With determination and the use of technology, Tyrone is graduating from high school as his class’ valedictorian!
Throughout his school career Tyrone has always been a student that has reached his full potential despite the major physical and verbal challenges he faced on a daily basis. Tyrone is an academically successful student and his success can be vastly attributed to his diligent use of assistive technology to complete his daily academic work. Enrolled at the Abbotsford School District’s Distance Learning program, Abbotsford Virtual School, Tyrone used a SET-BC loaned laptop with software like Kurzweil 3000 and Co:Writer to complete his various assignments. Because of his physical disabilities, typing was laborious and it often took him a very long time to compose any written work. With the assistance of Co:Writer, a word prediction program, Tyrone was able to speed up his independent typing process immensely allowing him to compose his essays at a faster rate. Tyrone even entered the Royal Commonwealth Essay Competition and was awarded a prize.
His teacher at AVS, Faye Cassia, attributed his success to the use assistive technology. She said, “Technology unlocked Tyrone’s potential; it has entirely changed the course of his life. Dyspraxia has left him unable to speak, unable to print or write. Testing as a child could not begin to assess his intelligence–he was unable to answer questions in written form or orally, unable to complete a pattern with blocks or pencil. Yet, over time, with the use of assistive technology, a deep intelligence began to assert itself, with Tyrone able at last to communicate his thoughts. With his typing being slow and laborious, we are confident; his unassisted typing could not begin to keep up with his thoughts. Programs such as Co-Writer helped to fill in that gap, allowing him to begin to use word prediction to speed the process. Tyrone has proven to be a skilled writer, and it is writing that he hopes to use as his link to the world, as a means to advocate for the disabled.”
This past June, Tyrone graduated high school and was even named the valedictorian of his graduating class. Here is an excerpt of his valedictorian speech:
“Today is a day of celebration. We started this school journey fourteen years ago, or for some thirteen years or for others maybe longer, but we all have worked to arrive at this graduation day. This triumph is the result of the determination with personal commitment to complete an education which will be the foundation of our future success. Regardless of the personal struggles each of us have faced to fulfill this dream of being a graduating student we are because of people who encouraged us to reach for our dreams and to never give up. This gift is honoured with gratitude in our diploma we receive today as we acknowledge their part in our success. With personal victory comes hope for our future which we can look to with confidence seeing the possibilities that lay before us.
Born with disabilities has meant personal struggles throughout my life but, through God’s help and strength I have been able to overcome the obstacles that have crossed my path and completed what I was told was impossible. Having the label “mentally challenged” was how I entered school and it became my greatest battle to convince the world this was not true. Through this war I have become a better person as I have learned to understand the feeling of discrimination which has given me the goal of being an advocate. To make a difference one must know how it truly feels to be in a position of an individual who wants equality. There is a tremendous need for those with disabilities to have a voice and, though I may be non-verbal, through writing my goal and purpose is to speak for those without a voice.”
Congratulations on all your success in school, Tyrone, and good luck in the future!