Taylor, as a result of having cerebral palsy, is nonverbal and has no functional control of his hands. He and his team have explored a variety of communication systems over the years including a desktop computer with Boardmaker Speaking Dynamically Pro, a DynaVox DV4 and most recently a DynaVox VMax. His systems were initially accessed using switches, however, this was challenging due to his spasticity and difficulty finding consistency in positioning.
When an eye gaze system (EyeMax) was released for the VMax, he gave it a try to see if it would give him the consistent access he needed. For Taylor, this method has resulted in much faster access and increased accuracy.
Because Taylor had a need for generative language and precision in access via eye gaze is challenging, a customized setup was developed by Speech Language Pathologist (SLP) Sue Rampone in collaboration with Maureen Wourms-Larson. Maureen, an SLP in a neighbouring school district, has a student with similar setup needs. They decided to collaborate at a presentation on core language by Gail VanTatenhove and set out to develop their own customized setup which they call “EyeCore”. This customized user area which is appropriate for students with emerging to beginning literacy and with severe physical challenges is now posted in SET-BC’s pictureSET.
One of the benefits of a DynaVox VMax is that it is an integrated system, combining communication software in a Windows XP environment into which additional curricular software can be loaded. Taylor has Clicker 5, Clicker Paint and Kurzweil 3000 on his VMax which help him to access curricular topics. He can also email directly from his communication software adding another avenue for him to reach out and connect with others.
Eye gaze has been an excellent access solution for Taylor, but it is not necessarily the solution for everyone with direct access challenges. The system requires careful ongoing assessment to determine its effectiveness and efficiency – especially for those with inconsistent positioning and variations in spasticity. It also requires considerable training and time so a strong team is essential to achieve mastery with this access method.
Taylor and his team have worked through some of the challenges with this type of technology and can now “see” how effective it is for accessing his device.