Growing up, Becky Fox's oldest son, Tommy, struggled with verbal communication. To overcome the difficulty, he was enrolled in speech therapy classes through the third grade.
So when her youngest son, Eddie, showed signs of the same developmental struggles, she sought help early. Eddie started speech classes, provided by the Delaware County Board of Developmental Disabilities, before his second birthday.
Now she expects her 4-year-old's verbal skills to match his peers' by the time he enters kindergarten.
"If you catch the need for services early, you can minimize the amount of services you'll need in the end," Fox said.
The Dublin resident's son is one of 2,237 individuals served by the Board of Developmental Disabilities, which provides services throughout Delaware County.
Director Bob Morgan said early detection is key to achieving positive outcomes and avoiding years of unnecessary therapy and treatment for kids whose development is delayed.
"It's absolutely critical," Morgan said. "The research shows it's the most cost-effective strategy and it makes a significant difference in a child's life."
About half of the children who enroll in early intervention services have caught up with their peers before entering preschool, he said.
But the services that help families find an early diagnosis are now at risk. Morgan said they will be some of the first to go if a requested levy increase headed for the May 7 ballot is voted down.
The board is requesting approval of a 0.59-mill increase to the current levy. If it's approved, residents will pay an additional $17.15 annually per every $100,000 in property valuation.
The current five-year, 2.1-mill levy, which passed in 2011, costs about $64.30 for every $100,000 in home value.
Officials say the increase is needed to continue services in light of cuts to state and local funding totaling $1.4 million, in addition to a $2-million increase in federally mandated expenses.
The board hasn't requested an increase in voted millage since 1986, even as the county experienced explosive population growth.
Since 1987, the board's client base has more than quadrupled.
For Fox and her family, assistance from the board has been life-changing.
Fox said all three of her sons have experienced some level of difficulty in developing verbal skills. But enrolling Eddie in early intervention programming shaved off years of frustration, she said.
When other kids were learning to talk, Eddie relied on nonverbal cues to tell his parents when he was hungry, tired or wanted to play.
"Now he is able to tell us what he needs," she said.
"The biggest thing is that he's able to communicate with his teacher and peers at school," she added.
That means he won't have to endure any social stigma or miss lessons for speech classes.
In addition to Fox and Eddie, the family includes Tommy, 14, and Alex, 11; and father, Tom.