Ekram’s son was unable to speak, then a United Way program helped him find his voice

My husband and I moved to Canada 10 years ago. I am from Eritrea, but we lived in Sudan and Kenya as well. We moved to Edmonton when I was pregnant with Yael, who is six.

When Yael was really little he started speaking Arabic, but then I went to visit my mom and dad and he was exposed to my mother’s language too. Yael became just totally quiet, no more words. It was as if he had been exposed to too many languages so it caused him not to talk at all. Sometimes, when I asked him something, he would get so frustrated because he couldn’t answer.

I didn’t know where to go for help. Then a friend told us about a United Way funded program that might be able to offer some assistance. When Yael was two years and eight months old, we enrolled him in Early Start. We noticed a big difference in him very quickly.

Yael has always loved trains and cars. At Early Start, they taught him while he played. They had a toy train and he could move the cars up and down. They taught him the words for “down” and “up”. For two, three days, every time I would go, the teacher was only teaching him “down” and “up”, “down” and “up”.  I was wondering how well that would work, but it did.

They taught me how to improve my life and also my children’s lives.


First it was “down” and “up”, then “outside”, and “jacket”. One by one, he started to learn more words. He started to speak, and he never stopped adding more words.

I learned to help Yael at home too. When we’d sit and play, I used some of the techniques they used.

The staff also helped me to potty train Yael and I learned other parenting skills that have helped me with Yael and my daughter, Fatuma, who is three. I was able to help by volunteering in the kitchen at Early Start, and serving on the parents’ advisory committee.

Today nobody would believe Yael ever had a speech delay. He speaks two languages, Arabic and English. And he can switch between them very quickly.  I never thought he was going to be able to speak normally. You need words to communicate even basic things. If he’s thirsty and he cannot say he’s thirsty, nobody’s going to give him water. It’s as simple as that.

When you’re in a really dark place and you see a little bit of light and you keep going and going until you reach a bright spot, that’s how I describe my situation. United Way donors and Early Start were that bright spot for me.

Show Your Local Love

David OdumadeEkram’s Story