services offered to clients.
“In the old location, we had a small play area, but here we have room here for a much larger play space,” Brower said. “The structured learning classes are important, but having time and space to play is important too because it gives them a chance to practice what they are learning.
“Speech is a fine motor skill, but participating in gross motor skill activities (like free play) helps to build fine motor skills.”
Although the center has been able to expand during an economic decline, staff members say the center hasn’t been unaffected by current market conditions. The center’s budget depends on fees for services, but also includes donations and fundraisers.
“The economy has affected us to some degree. When insurance companies deny claims, there have been some children who have had to terminate their speech therapy,” Brower said.
The center offers individual, weekly sessions for older clients and class sessions multiple times a week for clients younger than 5.
Depending on the age that a client is first referred to the center or brought in by a caregiver, they may spend years in treatment.
“Some of our clients start when they are 2 and continue through kindergarten — depending on the severity of their problems when they start,” Brower said.
“Our goal is to ensure that by the time they start kindergarten they will be successful in all aspects of the kindergarten environment with academic preparedness and social communication.”