Bella's Story

When the Eyes Can Speak

Bella

Bella, age 12, who is not verbal and has limited use of her hands and arms, can’t play games or work on class assignments with paper or even a traditional computer.  Bella is doing all of this with just the movement of her eyes.

Bella’s teacher and speech therapist are helping her learn to use a new portable device that tracks her eye gaze to make choices, interact with people and build a variety of skills.  The device, a little larger than an iPad tablet, is mounted at eye level on Bella’s wheel chair. It comes with a wide variety of educational material, games and common social interactions, but can easily be customized for the individual user.

A sensor on the screen can detect where Bella is looking. When she focuses on a particular item on the screen, a swirling red dot will appear.  To select that image, Bella is learning to maintain her gaze on the dot for five seconds.  Correct answers are also reinforced with music and other sounds from the computer.

 
In the past, Bella, had other communication devices that used switches and flash cards, but they were primarily limited to yes and no responses.  This device opens a world of new possibilities.

School faculty are helping Bella use the device throughout the school day, and are adding in graphics so that it will be helpful at home, too. She has photos of all of her classmates, and greets each personally when she arrives at school every morning.

Every day, Bella uses the eye gaze to tell her a joke.  What’s her favorite?

“What’s the balloon’s least favorite type of music? Pop music!"

Elizabeth Lee Black School

Bella