Quinns started pre-school nursery in September along with lots of other boys and girls. I think the nursery staff were nervous at first. To be fair he is pretty terrifying on paper.
He has quadriplegic athetoid cerebral palsy, which basically means he is unable to sit unaided let alone stand. He can’t do anything for himself. He needs 24 hour care.
He is also non-verbal. That doesn’t mean he doesn’t understand or communicate. He uses non-verbal body, face and eye signals to tell us what he needs and wants. In person his big blue eyes and cheeky smile have everyone falling in love with him!
From the very first time she met him, when he was only 18 months old, his Speech and Language Therapist knew he was a candidate for eye gaze technology. She also knew that to get the best from the technology he would need a solid grounding using lo-tech systems. She has supported him weekly ever since using a wide range of techniques, images and laminated sheets.
When he turned three he had a trial for an eye gaze computer. As expected Quinns was amazing! He took to it no problem. A quick explanation of the games and he was off. Once when left alone to explore the various screens he managed to say ‘please help me, I want to play a game’. Most likely a coincidence since he can’t yet read but it was still a beautiful moment and one that has been helpful in obtaining the funding for his very own eye gaze device.
The nursery staff have learned a lot since Quinns started with them. He comes with an array of professionals teaching them their expertise and equipment requiring technical skill. But most importantly they’ve learned that he’s just like all the other boys and girls. He likes playing with cars, colouring in and he will laugh if you drop something!
Provided we get Quinns’ communication systems in place everyone is agreed that he will continue on to mainstream school. Having spent his first term teaching the staff and children about his lo-tech eye gaze systems hopefully they will be ready for his hi-tech computer next term.
The other children have accepted Quinns for Quinns. He has almost celebrity status with a posse of children looking after him and shouting hello in the playground. One little girl even told her mum how clever Quinns is because he can talk with his eyes.