Elks funding helps eight-year-old receive crucial therapy from ISTAR

"ISTAR is willing to go the extra mile to help families who need it the most."

Amanda Anderson - 15 April 2020

Since the age of three, Alex Savova has been struggling to communicate with the world around him. Diagnosed with severe speech and global development delays, the family was scared that the now eight-year-old might never be fully understood.

"Alex stopped developing around 16 to 18 months old," explains Teodora Savova, Alex's mother. "After he was diagnosed with the delays, he did a two-year speech program, which helped, but he still wasn't talking despite the enormous therapy efforts put forth by the staff and myself."

It wasn't until Teodora noticed that Alex was opening and closing his mouth without any sound coming out that they realized he may have a stutter.

"Alex was tested and it was determined that he was experiencing stuttering. Once he was in kindergarten, we decided to try and find the appropriate help for him."

This is when the family found the Institute for Stuttering Treatment and Research (ISTAR).

"ISTAR came up in a conversation with another therapist we were talking to. I got in contact with the clinic and we started seeing a speech-language pathologist right away," says Teodora. "We found out that the shape of his nasopharynx is not moon-shaped like it is supposed to be, but instead is more straight. This means he needs to put in extra effort in order to be able to talk and get his message across."

While the Savova family was eager to get Alex communicating, they were dealing with other issues that were hindering them from proceeding with the much-needed treatment.

"My husband Hristo and I have two other children-Alex's sisters-Christina and Catherine, who are five years old," explains Teodora. "During the time in which Alex was to receive his speech therapy, the girls were in and out of the Stollery Children's Hospital. We really couldn't afford Alex's therapy without taking finances away from the girls' medical needs."

Thankfully, the Elks of Canada stepped up to provide funding for Alex's speech therapy at ISTAR. It is with their help that the Savova family was able to make sure all of their children received the care they needed.

"In 2018, Alex participated in one of the speech camps that ISTAR organizes. He benefitted so much from the programming. I realize how truly blessed we are for having so much financial support from the Elks."

Now, Alex is joined by his sister Catherine who is also undergoing speech therapy at the institute. The pair are participating in their fourth and third years, respectively, and loving every minute of it.

"I am happy to be a part of ISTAR!" said Alex. "I feel confident in myself when I know I can talk and be understood. The best part is making new friends and being able to share my ideas with them."

"Alex and Catherine both enjoy playing different games with their speech therapist Jessica," said Teodora. "I'm so thankful to ISTAR for allowing the kids to stay together with the same therapist. I think it helps them to succeed by being able to support each other. Accommodating my requests and helping us secure funding really shows how much ISTAR is willing to go the extra mile to help families who need it the most."

For more information about ISTAR speech services, visit istar.ualberta.ca.