Patrick is fun-loving, football crazy and at age 10 has already developed a strong social conscience setting up a litter picking club at his primary school. His mantra for life is: ‘If it is to be, it’s up to me’. Determined to pass his Year 6 exams, he needed to communicate effectively at school.
Patrick has cerebral palsy which affects his speech and causes involuntary movements that become more pronounced when he’s excited – like when he’s talking with his friends about computer games! These movements also affect his ability to control the eyegaze technology he uses for face-to-face communication.
As Patrick progressed through Key Stage 2 he was finding it difficult to listen to the teacher and complete increasingly demanding schoolwork using his wheelchair-mounted eyegaze. Simple tasks like taking notes were taking too long and left him feeling frustrated and self-conscious. These issues were was also causing concern for the transition to secondary school and Patrick was determined to find a way to control his ability to communicate in the classroom, the playground and online.
The team at Ace Centre assessed Patrick’s evolving needs and maturity before identifying, developing and adapting the most appropriate school-based Assistive Technology and kit. This included looking at alternative ways of controlling the computer including using a joystick or eyegaze to control the mouse and enter text using an on-screen keyboard.
Following the initial assessment Ace Centre was able to loan a piece of equipment for Patrick to try. The team then met with him to see how he got on with it. Ultimately it was felt that eyegaze technology continued to be the most suitable but with a range of software adaptions to make it more efficient.
Going forward, as Patrick grows and his skills and interests develop, the way he accesses technology is likely to change. It’s important, therefore, to regularly review his progress and Ace Centre works closely with Patrick’s school and Local Education Authority to provide the regular, appropriate support for his individual needs.
Patrick’s mum Jo describes the impact the eyegaze technology has had:
‘It’s opened up a world of education for Patrick and allowed his personality to fully emerge – for the first time he can truly express how he feels.’
‘’It’s really facilitated his learning, enabling him to progress in reading and maths. His ability to use Powerpoint using eyegaze is phenomenal and means he can do exactly what his peers are doing in class. He can also communicate more effectively with his teachers and explain when he doesn’t understand something so he’s less frustrated and more focussed on his work.’
Patrick and his family are now starting to prepare for the transition from primary to secondary school in 2021 and the support provided by Ace Centre will be more important than ever to overcome the additional communication challenges the high school setting presents.
If it is to be, it’s up to me