Felicia is an artist, advocate and a rising star.
She’s becoming famous in her community for her one-of-a-kind grayscale drawings produced through the same Tobii Dynavox 1-12 device that gives her a voice.
People also know Felicia for her generosity. Local news outlets quickly spread the word when one of her artworks recently fetched $14,000 at a gala auction for the non-profit The Friendship Circle of Michigan, which serves individuals with special needs and their families. Through her involvement with the Friendship Circle’s Dresner Foundation Soul Studio, Felicia’s talent is flourishing.
“Right off the bat, I was surprised with the quality of her work,” said the studio’s creative director Adam LaVoy of his first meeting with Felicia two years ago. Felicia is not a new artist. Her early abstract paintings were done with a brush between her toes, guided by her foot. Sometimes she painted moving a brush attached to her head or neck.
With the I-12 and ArtRage software, Felicia is living her dream of producing more representational work. Mr. LaVoy is honored to be part of the process and says he’s learning a lot. Along with her flair for detail, shading and tone, he attributes Felicia’s creative success to her keen observation skills. “She spends most of her life taking in information, most of her time listening.”
Born with physical and speech challenges related to cerebral palsy, Felicia makes the most of her abilities to soar beyond her limitations. She always has, says Oakland Schools AAC consultant Dawn Jones, recalling how well six-year-old Felicia engaged with others. After spending most of her preschool years using a manual system where she focused her gaze on pictures to convey her thoughts, Felicia had just received the first in a long line of Tobii Dynavox devices she has used. She operated that device with a foot switch, then went on to others she controlled with switches or a joystick moved with her foot. Ten-year-old Felicia expressed the desire to try working her AAC device with her head. A rehab engineer designed a head array of switches that became her next device access method. By Summer 2013, Felicia needed a more efficient one and her exploration of eye-controlled AAC devices began. The I-12 is her third one.
“I always thought she had potential to use her eyes,” Mrs. Jones said. “The eye gaze system increased her speed over 50% from the head array. It also allowed her to keep her body more quiet and still” so her interactions are more relaxed. Now working with Felicia on an informal basis, Mrs. Jones said their current goal is to program and organize content in the I-12’s Communicator software so Felicia can create faster and more efficient ways to share her story with others.
Mrs. Jones applauds Felicia for her willingness to mentor fellow AAC users during school, her determination and initiative. “I have just been amazed at all the things Felicia has figured out on her own. My dream for Felicia is to lead a full and productive life.”
Felicia likes to spend her free time with her boyfriend John, shopping at the mall and watching movies. She lives with her mother Tina. Learn more about Felicia in this video!