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Lending a voice to those with special needs

By Chris Jones/The Oshawa Express

Shayla’s Voice is looking to give those without a voice a way to vocalize their needs and concerns.

A non-profit organization, Shayla’s Voice helps special needs families to find the right services for their children and loved ones through a collective reviewing of services offered to their community.

Through the platform, families are able to share their experiences with anything ranging from a dentist to a speech therapist.

“Our daughter was diagnosed with autism at around two-and-a-half years old, and from there we just went through the shock of the change and ‘what do we do’ and all that,” explains Shayla’s Voice CEO and co-founder Sean Martin.

He explains at the time he didn’t know anything about autism as he didn’t know anyone who had it, and his wife, Annasha, was in the same boat.

“It was a whole new world for us. We needed to try and find out who to contact, what doctors, what specialists we needed to see and all that,” he explains. “It took us a while, and we were in the state of just fear and confusion, so what we did was just try any and everything at that point.”

They were in that cycle for approximately two years, and it wasn’t until later they started meeting people in a similar situation to their own.

“Then we started getting direct references. ‘Try this person or try this dentist,’ and stuff like that,” Martin explains. “Then we kind of started using the right services, and seeking the right type of funding.”

Finally, last year Annasha was laid off from work.

“We were just brainstorming whether or not she was going to go back to work,” he says. “One of her major challenges was with her going back to work, was that at her previous job, they were kind of lenient and let her drop our daughter off at therapy during the day, run back after lunch and all of that.”

It was their belief they would struggle to find a new place for Annasha to work which would offer the same flexibility, so they decided she would stay home.

“We just started brainstorming, seeing how they could do some more stuff in the community,” he says.

One of the topics that came up were the challenges they faced, and how they went to all the wrong services until they started meeting people in the special needs community, and they began receiving word of mouth references.

“Stuff like that is what Shayla’s Voice is. It’s a word of mouth put on to a website where other families who have used service providers and had good experiences will post their reviews and references, and post their experiences with the different service provider,” he says.

He adds families new to the special needs community can use their website to find good service providers, and not necessarily face as many struggles as the Martins.

The company is named after Martin’s nine-year-old daughter Shayla. Martin notes the name is a spin on his own daughter, as she is non-verbal.

“This is really to give her a voice and a voice to all of the special needs children that we don’t hear about,” says Martin.

For those who are interested, or are looking for a voice to help them or a loved one, visit shaylasvoice.com for more information.

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