Glyn Briscoe lives in Wigan and was put in touch with Ace Centre following an NHS assessment.
After being diagnosed with an optic nerve glioma, Glyn became blind at the age of ten, has a right-side paralysis and is unable to speak, so is completely reliant on Assistive Technology to help him communicate with his dad, Carl, and mum, Elaine.
Glyn had been using an SL35 Cherry Lightwriter for over 15 years, but the model was unfortunately discontinued, and repair parts were impossibly hard to get hold of.
The newer versions of the Lightwriter did not encompass the specific functions that Glyn required, such as there being no key tone when keys were pressed. This function is used to alert a blind person of its use, so it was deemed unsuitable for him. He tried using an iPad with a bespoke keyguard but found this hard to use, so it was clear that he was in desperate need of a new device to allow him to communicate with his friends and family as before.
With no suitable replacement available from existing Assistive Technology, a speech therapist recommended Ace Centre to Carl and Glyn, and they attended an information day to seek advice around next steps and were encouraged to make a referral for a full assessment.
Carl says: “Glyn is totally dependent on his communication aid due to being blind and having no speech. The smallest sentence took sometimes hours to decipher so it was important that we found something he could use easily and effectively.”
Glyn is very sociable and enjoys the company of other people, especially older people. Carl says: “This came from his early school days where, because of his disabilities, his classmates couldn`t/wouldn`t relate to him, so he found the conversation with older people like grandparents very enjoyable because they had the time to talk on his level without judging him.”
Like a lot of blind people, having no sight makes them very tactile and Glyn enjoys making Lego models, doing arts and crafts with his mum but by far, his biggest passion is music. He has a wide knowledge of music genres from 60’s and 70’s, to local folk groups like the Lancashire Hotpots.
He is also a die-hard Wigan Warriors supporter and has been a season ticket holder for years, Rugby League is in the family from grandparents, parents and siblings so conversations about Rugby League was something that happened a lot in the house and Glyn didn’t want to miss out.
Ace Centre spoke to Glyn and Carl, who suggested various ways to improve his social skills then carried out an assessment of Glyn`s ability to use various types of communication aids to find the best option for him to use. Having learned to touch-type, Glyn was dependent on using a keyboard-based device and was struggling to find something he could use effectively due to his visual impairment.
Lizzie Sadiku is an AAC Consultant at the Ace Centre and has worked closely with Glyn. She says; “We trialled several different devices that were thought to be appropriate, looking at features such as auditory feedback and tactile feedback, as Glyn was reliant on these. We held a conversation with Glyn’s parents as well as Glyn himself, to work out what worked well for him, and what his main difficulties were.”
After trialling a range of solutions, Glyn finally found one that seemed most appropriate for his needs – the Allora 2 by Jabbla. This contemporary, digital communication tool with a clear and natural reading voice, also featured word prediction, the ability to pre-programme 100 key phrases, and a built-in microphone for family or carers to dictate messages. Because it featured auditory feedback on letter and function keys, this allowed Glyn to hear what he was touch typing to make sure it made sense, enabling him to participate more freely in conversation, supporting his independence and socialisation.
After settling on this, Ace returned to carry out training with Glyn and his family so that they could continue to communicate with each other as they had previously.
Carl says; “Glyn endured months of being unable to communicate with his family due to the Cherry Lightwriter being inoperable. The intervention and subsequent solution of the Allora 2 machine allowed Glyn to again take part in conversations without the whole family becoming stressed in efforts to understand him.”
Says Glyn: “I like my new machine because it is easy to use and has a button that sounds like a car horn that’s fun to press when I want mum and dad to get me things.”
Carl adds: “As his dad, I’m not sure if I agree with that!”