HESPERIA He opened his mouth and mimicked the movements of those around him. He did his best to speak but, to his frustration, only gibberish came out.


When Garrett Gruber was 2 years old he had the speaking ability of a 7-month-old. Though he understood language like any young child, Garrett had a brain-speech disorder called echolalia.


Cynthia Gruber is among a growing number of parents whose children have speech disabilities. According to the American Speech and Hearing Association, two out of 10 children h ave a speech disorder requiring speech therapy that's about 20 million nationally.


According to Gruber, most parents don't have access to the speech therapy their children need because what's offered by their insurance or government program isn't enough. That's why the mom from Hesperia started 3 Little Words, a nonprofit organization that helps fund private therapy for families in need.


Garrett received one-on-one speech therapy until he was 3 years old when he started attending group therapy. During his year of group therapy, Garrett's speech skills dropped back down a year.


Gruber said Garrett's group therapy instructor didn't recognize problems a speech pathologist would have. Additionally, Garrett was in group therapy with students of varying speech disorders, which made it difficult for the therapy to target his specific needs.


"There's not a one size fits all," Gruber said. "They need that one-onone and they need to have somebody who can look at them and see where they're at and treat them accordingly."


Garrett's speech pathologist, Lakeita Emanuel, said if a parent notices their child having issues with speech they need to follow their instinct and seek help.


"It's extremely important," Emanuel said. "If a child is not communicating typically by the age of 2 years, studies show that the child starts to show signs and symptoms that they're actually emotionally being affected by not being able to get their message across."


Emanuel added that not being able to communicate also impacts a child's ability to connect with his or her family, friends and others.


"For a parent, this is a huge concern that their child cannot communicate if someone is hurting them or if they are in pain," Emanuel said. "They can't get their basic needs met."


Both Gruber and Emanuel agree that appropriate speech care is not readily available.


"A lot of insurance companies say that it's not medically necessary but the thing about it is that it has a great impact on an individual's mental health and quality of life," Emanuel said.


For more information, check out www.HelpChildrenSpeak.org.