According to a recent UK poll, approximately 95% of parents remember their childâ€™s first word. This milestone is a big dealâ€”we eagerly wait for it and clap and cheer when it is first uttered! The most commonly reported first words are â€œDada,â€ â€œMamaâ€ and their variations. It is evident that humans, from the earliest measurable indicators, are designed to socially connect and communicate with others. An infantâ€™s first words are the beginning of a lifetime of communication.
What about those who have had their speech stolen from them due to a disability? They still desire this connection and social interaction. When given proper access to communication through assistive technology, they experience a rebirth of communication! In my work with the Eyegaze EdgeÂ® Iâ€™ve excitedly witnessed these â€œfirst wordsâ€ again, and have been reminded that communication is all about connection with those around us.
Here are some first words Iâ€™ve witnessed, typed with just the movement of the personâ€™s eye via an on-screen keyboard.
I love you.
Can you make sure my son has new shoes for school?
Happy Birthday Dad!
My foot hurts
Finally, I can communicate!
These tender phrases are often accompanied by tears of joy. Tears of celebration. Tears of relief to be heard and understood once again! With this essential function restored, Eyegaze users immediately begin directing their medical care, expressing their opinions and sharing affirmations of love for family members. In the words of one Eyegaze EdgeÂ® user, â€œto communicate is to be alive!â€
Author:Â James Brinton, M.A., CCC-SLP is the Assistive Technology Coordinator for LC Technologies, Inc. He speaks on the use of eyegaze systems for individuals with disabilities. Â He works with therapy teams across the country to teach critical thinking skills regarding functional eye gaze application for various clients across the lifespan.Â