By Jennifer Latino, M.A., CCC-SLP/L
One of the greatest rewards of being a speech and language specialist at HollyDELL School is teaching students the power of communication.
In our lives today, technology constantly changes and improves, and we rely on it more than ever. One of the most exciting technologies that we are using at HollyDELL is something called EyeGaze.
EyeGaze is eye tracking technology that allows our students to access a computer by simply looking at a monitor and moving their eyes to operate the computer or augmentative communication device. This has opened up many more options for students with disabilities, especially those who may have limited use of their hands. EyeGaze technology is also used for recreational activities such as playing computer games, browsing the internet and communicating with friends and family.
It is very exciting that this technology has been combined with augmentative communication devices, making it particularly valuable to the speech and language specialists at HollyDELL School. Students who have struggled to use switch scanning to activate an augmentative communication device now experience a faster and easier way to communicate at school.
With EyeGaze technology, a camera is mounted to an augmentative communication device or computer. The camera indicates where a student’s eyes need to be positioned for making accurate selections. After a student’s eyes are lined up, a gaze point is established through a series of measurements and algorithms, allowing the gaze to operate as a mouse click.
At HollyDELL, we have had many positive outcomes when trialing EyeGaze technology with students. Most importantly, we have learned something new about each student’s capabilities. The camera requires that students remain in an upright position, so it encourages positive postural control. Students have also shown improved attending skills when participating in these activities. The speech and language specialists have also found this to be an essential assessment tool.
As the speech and language specialists, we know that approximately 90% of all learning occurs through our visual systems. We have also learned that nearly 70% of individuals having cerebral palsy also present with a visual impairment. EyeGaze technology is another tool that we have to foster independence and empowerment through communication.
About the author…
Jennifer Latino, M.A., CCC-SLP/L began her career as a Speech & Language Specialist at HollyDELL School in 2000, after receiving her master’s degree from Temple University. She left HollyDELL to begin her own consulting agency to provide support for students who needed augmentative communication and assistive technology services in the southern New Jersey area. In 2007, Jennifer relocated to North Carolina and worked for a private pediatric therapy practice where she provided speech, language and feeding therapy. After her daughter was born in 2009, she returned to New Jersey and HollyDELL, where she could best utilize her knowledge in the areas of technology and feeding to work with a fantastic group of kids. Jennifer is PECS trained and attends conferences to remain up to date with the newest technologies. She holds a Speech & Language Specialist certificate from the New Jersey Department of Education, a Certificate of Clinical Competence from the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association and a New Jersey State License as Speech-Language Pathologist.