Innovation and Technology Offer New Avenues of Communication for Children with Severe Disabilities
Shira is a sociable, communicative girl, with substantial learning abilities and a high level of motivation. She is a high-dependency resident at ALEH, who needs assistance in all aspects of daily life. Her muscle tone is increased and variable, and does not enable proper hand function. However, Shira is able to indicate her choices through her visual focus: she focuses on an object or picture, and thus can communicate her selection. She sorts objects according to colors, shapes and general categories. She also practices sorting according to sub-categories, and can perform various types of correspondences such as: relevance, clarity, etc., copying basic patterns and creating sequences of two colors – all by choosing between 2-3 items and focusing her gaze on the appropriate one.
Since Shira has great difficulty with motor tasks, and a good ability to focus her eyes, in order for her to continue practicing her learning tasks and be able to indicate her choices and interact with her surroundings, an eye tracking system was recommended. Shira practices with and uses the Eye Tracking “My Gaze” system on a daily basis. The school staff was trained in the use of the system by an occupational and a communications therapist, and they practice using it with Shira. The staff conducts a weekly follow-up as well as additional training exercises.
Shira practices her various skills by using Grid 3 software with the “Look to Learn” and “Look to Learn – Scenes and Sounds” programs. Additionally, the communications therapist built Shira beginning boards with which she practices her selection and communication skills.
Shira adjusted to the system relatively easily, quickly understanding its principles and how to use it. She can successfully shift her gaze across the screen and focus on the relevant item. She is showing significant improvement in using the technique, and continues to practice with it daily. Given this success, her parents also acquired a system for Shira’s use and practice when she is at home.
We are confident that the Eye Tracking System will continue to prove to be an extremely significant channel of communication for ALEH’s children.
This report was written by Sigalit Mishali, Principal of the ALEH Yad LeTaf Early Intervention Center