WALTON, Ind. — A second-grade girl in this small town recently received a long awaited, unique communication device that will change her and her family’s everyday lives.
Fatima Madrigal has Down’s Syndrome, which has prevented her from communicating through speech. Lewis Cass Elementary School speech language pathologist Mandy Hall has worked with Fatima since she was in kindergarten.
“She’s so smart and so determined and she was working so hard with me in all of our therapy sessions,” Hall said. “I had a device that she could use but it was only twice a week, and she needs on all the time.”
In March of 2019, Hall submitted a funding packet to Medicaid to help fund a communication device for Fatima. According to Hall, Medicaid denied the application twice. She eventually presented Fatima’s case to a Medicaid judge, insisting that the device was medically necessary for Fatima.
The three-hour phone hearing resulted in Hall winning the appeal. However, another issue presented itself. During the lengthy process, Fatima’s father Willie Madrigal’s income has increased. It turned out that now with the higher income level for the family, Fatima had lost her Medicaid funding.
It was at that point Hall reached out to Anna’s Celebration of Life to see if they could help with funding for the communication device. The non-profit organization provides life-enhancing gifts to Indiana children with special needs. Anna’s Celebration of Life came through with the portion of the funding for the Accent 1000 device that was not covered by Fatima’s father’s insurance.
According to the manufacturer’s website, the list price for an Accent 1000 device is $7,295.
Anna’s Celebration acquired the device in March, but with the schools closing down due to the coronavirus pandemic, getting the device to Fatima took longer than anticipated. Wednesday, finally, was the day.
“Today is a huge day for her, for me, and for her family because we have been fighting so hard to get her to be able to communicate,” Hall said. “It’s a high tech communication device. She will press a button and it speaks for her. And she manipulates and maneuvers this thing like you would not believe. It’s incredible to watch this little girl.”
“She brings so much joy to so many people,” Hall said. “When you work with kids that are non-verbal and you see the potential and you just want them to be able to tell you things.”
Anna’s Celebration of Life Director Brad Haberman came to Fatima’s home Wednesday to present the Accent 1000.
“She was just remarkable and it was just great to see her engage with it,” Haberman said. He said Anna’s Celebration serves a hundred Indiana children every year.
Haberman said Anna’s Celebration of Life provides a wide range of devices that help special needs kids — everything from weighted blankets and compression vests to service dogs. According to Haberman, adaptive trikes and iPads are the most commonly requested gifts.
The anticipation was high Wednesday as the device was unwrapped and charged up for Fatima to use. Fatima’s parents expressed their gratitude.
“For a couple of days we’ve been really excited, waiting for Brad to get here with the device for Fatima,” Willie Madrigal said. “I know she’s been kind of anxious and happy when we told her she was getting it really soon.”
When the device was ready to use, Hall sat down with Fatima to help her get started.
“How do you feel, Fatima?” Hall asked. Fatima eagerly pressed a button.