We all know that technology is a powerful force in our lives today, nearly impossible to avoid. Kids continue to astonish us by successfully navigating their parents’ smartphones and tablets without any formal instruction. It is precisely this ease of use that is one component of technology helping patients gain communicative ability.
There are two major categories of communication devices patients can use. The first is Augmentative communication, which supplements speech. This would be for patients who have some language already but still need assistance. The second kind is Alternative communication which replaces speech altogether. The individual who would use this is nonverbal.
Microsoft’s new TV ad featured during Super Bowl XLVIII demonstrates just how important technology is. The part that caught my eye was technology’s ability “to give voice to the voiceless.” Steve Gleason is a former NFL player who is living with ALS. One job an SLP must do is work with their patient to provide a personalized device. Not all devices will be successful for a particular person since each individual has their own challenges they face. The ad shows Gleason using a high-tech aided alternative communication device so he can communicate with his son. Since he is nonverbal and also has extremely limited physical capabilities, Gleason’s device allows him to use a scanning technique. He controls what the computer verbalizes based on where his eye gaze goes on the screen.
Below are both the Super Bowl commercial and a second video explaining Steve Gleason’s inspiring story about re-gaining some independence using this communicative technology.
Just because someone has a disability doesn’t mean they have to be disconnected from the people around them. Everyone has the right to have their own voice heard.