Nearly 1 in 12 U.S. children aged 3-17 have a disorder related to voice, speech, language or swallowing, according to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders.

Two to three out of every 1,000 children in the U.S. are born with a detectable level of hearing loss in one or both ears, according to the Hearing Loss Association of America. Even mild hearing loss can cause a child to miss as much as 50% of classroom discussion, the association says.

The Speech-Language and Hearing Clinic at East Carolina University’s College of Allied Health Sciences offers a variety of diagnostic and rehabilitative services to help those dealing with speech and hearing disorders. With support from the N.C. Scottish Rite Masonic Foundation, the clinic provides children with these services at a significantly reduced cost.

The North Carolina Scottish Rite Masonic Foundation has supported ECU’s clinic since 1972 and has given a cumulative $1.4 million. Most recently, the foundation donated $36,000 to the clinic for operational expenses for next year.

“East Carolina is very special, and what they do for children is very special. We look forward to the continued relationship,” said Michael May, a North Carolina liaison for the foundation.

Scottish Rite also supports clinics at Appalachian State University, University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill and Western Carolina University.

“I want to thank the Scottish Rite organization for their giving over the years. It’s made a tremendous difference and it is truly appreciated,” said Robert Orlikoff, dean of the College of Allied Health Sciences. At ECU’s clinic, graduate students in speech-language pathology and audiology work closely with licensed speech-language pathologists and audiologists as part of their training to help people in the community with speech and hearing needs. Pediatric services can include auditory verbal therapy for children who are deaf or hard of hearing and therapy for children with stutters or language and literacy disorders.

“If families had to pay for these services out of pocket, it would be quite expensive,” said Rhiannon Phillips, clinical coordinator and instructor in the Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders.

Families are often extremely grateful for the clinic and are able to see their children improve, she said. One of Phillips’ recent patients was a bright fifth grader who dreaded school and was being bullied because of her stutter. When children come to the clinic with speech problems, they learn how our bodies produce speech, how their body might do it differently, and where the breakdown is happening. Then they work on strategies they can use to make their speech more fluent.

“After attending our program, she has been able to participate in school more and has been able to make friends and tells them that she just talks a little differently than them,” Phillips said.

The $36,000 donation from Scottish Rite will go toward continued pediatric programming and diagnostic testing supplies, Phillips said. “It gives us the ability to continue providing the services that we do.”

The clinic and its resources are not only an asset to the community, but it also helps set ECU apart and attract future students and faculty, she said. Learn more about the Scottish Rite program at ECU.