Elementary Breakthroughs: My Grade School Years with AAC

With cerebral palsy, I was just a rag doll that was nonverbal and wheelchair-bound. On my third birthday, my mother put me on the bus to go to school. Within a few days, the teacher saw a spark of intelligence in my eyes. The fight began that day to find a way for me to participate socially in my elementary school.

After researching which assistive device was best for my communication and for classroom assignments, the school system purchased my first device — the DynaVox. I accessed the device with two head switches. Although I was using pages with only a few buttons at the time, I quickly learned how to communicate with the world.

As I made progress and began accessing more levels and buttons on a page, I started interacting more with my peers. I came home and told my mother how many friends I had made that day. I had sleepovers, movie nights, and girls’ night outs. One night, a phone call came for me. My mother answered and a small, high-pitched voice asked to speak with me. My mother ran to me with excitement, and I told her to put the phone on the table and on speaker. Although it took me awhile to formulate what I was saykng, the conversation between my high-pitched friend and me lasted for more than an hour!

I wanted to participate as much as I could in my general mainstream classes. During reading circle time, every student took turns reading aloud to the class. I was determined to participate too, so I figured out how to download a book to my computer and make it read aloud. The next time the teacher asked the class who wanted to read, I immediately pushed play on my ebook. Joy filled the room, and my teacher glanced at me with tears in her eyes. In that moment, I felt like I finally was contributing in my very own classroom.

Without assistive technology, I would be trapped in the darkness of my own body. I can face the world now. The DynaVox helped me blossom into a social butterfly during my elementary years.

 


Megan Fry has first-hand knowledge about assistive technology. She has cerebral palsy which led her to be wheelchair-bound and nonverbal. By using a Microsoft Surface with eye-gaze technology, Megan conquers life.  Learn more about Megan and see her artwork at her website Just My Eye.