Cerebral palsy and personal interaction

"I'm hungry." "I'm tired." "How are you?" The simple phrases of everyday life aren't so simple for people dealing with profound cases of cerebral palsy, an incurable condition that has its start before, during, and shortly after birth. Brain damage limits how CP patients can use their muscles.

Families' lives are changed forever when infants or young children are diagnosed with CP, and adjusting takes strength, support of family and friends, and resources they probably didn't know existed.

Communication with loved ones may be limited to a facial expression or nod of the head. But that can all change with access to eye-gaze technology, which lets those with CP use their eyes to choose letters, words, and phrases to be spoken aloud in a computerized voice.

"Please, stop, more, go, not…" and other powerful words can be said almost miraculously by staring at an eye-gaze computer screen, focusing on the right icon, then "dwelling" on the icon, blinking, or if possible, squeezing a button.

This technology is changing the lives of young children just learning the world and adults who have spent their entire lives unable to fully express themselves. It's improving the lives of caregivers, too.

Reducing worry, frustration and time

Eye-gaze devices reinforce understanding between patients and their caregivers, who might be frustrated in attempts to communicate. The change is an enormous improvement over some previous assistive tools that rely on prompts and observation by caregivers to read response signals from patients.

With eye-gaze technology, however, those dealing with CP can initiate communication themselves. They can select a word or phrase accurately with their eyes, and a computerized voice can speak it out loud, validating the users' efforts and diminishing feelings of helplessness.

Better communication benefits all

The effect on family and caregivers can be equally beneficial and can improve the overall wellbeing and development of those with CP. Increasing mutual communication can improve family dynamics and understanding, reducing stress levels and increasing feelings of achievement, confidence, and self-sufficiency for people living with CP.

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