I can write

We have always believed that R is smart. Even when she was scoring a big fat zero in the IQ test, our belief in her abilities was unshakable (the educational psychologist was stupid, not R). Not only that, but that R is articulate, if only with her eyes. We have all become quite expert at interpreting R’s eye-language but, unfortunately, few outside our home understand much of it at all.

We established quite early on that R could read some words. On visits to our local museum, R would tap the text, demanding it be read, clearly indicating that she understood that words conveyed meaning. I mentioned this to her home visiting teacher, who brought along a few flash cards on her next visit. R surprised us all by pointing immediately to her name and then to each of the other words on request.

Progress has been slow since then. In fact, R has been bringing home Level 1 books from the reading scheme since she started school three and a half years ago. And while I don’t really blame the school – its very hard to know whether R is comprehending the task – I can’t begin to imagine just how dull this must be for R.

R was lucky enough to have a high tech communication aid – a Tobii eye gaze computer – funded by the education department. We were hopeful that this might help to accelerate her pace of learning but neither we (nor the school) have received much support to help R use it. She seems to find the limited array of symbols offered to her uninteresting. In its current set up it is inflexible and apart from as an MP3 player, R doesn’t generally care to use it at all.

But R has apparently decided to take things her own hands. She has a couple of alphabet toys like this one that she is fond of. Mostly, she likes to press the music button. Over Christmas, she started pressing the letters more often, and it quickly became clear that the letters she was pressing were associated with things that she wanted: D for Daddy, M for Mummy and so on. The Peppa Pig alphabet toy has “i for ill”, which she used to indicate how she was feeling.

Today, G asked if she would like a snack. “Y”. Would she like an apple or banana? R pressed “P”. Anyone that knows R, will understand that this was not a slip of the hand but in fact stands for “Pringles”. G said no. And R said “W” (why, *cross face*).

All of which is almost worthy of the blog post, but then this happened.

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10 thoughts on “I can write

  1. Sorry to hear about the Tobii computer. I guess it’s perhaps a bit too simple to be of any real use to R :(. What’s really needed is an Android device that uses gaze to navigate. There are such things in the works (http://www.androidcentral.com/eye-tribe-gaze-tracking-enables-finger-free-fruit-ninja-android and https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=ro.raduturcas.facetrackingexample) and I’m sure they will grow in popularity in the next few years. The great thing about an Android tablet that was gaze controlled is it could be used as a Kindle for independent reading, for games and as a communication tool, giving the flexibility that the Tobii computer should have had.

    • Also, I just want to say that having a qwerty keyboard on the screen is a little silly. Using the alphabet, in the right order, would probably be the easiest way to gaze-write for someone who doesn’t use a keyboard (I can touch type but if you asked me to look at the keys instead of touching them, I’d be completely lost).

    • Sorry for the ambiguity. Actually, the problem with the Tobii has not been the eye gaze function, which works brilliantly and is robust to a lot of movement but rather the way that it has been set up for her to communicate (a small set of options for choices, mainly chosen by us) – R just wasn’t that interested in using it. She could get pretty much what she wanted from us without it. But if she can input text, then it becomes interesting.

  2. As you say the set up is critical. I am not sure that M.Snowball has really understood the issue here. Learnt use of eyegaze takes time which is what you are brilliantly demonstrating here. There is no “lightswitch” but exposure to motivating content, play and then perhaps stumbling on the pageset is a path that many follow. Personally I think you should now look at LiterAACy as your content package. I hope R can then experiment with letters, hear words and discover more language. You can get Kindle pagesets for Tobii from http://www.pagesetcentral.com. Good Luck!

    • Thanks Hector. We are looking into this option. Certainly, typing is a non-starter long term and she needs to use short cuts. But as one of her teachers said this morning, even if she never does it again, we know that she can. I hope that she does, but I absolutely take her point.

  3. Hi, support on changing the MyTobii to support your needs is very important. But almost everything is possible with the MyTobii and Tobii communicator software. You can look at examples at http://www.pagesetcentral.com/. You can download them for immediate use.
    Also you can watch webinars that explain how you can make or change pagesets and settings yourself: http://www.tobii.com/en/assistive-technology/north-america/training/?product=13860
    Good luck with it!

  4. Pingback: Monocle | rettisa4letterword

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