PITTSBURGH (KDKA) -- Mia Young was an adorable baby, but her parents, both teachers in Huntingdon County, realized early on that she wasn't talking like most kids.
By the time she was a toddler, Young's frustration in communicating turned into tantrums.
"There were times I can remember how she threw herself on the floor, would scream, would scoot herself to the edge of the wall, to the edge of the molding, and she would hit her head off there, and you felt hopeless," said her mother, Anita Young.
Mia's dad, Matt Young, added, "That was the scariest. You had no idea. I mean, was she ever going to talk to her brother? We had all these questions that were there all the time."
When she turned 3 years old, Mia was diagnosed with autism and began to use a communication device in her therapy. A child touches the picture or word on the iPad, and the device says it out loud.
Anita and Matt were initially skeptical about using it at home, but once Mia got her device from Variety when she turned 4, she soon started mimicking the device.
"Brown Bear," Mia said while reading the Eric Carle book in a video her mom took when she was 4.
A year and a half later, Mia was mostly speaking on her own. She's 7 now and loves to read.
KDKA's Kristine Sorensen: Do you even need to use the device to say what you need?
Mia: Not really.
"It gives you an opportunity to see who your child really is – the humor about them, the silliness, and those are memories as a family you make, and I think that's what is impactful," her mother added.
Mia's relationships with her family and friends have blossomed now that she can communicate, and she loves to use her words to make people happy.
"I love you. Give a kiss and a hug," she said to her mom while squeezing her.
The Youngs are on a mission to advocate for all kids who could use a device to have one at home.
"Who are we to limit when our children can and can't have voices? Who are we to say, 'You're allowed to have a voice at school, but you're not allowed to have a voice at home?'"
Charlie LaVallee, CEO of Variety the Children's Charity, is working to expand the My Voice program from Pennsylvania and West Virginia across the country. He said Variety's public-private partnership is a model that can be replicated everywhere.
"We have to keep focusing on what's our goal, which is really for the kids to be able to live life to the fullest, and you need to have a voice, some way or another, whether it's a device or your own voice, so you can participate," LaVallee said.
"There's hope," Matt said. "We think she has a bright future, and we're excited to be a part of it."
If you know a child who may be able to use a device, click here for more.
The income qualifications include middle-class families, too. Variety is hoping Pennsylvania will continue to provide public money for the devices next year and that they can show other states how to replicate the model so that all kids have a voice.
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