We had a special visitor last week, who came bearing a beautiful bridge. She didn’t lug steel girders up our front stairs, but she did carry some heavy-duty suitcases! Kristine is a representative of Tobii, which makes communication devices. She came to the house to trial a device with Abbie that allows her to make choices by just looking at the computer screen. How cool is technology??
I didn’t get any video of the trial, but here is a YouTube link that shows something similar to what Abbie did:
When Kristine first set the device in front of Abbie and told her to look at the screen, we didn’t get much response to the basic start-screen. “Oh…duh!” said Kristine, switching to a different screen. “Abbie, I need you to find the puppies on the page, OK?” Wham-o! All she needed was the right motivation. It was amazing, encouraging, and thrilling to watch!
We were blessed to have Abbie’s longtime speech therapist. Lisa, here to watch, along with her husband who works at the company bringing this device into Hawaii. At the end of the session, I was trying to contain my excitement, and remain rational and realistic. These devices cost as much as a new economy car, so I asked, “How well does she need to be able to use it during a trial to qualify to receive her own device?”
Lisa said she thought Abbie did pretty well, and was surprised at how far she has come with control of her body. “A year ago I would not even have thought an eye-gaze device was on the horizon for her. She can definitely do this!!” Hurrah for Abbie!
I suppose that trial underlines what we are seeing in general with Abbie these days. She is gaining more and more control of her body as time passes, especially when it comes to doing things on command. I mentioned her swallowing in the previous post, the device trial showed off her eye control, and today she shocked me with her arms.
Maria was here working with Abbie on the massage table, and I stepped into the other room to get some oils. When I returned Maria said, “OK , Abbie, show Mummy how you can move your arm.” Right away I saw her hand lift up and I cheered. Maria gave me a look that said, “Shhhh…just wait.” I kept encouraging Abbie and was excited when I could see daylight peeking under her elbow. Again, I started rejoicing, and got the same look from Maria. After a little more encouragement, Abbie’s arm suddenly shot up off the table into midair. I was speechless. She then moved it around for quite a while. I am so excited for her when I see her body cooperating more easily, since she has long known WHAT she wants it to do, and is now figuring out HOW to make it happen.
She is also using her voice more and more. As her school speech therapist was peeking in on Abbie last week she said, “You know, she is using her voice a lot. Do you think we can use that for communication? Can she do it to answer questions?” At that time I said that her voice use was definitely volitional (on purpose and meaningful), but probably not at the point where she could do it on command. I now think she is quickly approaching that point.
She accompanied the twins and I to a meeting at school last night. Abbie used her voice to “comment” on what the speaker was saying at all the appropriate points…it was hilarious. When we were tucking her into bed that night Matt said, “You know Mom, we pray for Abbie to be healed every day, but it’s been happening all along in tiny steps we can’t really see. Look how much better she has already gotten!!’
We have been crying out to God intensely over these past weeks, mostly in praise, and the answers He has been providing humble us in their specificity, timing, and perfection. We are utterly blessed!