Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: COMPUTER (05/19/16)
- TITLE: Life-Changing Devices
By Judy Sauer
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A United Way Days of Caring community outreach took me to a home for disabled kids, who showed me how creatively they can share the words from inside their heads and hearts. I met three incredible boys: Cole, David, and Sean. They were unable to take care of their own basic needs, but they each had specially-designed computers which enabled them to express their thoughts. It was an incredible, eye-opening experience to see them move beyond their disabilities and interact with others.
Cerebral Palsy confines Cole to a wheelchair, and he could only sound out grunts and groans. A computer taught him about the alphabet; how to use the letters to make words; and then how to speak through the device with preset words. It came with a vast vocabulary, and as his language skills improved, so did the breadth of his use of words. He pressed buttons to string words into sentences to convey thoughts and feelings, as the machine helped him learn how to “speak’ to others. He never stopped smiling as he showed off how he is mastering the computer; proud of how he transferred the words in his mind into sentences on a computer. The machine became his verbal voice, even though he remained silent within.
Next I sat with David at the custom-made table that housed his computer. Unable from birth to speak, or to use his hands and arms, his lips gripped the blunt end of a #2 lead pencil. Using a “hunt and peck” approach, the computer plucked out one letter at a time, capturing the slightest touch from the eraser end to type out his messages. Letter by letter, and word by word, he strung together a sentence, beaming with pride at this accomplishment. However long it took him did not matter. David was “talking.”
When I met Sean, I soon learned that he aspired to be a writer. It’s well known that writers have a variety of obstacles to overcome, but he faced insurmountable verbal communication barriers. Imagine having an abundance of thoughts without a way to convey them—without a computer. With thoughts percolating in his mind, he typed letters to create words, sentences, paragraphs, and stories¯which his computer could read aloud for others to hear. Although computer speech programs were not available for public use yet, this made Sean’s computer extra special. It also saved his stories for printing.
The Children’s Home’s staff wanted to show us Sean’s writings which they had published in a book with a bright blue, shiny hardback cover. The cover, and illustrations between his stories, had been drawn by kids at the center with artistic talents. He was a published writer…his dream fulfilled. But like many authors, he had more words yet to type, for he was already working on stories for a second book.
These computers are true miracles for those who face overwhelming communication challenges, to find the fulfillment of shared thoughts. It is obvious that God blessed many computer engineers with talents to develop these life-changing devices.
Dreams are achieved because of technology. Computers made for individuals with special needs make their world come alive as they realize their unique talents and aspirations—all because of the generosity of engineers who made it their mission to help others have a voice.
I feel honored to have spent time with these kids. God is making miracles happen for them, and I have seen his handiwork. What a blessing.
Consider your own possibilities. What is calling you from within? I encourage you to reach for the stars, and make your dreams come true.
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