BORDENTOWN – Elina Csapo, a rising junior at The Hun School of Princeton, wants children with “hidden disabilities” to know that they are not alone.
The Bordentown Township resident is embarking on a new venture called “Young Able Voices,” a peer-to-peer support group that will provide a safe place for children with hidden disabilities to interact with each other on the similar challenges they face.
Starting Aug. 1, these children will have the opportunity to connect with one another once a week through Zoom to talk about different topics and the challenges their disability has brought them during those situations.
“This is an opportunity for me to create a place for them to connect with others going through a similar situation,” Elina said.
On the Young Able Voices website, Elina has uploaded videos of herself talking about the different topics she is looking forward to discussing with other children and teenagers.
Elina, who was diagnosed with childhood apraxia of speech (CAS) when she was around three years old, is hoping her new platform will help inspire others with hidden disabilities to not let their disorder stop them from achieving their dreams and living a normal life.
She has overcome her speech of sound disorder in the classroom.
Elina said her hard work in speech therapy over the years has helped her conduct public speaking tasks in school with few issues. Those tasks range from giving presentations in class to delivering speeches at other school functions.
When she was in eighth grade at Bordentown Regional Middle School, Elina was recognized by the school with the “Thank You Address Writer and Presenter” honor and gave a speech at her eighth-grade graduation ceremony.
“If you keep working hard, you can have a bright future,” Elina said. “I didn’t want to limit myself. I wanted to be able to speak in front of people. I wanted to be Elina.”
Along with her mother Krista, Elina has used social media platforms like Facebook to promote Young Able Voices. Elina’s speech therapist has also spread the word of her initiative to fellow patients and colleagues.
So far, Elina said she has gotten a lot of great feedback from people about her initiative. People as far away as Iceland and New Zealand have commented on her videos.
On the local front, Elina is hoping to expand her peer-to-peer support group to in-person meetings with other children and teenagers in the surrounding communities.
She hopes to bring Young Able Voices to different school districts around the area as she works on the second phase of her operation.
“I would love to go into local schools and get a chance to talk with kids that have speech disabilities there,” she said.
The first session of Young Able Voices will center around the word “define,” and how children with hidden disabilities are trying not to let their disorder “define” what they can do and who they become.
Elina said she is looking forward to hearing other children’s journeys and can’t wait to see where the discussion leads to.
For more information on Young Able Voices, visit the organization’s website https://www.youngablevoices.com or its Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/youngablevoices.