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She Needs a Device to Talk to People. Arizona Has Not Given It to Her. It Has Been 1.5 Years.

Emory is 11 years old. She has cerebral palsy. She uses a device to talk to her friends. One day, her mom turned it on and smoke came out. She said, “They make it so hard for families that they give up.”

Emory Webster and her mom Adiba. They are at home in Tucson. (Mamta Popat/Arizona Daily Star)

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The Arizona Daily Star worked with us to write this story. They are part of ProPublica’s Local Reporting Network.

Emory Webster is 11 years old. She lives in Tucson, Arizona.

Emory does not like to cuddle. Her favorite thing to do in summer is swim.

Emory’s mom is Adiba Nelson. She says Emory likes to paint and hang out with friends.

Emory wants to be a DJ. She pretends to beatbox and scratch records.

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Emory’s mom said: “Ms. Emory is a little firecracker. She is sassy as the day is long, but she’s also one of the sweetest kids ever and funny. Oh God. She has such a sense of humor. It’s ridiculous.”

Emory’s mom says Emory is a normal preteen. She said, “She gives me hell daily.”

Emory has cerebral palsy. It is hard for her to talk to other people.

Emory uses a device that helps her talk to other people. Her device is from the Division of Developmental Disabilities. The Division of Developmental Disabilities is called DDD.

Emory’s mom says Emory’s device is old and broken. Emory’s mom said: “I went to plug it in and it sparked and smoke came out of it. I was like, OK, I guess it’s done.”

A painting of a girl. She has a long brown ponytail, yellow tank top, and blue polka-dot pants. She is sitting in a wheelchair.
Emory Webster loves to paint and hang out with friends. (Erika Clark/Make Studio for ProPublica)

Emory had to wait 1.5 years to get a new device. DDD told her she could get a new device this summer. She has not gotten her new device yet.

Without the device, Emory cannot talk as well.

Workers at DDD said most people are happy with the help they get. They did not say anything about Emory’s device.

Emory’s mom said: “I always say, ‘Would you let your child sit with you and not speak for months? I firmly believe they make it so hard for families that they give up.”

Rebecca Monteleone translated this story into plain language.

What’s Your Experience With Intellectual and Developmental Disability Care in Arizona?

The Arizona Daily Star and ProPublica are investigating services for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Here's how people with disabilities, their families, friends, caregivers, teachers and medical providers can help.

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