The Wonderful World of Technology
A touch of the finger on a computer screen. A command, made only with the eyes. For children with physical and cognitive disabilities, such movements, sometimes more easily achieved than others, are opening up whole new worlds of communication and access to learning that decades ago were only dreams. “Technology is changing every day and we want to stay on top of it because it makes so many more things possible for children with disabilities,” says Wanda Kolipinski, outpatient pediatric assistive technology coordinator. “Good Shepherd is unique with the kind of program and service we provide with assistive technology. There aren’t many places that have the knowledge, the skills, the expertise, and the resources like we do. It opens doors.”
Scott Cacciatore, 3-1/2
Autism Spectrum Disorder
It’s not often that a parent likes hearing the word “no” when their child is asked to do something. But for Jennifer and John Cacciatore of Easton, that very word was music to their ears when their 3-1/2-year-old son, Scott, who has autism and is non-verbal, exclaimed it for the first time.
“Shortly after New Year’s Eve, I asked Scott to come into the kitchen for dinner,” recalls Jennifer. “He said ‘no.’ I was frozen. I was just amazed. I couldn’t believe it.”
Jennifer credits Good Shepherd and the DynaVox communication system with helping Scott achieve this breakthrough. And she hopes it’s the start of more words to come.
Scott was born at 30 weeks and weighed 3 pounds, 12 ounces. He spent almost six weeks in neonatal intensive care. At age 2, Scott was diagnosed as being on the autism spectrum disorder. He’s been coming to Good Shepherd for outpatient physical, occupational and speech therapy. The DynaVox, a small, portable computer programmed with images that convert into voice commands when the screen is touched, is helping improve Scott’s socialization and language skills at home and at school, all with the touch of his finger. In short, it’s become his voice.
“He’s been doing really great. It’s an amazing tool,” says speech therapist Kristi Elser. “It helps him understand the concept of communication and it increases his interaction with others because he can express himself. He’s always been a good listener and he’s very smart. It’s wonderful to see him blossom.”
“I am eternally grateful for the services and staff at Good Shepherd," says Jennifer. "It is an amazing network of people and I am completely moved by everything that’s been offered to Scott.”
Jayvean Rosario, 4
Spinal Muscular Atrophy
Jayvean Rosario may not be able to talk much, but he has no trouble communicating how much he loves the iPad. Born with spinal muscular atrophy, Jayvean has limited use of his arms and hands, and relies on a ventilator to help him breathe. But Jayvean is eager to learn, and his face lights up when he’s working with the iPad, a lightweight, portable computer that lets him access the Internet.
“He loves interactive books on the iPad because he would really struggle to hold a book and turn the pages,” says Wanda.
Wanda is exploring various apps or applications to download on Jayvean’s iPad. One of those is Proloquo2Go, a speech app. A customized array of icons with different pictures appears on the screen. When Jayvean touches one, an automated voice says the word, encouraging Jayvean to repeat what he’s just heard.
It’s a technological treasure chest for Jayvean, who is working on receptive and expressive communication so he can interact with the world as never before. He began showing interest in his mother’s laptop computer at home, but because of his physical limitations, was unable to use it. Wanda tried several technologies before settling on the iPad. “It stimulates his thinking,” she says. “It’s interactive and it’s intuitive.”
Although Jayvean isn’t in school yet, the iPad – which can cost anywhere from $499 to $699 each - holds great potential to help him with writing and learning letters, colors, numbers, and words.
“Technology is going to be the avenue for him,” says Wanda.
Julian Gonzalez, 16
Traumatic Brain Injury
Technology: Tar Heel Reader, iPad
Julian Gonzalez cruises into the outpatient pediatric waiting room full of confidence. The funny and handsome 16-year-old likes to talk about “the ladies” when he’s not talking about music “In real life, I haven’t been around the world,” he says, “but in music, I’ve been around the world. My goal is to be either a singer, a rapper or in a band.”
Eight years ago, after suffering traumatic brain injury when he was hit by a car, Julian’s goal was just being able to survive. Doctors predicted he’d be blind – if he lived.
Today, not only can Julian see, he’s writing his own story on the computer using a web site called Tar Heel Reader. Julian’s story is posted on the site along with others. Wanda picked this for Julian because it helps him organize his thoughts and engages him in something he’s really interested in. “It gives him a feeling of success and accomplishment,” says Wanda. “He was really proud to tell his mother that he wrote a story and it’s
It’s been a long, hard journey for Julian who gets multiple therapies. When he first came to Good Shepherd, he struggled just to stay alert. His right hand is weaker than his left, but he’s now able to use a mouse and can keyboard with both hands. “The technology helps him keep up and will benefit him today and tomorrow,” says Wanda, who has been working with Julian on finding the right computer programs that will help him with reading comprehension and short-term memory retention.
Julian’s mother, Elizabeth, loves watching her son achieve greater independence through technology, like with the iPad he received for Christmas. “In school, he doesn’t have to depend on an aide to write things down,” she says. “He can take his own notes, keep his own calendar and read books on the Internet. And, without the technology, it would be a lot more work for me!”
Matthew O’Donnell, 8
Spastic Cerebral Palsy
“Amazing.” That’s what Matthew O’Donnell’s parents call Good Shepherd and the assistive technology that holds such promise for this youngster who loves making the most of life.
It was technology, in fact, that brought Matthew to Good Shepherd — all the way from central New Jersey. His parents, Dan and Annie, wanted more for Matthew, who has cerebral palsy and is unable to verbalize, than what was offered in their area. They began researching facilities with comprehensive pediatric therapy programs on the Internet and discovered Good Shepherd. They were so impressed, they moved to
the Lehigh Valley almost seven years ago. Matthew has been receiving a variety of therapies here but his parents say the service that has the biggest impact on his daily activities is the power of communication. “It’s life-changing, because it gives him a voice,” says Dan.
The therapy team suggested that Matthew would be a great candidate for an eye gaze computer system called MyTobii. Infrared technology makes it possible for Matthew to interact with the computer using his eyes and choose various activities to create his own photo albums and communicate.
After careful evaluation, Matthew got his very own MyTobii which he uses at school and at home. “Matthew loves playing games, reading books, and learning new things just like any other second grader, and his MyTobii eye gaze system has a lot to do with his success,” says Annie.
Adds Dan, “Because of Mattie’s strong mind and determination, his future is very bright. We will do everything we can to continue working with the team at Good Shepherd in finding new technologies to help Matthew achieve greatness.”
Won't you please make a gift now so more children like these can benefit from wonderful new technologies?