Helping a young boy gain confidence through speech therapy

Owen's story

Eleven-year-old Owen’s happy place is on the pitcher’s mound, with dirt under his cleats and a baseball in his hand.

“He is our starting pitcher, phenomenal pitcher,” said Jonathan Braden, Owen’s dad.

Owen is not just a fantastic young athlete, he is also impressive behind a piano.

“He’s like my little prodigy when it comes to being in the piano world,” Jonathan said. “He’s a phenomenal pianist.”

While Owen has all the confidence in the world when throwing a fastball or playing the keys, it’s been a journey to find that same assurance in everyday social situations.

Owen was born with hemifacial microsomia and after cosmetic ear surgery at a young age, a therapist recommended a speech evaluation.

“We were of course on board just because of some of the delays in his speech,” Jonathan said. “He wasn’t enunciating things, pronouncing things.”

Owen was diagnosed with social communication disorder and would need speech and occupational therapy. He started speech therapy at the age of 5. After his family relocated to Florida, the cost of continued therapy began to cause financial strain.

Through the UnitedHealthcare Children’s Foundation (UHCCF), Owen’s family qualified for a grant to help cover the cost of speech therapy. Since 2005, UHCCF has awarded more than 34,000 grants valued at over $70 million. The funding pays for children’s medical expenses not covered, or not fully covered, by a commercial health insurance plan

“We were in tears, something that we have prayed about as a family,” Jonathan said. “Everyone was very excited for Owen because we knew … that he was going to get the help that he needed.”

Jonathan and his wife have already seen the benefits from therapy sessions as Owen’s relationships have greatly improved — not just with his family, but anyone he meets. It’s given him confidence in social situations.

“He loves talking to anybody his age, younger, older, he will talk to anybody. Just go right up and have a conversation. That has helped tremendously in his growth,” Jonathan said. “That continual development where he feels that he can talk to anyone about anything and being able to just express himself, that means a lot. My dream is that he continues and that he doesn’t shy away from it, because communication is always going to be something that we all need.”

Is your child eligible?

  • Grant recipients must be 16 years old or younger at the time of application
  • Must meet eligible income requirements
  • Must be children under the care of a licensed medical professional with services rendered within the United States
  • Primary coverage for a child must be by a commercial health plan, either through an employer or individually purchased. Secondary insurance through Medicaid or CHIP is permissible.
  • Children do not need to be insured by UnitedHealthcare.

Do you know a family who could benefit from a children’s medical grant? The UnitedHealthcare Children’s Foundation will begin accepting grant applications, starting Sept. 3. Visit for more information on how to apply.

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