BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - One single phrase with three small words, "I love you," can communicate worlds between people. For a parent, hearing a child express their love for the first time is a precious moment, but it is one that Hope Vicknair had to wait five years to hear.
"Most moms would be shocked that a five year old would wait so long to tell them that they love them. This past October was the first time he told me he loved me," said Vicknair.
Hope's five year old son, Scottie, has speech apraxia which is a communication disorder that makes it difficult for him to say what he wants clearly and consistently.
"He understands what you're saying to him, he just can't get what he wants from the brain to the mouth," said Vicknair.
The ability to communicate is exactly the drive behind the Emerge Center, formally known as the Baton Rouge Speech and Hearing Foundation.
"We want every child, whether it's verbal, whether it's with an IPad, whether it's with signs, we want every child to have an opportunity to communicate," said executive director Melissa Juneau.
Part education center and part medical clinic, the Center helps children and adults struggling with a wide range of communication problems from autism to hearing loss. The Center offers speech and hearing therapy, occupational therapy and behavioral analysis as well as audiology services.
In April, the Emerge Center opened the doors on a new facility located on LSU's south campus, which puts all of its services and therapist under the same roof. The new, bigger facility allows them to double the amount of clients they see.
In 2013, nearly 600 children received more than 22,000 hours of therapy, and more than 830 audiology patients were treated by the Center.
Some children, like Scottie, come five days a week, with even the smallest activity designed to improve their ability to communicate and socialize.
Juneau says having all services in one place makes it easier for families, and makes treatment more effective.
"It allows the family to have one place to go to have that conversation but also to leave and have some family time," said Juneau.
Juneau says the Emerge Center focuses on early intervention with children. According to the CDC, one in 68 children are diagnosed with autism. In addition, Juneau says seven percent of children start school with some sort of language delay. Even one in three adults over the age of 65 suffer from hearing loss.
Juneau says those statistics show the need for a facility like the Emerge Center.
The Emerge Center accepts clients through a doctor's referral. As a non-profit medical center, it also accepts health insurance and private pay. Financial assistance is also available in some cases.
Juneau says parents can contact the Center with any questions or concerns about their child's language development, and the staff can provide guidance.
Some of the watch signs for communication problems include a child not responding to their name, not pointing or problems interacting with other children.
For more information on the Center, click here or call (225)-343-4232.