Saturday, November 1, 2008

From Disaboom

Elke Wisbey, 6, Uses State of the Art Communication Device to Speak for the First Time

Posted: 10/31/2008 at 05:39 PM

Elke WisbeyElke Wisbey, 6, was born with brain damage and cannot walk or speak. After her community raised funds to purchase a state of the art communication device for Elke, the little girl was able to use tiny eye movements to speakher first words through the machine: "I love you."


The $27,000 MyTobii Smartbox tracks Elke's eye movements with tiny lasers. The device includes a screen with various icons representing words or phrases. When Elke's eyes settle on an icon, a computerized voice speaks the corresponding word or phrase for her. Within a few days after the Smartbox was set up, Elke began looking repeatedly at the "I love you" icon in order to express her affection toward her parents and her nine-year-old brother.


With the help of her family, Elke has now learned to use her Smartbox to speak a number of words and phrases, as well as play games and browse the internet. The communication device has enabled the girl to communicate her needs and exert a degree of independence previously impossible due to her condition.


Eventually, Elke may be able to control her environment using the Smartbox. The device can also be used to dim the lights in a room, turn the television on and off, and set a video recorder, among other uses. Elke will likely never walk or feed herself, and may not survive to adulthood because her condition makes her vulnerable to secondary illnesses like pneumonia. However, the Smartbox allows her to communicate with her loved ones and has improved her quality of life greatly.


I wonder what else children with severe disabilities might be capable of, once technology catches up with them?

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