Magazine article The Exceptional Parent

A Future through Technology

Magazine article The Exceptional Parent

A Future through Technology

Article excerpt

Assistive technology, augmentative and alternative communication, voice output communication aids, environmental controls, power mobility -- none of this was available when our daughter Nancy was diagnosed with athetoid cerebral palsy in 1969 at 15 months.

Seeing that Nancy's future was in our hands, my husband Jack and I, with five other families from our area, rounded the Developmental Center for Handicapped Children (DCHC) in Dayton, Ohio, in 1971. These other families became close friends over the years as we watched our children struggle through innovative programs designed to help them reach their potential.

Our family needed to provide 30 volunteers per week for Nancy's program at the Center. Nancy was the fifth of our seven children. Our twin daughters were just a year old at the time and we knew we couldn't do it alone. The Lord showed us that we needed help and He sent it to us in the form of neighbors, friends and family. It's great what people will do if you're willing to accept their help and support. The families at DCHC did it all -- sewed curtains, cleaned, trained volunteers, etc.

Nancy went to play school half days when she was five. A volunteer went along to assist her in the daily activities. She was bright and interested in learning. At age seven, Nancy went to kindergarten in the public school for children with disabilities.

The school speech therapist asked me what I was going to do about my daughter's lack of communication skills; this scared me to death. l had four older children and the twins besides Nancy. The therapist told us about Blissymbolics, an alternative communication system being used in Canada with children who couldn't talk. That summer, Nancy and I went to Toronto for a speech evaluation.

l served two years as vice president of consumer advocacy at ISAAC (International Society for Augmentative and Alternative Communication). This organization encompasses multidisciplinary fields of augmentative communication. It was through ISAAC that I was able to network with visionaries who were developing technology in communication and assistive mobility. I can recall attending an international conference abroad in 1984 and seeing power wheelchairs for babies in storefront windows in Sweden. …

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