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Eye gaze technology gives Zeedy a voice

Published 29th February, 2016
A revolutionary communication device controlled by eye movement is helping 5 year-old Zeedy Nichols find his voice and communicate with the world around him.

At a very young age Zeedy was diagnosed with transverse myelitis which left him quadriplegic and affected his ability to communicate verbally. However this has never deterred the cheeky youngster from using his facial expressions, gestures and grunts to express himself and communicate with the people around him.

With assistance from his Speech Pathologist, Amanda Pike, Zeedy successfully trialled an alternative communication device called the Tobii Dynavox I-12+. The device, which looks like any tablet computer, tracks the user’s eye movements and generates speech on their behalf.

“Zeedy can’t use his hands to reliably point at words or use a switch, so he had to rely on the people around him asking him yes or no questions to work out what he wanted,” Amanda said.

“With the Tobii Dynavox, Zeedy can select images or words on a screen by looking at them for a short period of time, and then the device will speak them for him. It gives him a way to tell everyone what he is thinking, how he is feeling, and what game he’d like to play.”

But owning such an advanced piece of equipment comes at a price, with the Tobii Dynavox retailing for over $20,000. It was because of this cost that Zeedy’s family were initially advised that the chances of obtaining funding to purchase the device were slim. Though Amanda was more hopeful, and with determination she obtained full funding via the State Government’s Community Aids and Equipment Program (CAEP).

“Amanda was so positive and helpful throughout the process. We’re so grateful to her for getting this life changing piece of equipment,” Tracy said.

“Without the device, Zeedy would be still be frustrated with everyone trying to guess what he wants. Now he has a voice of his own.”

It is hoped the device will also assist with Zeedy’s speech development, with Amanda optimistic that he will achieve verbal communication in the future.

“Since the arrival of the Tobii, Zeedy has started making new sounds and some are starting to sound a lot like words. It’s helping him learn more about language, participate independently in the classroom, and chat with his friends.”

For more information about the Tobii Dynavox visit www.tobiidynavox.com

Watch the Tobii Dynavox in action.

Zeedy using his Tobii Dynavox

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