Iowa Teen Uses Eyes to Communicate With the World

JOHNSTON, Iowa – Technology bridges the gap for one Johnston Community School student, giving him a voice to share with the world.

Thirteen-year-old Tycin Gordon was born with cerebral palsy and cannot speak within his own body.

When Gordon started going to school his teachers found a way to expand his vocabulary through a pragmatic organization dynamic display book.

Lawson Elementary Special Education Teacher Deb Gilmore said, “With the PODD book, you’re dependent on a peer or partner to recognized what you are saying and that’s how you communicate.”

Gilmore said Gordon would look at certain phrases of words to get out simple messages. By second grade the PODD books were not enough.

Gilmore and other educators found a new way to give Gordon his voice by using a computer-generated speech device. It allows Gordon to speak through his eyes.

“With the device it gives him the freedom that he can say anything to anybody at any time and he doesn’t have to wait for somebody to be there with him,” Gilmore said.

Summit Middle School Special Education Teacher Leah Beeman said Gordon will see 40 images on each page and will use his eyes to focus on what he wants to say.

“We wouldn’t know what Tycin truly knows if we didn’t have a communication system for him put in place,” Beeman said.

Beeman said Gordon’s vocabulary is in the thousands and thanks to the device, his vocabulary is limitless.

“When he is able to use his device, his intelligence shines through," Beeman said.

Beeman said words are added to Gordon’s vocabulary library constantly.

Heartland Area Education Agency Speech Language Pathologist Katie Luttenegger said augmentative communication is one of the largest changes that her role has on her students lives.

"It allows them that right ability, which is crucial to learning, crucial to building relationships and showing their personality,” Luttenegger said.

Augmentative communication is when children or adults have severe speech and language problems, so they find another way to communicate with the world.

“These kids have so much to say and the technology is finally meeting to where we can figure out how to pull out those messages and find out what they really want to say,” Luttenegger said.

Luttenegger said other students in Gordon’s class use similar devices to communicate in their own way.

Gordon is due for an upgrade on his software January 2019.