State-of-the-art eye movement technology is helping children to communicate.
Harrogate Hospital Paediatric Speech & Language Therapy Department bought a Portable Eye Gaze Assessment kit with the help of the Friends group, to help children with physical or motor challenges or severe autism.
Alison Reece, who heads up the Department, said: “The software can ‘trial’ precisely what a child can understand in so many different areas, enabling teachers, therapists and most importantly parents to provide exactly the right play and learning opportunities.”
She explained that without access to their own departmental device, they had to arrange a loan for up to two weeks at a time: but these children are prone to episodes of illness and the opportunity to test often disappeared.
Now they have their own eye gaze computer and in two months, Alison said it had never ever been on the shelf.
“It is central to a project at Springwater School where five children with complex physical and learning challenges use it during the week.
“It then goes home with Oscar who is trialling it at the weekend.”
The machine picks up light relections from eyes to move the cursor and children can learn to track and target objects on the screen.
Oscar’s mum notices that her little boy is starting to giggle as he focuses on faces on the screen.
“He can influence what happens there - for the first time ever,” she said.
“There is the opportunity to point and to choose, to paint and to count, to make music and tell a story - and to join a community bound together by language.”
It is hoped that Oscar will eventually have his own Eye Gaze kit.