The MTeam's Donation of Innovative Tech Gives Nonverbal Students a Voice
It was an emotional morning. The classroom at Meredith’s school in Norfolk, MA, was full of happiness, love, joy and wonder as we gathered there with a small group of friends, family and the wonderful team who facilitate the learning experience for Mer and her classmates.
Wrapped up in a big red bow at the center was a gift from the MTeam: a piece of innovative assistive technology called Tobii Dynavox PCEye Plus.
We gathered round and Mer cut the ribbon with her special adaptive scissors. This marked the beginning of a big day, a day that 10-year-old Mer, along with her classmates Kaitlyn and Aiden - all three of whom are nonverbal - would be given an opportunity to communicate for the first time.
And it will be a gift that keeps on giving, extending beyond them to their other classmates and on to the students who pass through the Bi-County Collaborative (BICO) program classroom at King Phillip Middle School in the future.
For those of you who have stumbled upon us for the first time, Mer is the MTeam’s Chief Motivating Officer. Our motto as a Best Buddies Challenge team is “Miles for Smiles” because her smiles light up our hearts and what we do is because of, for her, her. Our “M” is for Meredith.
Mer was born with FOXG1, a rare genetic condition (only about 350 people worldwide have been diagnosed) that means, among many other things, that she is both nonverbal and unable to control her body movements. Besides the messages she is able to convey through her beautiful smiles, Mer has never been able to communicate even her most basic needs to her parents.
And so we are incredibly privileged to have been able to do something that will change her world as she knows it.
The Tobii PCEye Plus system has been embraced by the school and the students and was officially launched on the morning of November 27, 2018 for them to use. Among other things, it will be used to enhance their learning activities. It’s the world’s first device that combines advanced eye tracking, switch and infrared control with speech recognition. The way it works is fascinating: students can move a mouse on a screen and select items using just their eyes. The system then translates those eye movements into a voice or a sound, like you’ll see in the video above as Kaitlyn plays the xylophone.
Mer and her friends are in the process of learning how to use the new technology now, but once they have mastered the basics, there’s much to explore. It’s capable of everything from web browsing to practical tasks like making spreadsheets to many means of creative expression.
“This was possibly one of the most incredible and beautiful days of my life. I witnessed a miracle,” said MTeam captain John Christian. “Everybody deserves access to community, to love, to engagement. When we were able to actually present this gift to BICO and to the school, it’s just one small piece of what we’re trying to do with the community that we serve. Right now, Mer’s playing games, but the future is to tell people, ‘I’m hungry’, ‘I’m in pain’, ‘I’m tired’, ‘I love you’, all the things that we take for granted every day. This has been the most profound MTeam moment. If you ever needed something to motivate you for our 2019 campaign, it’s what happened here today. From the heart, this is what the MTeam is all about.”
Thanks to all who have made this possible. We are listening and can’t wait to hear what Mer has to say as she begins to tell her story!
Watch our video embedded above, and this footage aired on NBC News for more.
Please consider sharing this story, joining the MTeam or making a donation.
Learn more about our Best Buddies Challenge team, sign up or donate in the link below: