In April I had the opportunity to attend the Carnival of Courage at Colby-Sawyer College. It was there I was introduced to Ali. Ali is a senior at Colby-Sawyer and majoring in child development. Both my daughter, who attended with me, and myself were quite impressed with Ali. I asked if she’d like to be a guest blogger. Here is her story. I hope you are as touched by it as I am. Thank you Ali for being willing to share your story.
“I have been speech impaired my entire life. As a young child I was taught ASL but as I learned to read in school, I became more comfortable finger spelling, and because my elementary school class was taught the American Sign Language alphabet, in this way I could communicate with my friends. When I was first given assistive technology, I hated it. I had a Dynavox Dynamite. It was heavy and cumbersome to carry around, slow to respond, had a weird voice, broke often, and I found it made me stand out and not in a good way. My school system was excellent in providing me the most up to date equipment, and over time I graduated to using different devices; a Link in middle school for class work, and eventually a Palmtop in high school, but I still hated to use them. My teachers were required to make me participate in class, and they would give me time to prepare my responses. It was a struggle for me.
Then came texting and Apple technology, specifically the iPhone and Proloquo2go app, and my life dramatically changed. I could communicate with my friends via text, and since they were all texting as well, I no longer stood out. Because I was communicating using an app on my phone, I was using the same “devices” as all my friends. The voice was more realistic, even though I still wish it would sound more like a human voice, there was a built in speaker, and I finally felt that I fit in. This new technology allowed me to be independent in ways that could not have been foreseen when I was in elementary school.
I am now going into my senior year at Colby-Sawyer College. I live in CT and going away to college would not have been possible without this technology. I participate in class, talk to my friends, give presentations, talk to professors and administrators and have completed 2 practicums in the Windy Hill School on campus, working with small children. During my summers, I volunteer at the Literacy Center in Danbury where I help plan lessons for kindergarteners and pre-school children. I do it all using Prologquo2go on my iPhone.
That isn’t to say it’s perfect. There are times when I’m in noisy surroundings and it can’t be heard. But most people will just read the text if they can’t hear and so it works. Sometimes I wish it used my “real” voice. But overall it’s opened up my life an allowed me to participate in a way I never thought possible. While I’m still a bit shy at times, I know that no matter what situation I face, I can communicate and as a result, I can live my life as an independent adult. I am majoring in child development with a minor in media studies, and I am intending on pursuing a career working with young children and assistive technology.”