Ashley is a typical Middle School student. Between classes she talks with her friends and makes weekend plans. She has favorite music, participates in 4H, and has over 200 friends on Facebook. Her computer skills surpass those of many adults – she produced a multi-media presentation for her brother’s graduation and regularly uses the internet to get product information.
She is a remarkable young woman, and when you meet her, you discover she participates in all the above using a computer and her speech generating device. Ashley has Cerebral Palsy which affects all four limbs, her trunk muscles and head control. To complete simple tasks requires a great deal of energy and perseverance, but Ashley has proven she can do many things herself with the proper supports and technology.
Ashley uses a number of assistive devices to participate in her education. These include a Bluetooth joystick on her power wheelchair to control the computer mouse cursor and her dynamic display communication device. She reads her textbooks in digital format. Her AAC (augmentative and alternative communication) device is separate from her computer and also requires navigation using a joystick. And Ashley’s wheelchair is not only a power chair, it also can raise her to a standing position. This is useful for accessing materials at table top level (Art, Science etc.), and facilitates face to face communication with peers and adults.
Keystone AEA began working with Ashley when she was about eight months old. Throughout her life, the AEA has provided support to Ashley and her family. At age 14 Ashley is now beginning to set her own priorities and establishing a direction for her future endeavors.
Recently, she needed to replace her AAC device. Her support team determined she would be best served by using a cutting edge technology called Eye-Gaze. Eye-Gaze allows the user to control their computer with their eyes. A camera tracks Ashley’s eye as she navigates the computer screen. She can make selections by stopping her gaze on the choice she has made.
Ashley tested four different AAC devices; each worked a little differently. For each of these trials, all of Ashley’s support team participated, including Speech, OT, Technology, Instructional staff, and family.
Ashley led the team in deciding which device would best meet her needs. She communicated to the team what she wanted in an AAC device, including the color. Ashley had already begun programming communication boards for the AAC device.
While the device doesn’t work perfectly for her, Ashley has been able to use it to mentor younger students, talk with Senator Harkin, and have several parts in the Christmas play put on at her church. And she is becoming a popular presenter at the local college. Even though Ashley has CP, with some help from her AEA, she has proven she is an able person, capable of doing much in her life!