Conor Rivera Student Spotlight

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Conor Rivera Student Spotlight

Conor Rivera is practicing using his new Eyegaze equipment to help him communicate.

Conor Rivera is practicing using his new Eyegaze equipment to help him communicate.

Conor Rivera is practicing using his new Eyegaze equipment to help him communicate.

Conor Rivera is practicing using his new Eyegaze equipment to help him communicate.

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Each day, people are constantly walking, talking, and moving around. However, some people can’t do these everyday things as easily as others. Conor Rivera is a 6th grade student in Mrs. Leonard’s ESE class who has Cerebral Palsy and Epilepsy. These disorders may affect his life, but Conor and his parents don’t give up. Recently, Conor got a device called an Eyegaze that helps him communicate with other people. This is on loan from the state library for him to practice with. He is very happy about his new way of communication and is ready to start sharing his thoughts with other people.

According to the Mayo Clinic, “Cerebral Palsy is a congenital disorder of movement, muscle tone, or posture.” It is caused by abnormal brain development that usually occurs during pregnancy and sometimes shortly after birth. The Mayo Clinic also said, “Epilepsy is a disorder in which nerve cell activity in the brain is disturbed, causing seizures.” It may occur because of a genetic disorder or an acquired brain injury. Because of these disorders, Conor has physical disabilities and is confined to a wheelchair. He cannot move at all and is nonverbal, meaning he cannot talk. Also, this makes it harder for him to learn and communicate verbally. Conor may have trouble with learning and doing things in his life, but now he has the help of a machine called an Eyegaze.

Mrs. Leonard said, “Lots of things are going on in Conor’s brain, but he can’t share them.” However, with the Eyegaze, Conor can constantly share what he is thinking. In the text on the Eyegaze website it says, “Eye tracking is the field of monitoring what people do with their eyes.” The Eyegaze has eye trackers that measure the eye behavior and watches eye movement. On the Eyegaze, Conor can spell something out on a keyboard or can select a preprogrammed phrase. Whatever he looks at, the computer says for him. The computer gives him a voice and a chance to speak. If something hurts, he can tell someone what hurts; if he is hungry, he can tell someone what he wants to eat. Connor tried the device once in elementary school, but it didn’t work out as well as his parents thought it would, so they stopped using it. Now, they are reintroducing it to him. Conor at the moment has just started practicing with this device. Until he gets the hang of it, Conor uses a card system to help him communicate instead, but his parents decided that he was ready to use a talking device. Conor’s mom said that she knows him very well, so she usually knows what he wants and thinks. However, with other people it is harder. Conor’s mom said, “I like that he will be able to communicate with other people if I’m not there to assist him.” Conor is not the only one. There are many people around the world using the Eyegaze to write books, attend school, and change the quality of the lives of people with disabilities.

Mrs. Leonard said for all the ESE teachers, “We enjoy working with ESE students because helping them participate in our world is fun.” They are all helping Conor do things that he couldn’t do before. For example, Conor could have a conversation with a friend or could participate more in school now that he has something to speak for him. Conor’s mom said, “… even though Conor cannot talk to other students he can understand what people are saying to him.” Conor may not be able to speak without the Eyegaze, but he is a smart and happy student who is just trying to communicate his thoughts with the people around him.

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