New Technology Helps Children With Disabilities Communicate

Nine-year old Kayla Dyson is wheelchair bound. She was hit by a car four years ago. The accident left her with serious brain injuries and took away her ability to speak. But with the new Gemini system, she's starting to communicate.

Sara Jackson is the Director of the Toy Library and Technology Learning Center at USM in Long Beach.  She says Kayla can now type words, form sentences and answer questions with the new system.  It has opened up the world of communication for her, that was previously locked without this technology.

The computer is programmed with phrases that Kayla uses everyday. For instance, she can tell everyone that her mom is going to have a baby brother by simply touching a phrase on the screen to send that message.

The Technology Learning Center in Long Beach was able to purchase this expensive system, with a $100,000 dollar grant by the Knight-Ridder Foundation.   Jackson says without this foundation, they could not have had this equipment to demonstrate to families, to try out with students who need it, and to show teachers how it works.

The grant also funded a high-tech computer system to help children like, Kara Dennison, who can't move their hands. An infrared light, reflecting off a silver dot on her forehead, allows Kara to move the mouse with her head, instead of her hands.

Jackson says Kara cannot use a pencil or a pen to write, so with this piece of equipment, she can perform her school work, get on the Internet and write letters. Kara says it's fun to use, and it helps her because she doesn't have to have someone else move the mouse for her. That independence is just the beginning, thanks to technology that's helping children with disabilities, live normal lives.

The grant also paid for eight computers, with specially-designed software and hardware, to meet the needs of children with disabilities.  The equipment is available for families and schools to try out for free.  For more information on the program, you can call TLC at 867-2636.

By:  Trang Pham-Bui