This is the heartwarming moment a severely disabled woman says, “I love you, mom” for the first time thanks to a hi-tech computer that enables her to speak—using her EYES. Pauline Rett, 36, has been unable to talk or move her hands since she was diagnosed with Rett syndrome, a rare neurological disorder when she was two-years-old. She has spent her entire life confined to a wheelchair and unable to communicate other than through facial expressions and limited movements. But now she can talk to her family after they saved up to buy a £9,000 computer which converts Pauline’s eye movements into speech.
The Tobii Dynavox eye-tracking technology is a form of Augmentative and Alternative Communication [AAC], which show what Pauline is looking at on a computer screen. Infrared light is reflected onto Pauline’s eyes which traces whatever symbol or phrase she is looking at on the screen in front of her. The technology then converts the information into speech which means Pauline is able to verbally communicate with her family for the first time in more than three decades.
Her thrilled mom Judith, 64, has now been filmed speaking to her daughter for the first time. Judith, who cares for her daughter full-time at the family home in Kidderminster, Worcs., said, “It might sound a small thing but I’ve never heard Pauling speak before. “Her first words to me were ‘I love you’ which was wonderful. “We can now have jokes and chat which means so much to both of us.”
Pauline started regressing as a toddler because of the disorder which can cause profound physical and communication difficulties. Judith added, “You think you have a perfectly developed child who suddenly is going backwards so it is a devastating diagnosis.” She was unable to speak or use her hands. “We said we felt we like we were falling down a cliff and we didn’t know quite when we would climb back up again.” I just knew she was aware of what was going on and what we were saying to her. “It’s partly instinct and that she laughed in all the right places. I knew she was listening.”
Pauline’s voice computer fits onto the front of her wheelchair so she can use it outside of the home and enable her to have greater independence. Judith added, “The best thing about the computer is when she tells us she loves us and when she calls me mom.” It’s always been a strong relationship. I have always adored her. But I feel I have more fun with her now.” Sometimes she tells me just how hard having the condition is which is very sad but it’s good she can express that now.” She has told me she’s frightened and she’s told me she is frustrated—which I would be if I couldn’t say what I wanted to say.”