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United Way of Greater Milwaukee & Waukesha County


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At United Way, we know that early intervention is crucial to ensure children have healthy, successful lives. That’s why we support local programs that help families access the therapeutic and educational resources they need.

Three-year-old Ani is a typical kid: she loves Frozen, jumping on the trampoline, and playing with her big sister. But Ani’s life is not always easy.

As a newborn, Ani was diagnosed with Treacher-Collins syndrome. This included hearing loss, underdeveloped facial bones, and difficulty swallowing.

Mom Michelle knew she needed extra support. “I didn’t even know what Treacher-Collins syndrome was,” remembered Michelle. “I was in over my head.”

Michelle reached out for help and was referred to the Early Intervention program through HEAR Wisconsin, a United Way-funded partner.

“If it wasn’t for HEAR Wisconsin, I would have been lost,” said Michelle.

After an initial evaluation, HEAR Wisconsin’s experts found that, in addition to severe-permanent hearing loss, Ani had trouble with feeding and motor skills. In collaboration with the Milwaukee Center for Independence, HEAR Wisconsin pulled together a multi-disciplinary team of therapists to work with Ani.

This team also coached mom Michelle with skills and strategies she could use to help Ani improve on a daily basis.

“(HEAR Wisconsin) gave me the confidence to know I could help my daughter,” said Michelle.

United Way funding helps HEAR Wisconsin provide Early Intervention services to families that are unable to afford them. Because some of the deaf and hard-of-hearing services they provide are considered “educational,” they are not covered by insurance.

In 2017-2018, United Way-funded Support for Children and Families programs served more than 8800 individuals like Ani and Michelle.

“We are never going to let any family go without the services they need because they cannot pay,” said Chris Kometer, program director at HEAR Wisconsin. “United Way funding is invaluable in allowing us to help children like Ani.”

Now a happy kindergartener, Ani is on the cusp of catching up to her peers in language skills and is able to chew and swallow foods. She recently graduated from the HEAR Wisconsin program and now receives speech and language services at school.

“Ani makes me a better parent,” said Michelle. “I try my best to keep her going for her future.”

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